Stable Life: Movie Review

At the 23rd Annual Cinequest Film Festival running Feb 26 through March 10

Films that give your mind & soul a boost!

Meet Dionicia, a mother of five, and her husband, Mario in the remarkable documentary, Stable Life by Director Sara MacPherson and Producer Tricia Creason-Valencia premiering Wednesday, February 27, 2013.

The Martinez’s life was stable while living and working at Bay Meadows of San Mateo, Calif. The family’s passion for the stable life, livelihood, and unity is cleverly projected in this documentary film, along with the unimaginable heartbreak that occurs afterwards. The racetrack is demolished, there is little work, the community is torn apart, and then the Martinez family is also separated.

By Eydie Mendoza

“A whole community that counts on it for a living,” reports the news anchor and 500-600 employees lost their job that day.

Leading up to the days of the Bay Meadow Racetrack closure on August 17, 2008, Stable Life a film by Director/Producer Sara MacPherson and Producer Tricia Creason-Valencia in (English and Spanish with English Subtitles) captures the life, hopes and dreams through the eyes of Dionicia Martinez, a stable hot walker a mother of five.

stable life premier 2.27.13

   Producer Sara MacPherson and Producer Tricia Creason-Valencia

In this documentary the passions and dreams of the stable workers are captured, welcoming the audience into the livelihood of the Martinez family and the community that nurtures the tracks.

Dionicia shares that her ultimate low was when she stole from a neighbor’s farm, back in Mexico, to cook for her family, and that she swore she did not want to live that way, or for her children to suffer as she did. She stresses that that’s no way to live, that a person can be a mother but it doesn’t mean a thing if you cannot feed your child.

Meet her husband Mario who works lives and works at the stables. Mario and Donicia came to the Unites States with hopes and dreams of a better life. They are skilled in caring for the horses. Their eldest son, Jose Luis was born in Mexico and crossed the border when he was a 12-year-old and becomes a horse jockey. Two of their sons Mario (Junior) and Homar are born in California, but Andres and Carlos stay behind with Mario parents.

Working conditions vary between tracks. At Bay Meadows they get room, board and $900 every 15 days. Dionicia and Mario share a room and the two boys have room, as well. While one might question these living conditions, the Martinez’s are grateful for to be together and for the basics, like running water.

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(Photo: Benoit Photography)

Experience the emotional heart break as Bay Meadows of San Mateo prepares to close and watch it crumble.

Just then a caller alerts the director, “Sarah … Dionicia and Mario were arrested and they might be deported very soon.”

What was stability for the Martinez family crumbles after the tracks close.

Producer Tricia Creason-Valencia quotes Dionicia, “The U.S. separates families.”

If you missed the premier of Stable Life on Wednesday, February 27, Cinequest Film Festival is scheduled to show on Sunday, March 3, 4pm and Tuesday, March 5, 7pm, but check the guide for updated times and location


I Am a Director: Movie Review

At the 23rd Annual Cinequest Film Festival running Feb 26 through March 10


LAUGHS – Don’t take life too seriously

What do you get when you cross ROCKY with THE OFFICE? You get a hilarious Puerto Rican send-up film called I Am a Director by Director Javier Colon Rios and starring Carlos Marchand and Joa Tous. In one funny scene, Carlos (the protagonist) describes his unmade film as having the colors of The Matrix and the camera movement of Memento. (What? Yes, it is that zany at times)

By Jose Posadas

I Am a Director (in Spanish with English subtitles) tells the story of Carlos (Carlos Marchand) a wannabe director whose complete (not to mention  unbalanced) enamoration of all that is Hollywood sets him off on a mission to create the best Hollywood picture ever made… in Puerto Rico.


Filmed in the style of The Office and other mockumenataries, Carlos, aided by producer/friend/love interest Joa (Joa Tous), set out on their mis-adventure in producing their very first film. The laughs in this film are quick and constant throughout this film beginning with the scenes of Carlos and Joa going on a sales pitch to promote their film to potential investors despite the fact they have no script and no measurable experience in film making.

As he speaks to one possible investor Carlos boasts about his experience living in Hollywood for all of two years and proudly states that his film will be made in English. Which is probably not with his Spanish-speaking potential investor wants to hear.

Early in the journey of making his film Carlos realizes the challenges in making his dream come true, from having to raise money, to getting permission to film on location as well as the film festival circuit he must undertake to promote his still undeveloped film. Faced with such seemingly insurmountable obstacles he likens himself to the Rocky Balboa of filmmakers.

In one scene, captured by their documentarian, Carlos admits, “I have no actors, I have no story, no money.. I have nothing”, yet ever the eternal optimist (or fool, take your pick) Carlos, channeling his inner Scarlett O’hara, proclaims, “I will get it done!”


Delivered with deadpan seriousness Carlos (the actor) gives a memorable performance as the ill-fated director. His costar Joa is equally as funny as she is beautiful.  She too delivers a wonderful comic performance both touching and sweet.

Real Director Javier Colon Rios does a marvelous job in telling the story of his protagonist as well as providing  genius comic touches like inserting quotes from both real and fictitious people (including himself) throughout the film.  The final credits (bloopers) and ending trailer are worth the price of admission alone- DON’T LEAVE YOUR SEATS OR YOU MAY MISS MAYBE THE FUNNIEST SCENES OF THE ENTIRE MOVIE!

Those who see this film will not be disappointed and you will find yourself cheering Carlos on and laughing your kidney off along the way.

To see the most current full lineup of films, ticket information and event schedule go to

I Am a Director will be shown Thurs 2/28 9:30pm and Mon 3/4 4:00pm


At the 23rd Annual Cinequest Film Festival running Feb 26 through March 10


INSPIRATION- Films that give your mind & soul a boost!

Imagine being a tween stranded in an unfamiliar side of town and experiencing a rite of passage in one day. That is what happens to Mayito (Ernesto Escalona) but lucky for him he runs into his classmate, Carlitos (Andy Fornaris), who accompanies and befriends him in this journey. This film is great for the entire family. Experience a time in life where ignorance and innocence are blissful, where Mayito and Carlitos develop a sense of gratitude for what they have and don’t have. Fall in love, fly a kite, roam in the rain without shoes, and learn to stand up for yourself in HABANASTATION; it’s no game.


By Eydie Mendoza

Mario, also known as Mayito, a 12-year-old boy happens upon his rite of passage in the film HABANASTATION/HAVANASTATION from Director Ian Padron.

Set in Habana, Cuba (Spanish with English subtitles) the film centers around Mayito (Ernesto Escalona) who is sheltered by his overprotective mother, Moriama (Blanca Rosa Blanco) and has a famous musician father, Pepe Arlay (Luis Alberto Garcia) who is more down to earth than his mother.  He is fortunate, coming from a wealthy family where he has a carefree life. Mayito is a friendless, single child, and even owns the latest Playstation games.

He and his classmates prepare to celebrate May Day with readings in the school courtyard and for a field trip, but like most children they share more enthusiasm about playing video games.  Teacher Claudia (Claudia Alvarino) cares about her students, and promises Moraima that she will watch Mayito after the May Day parade.

“La vida esta muy dura,” says his father as they enjoy a roasted chicken adorned with bell peppers for dinner and drink imported wine. Immediately after dinner, his father gives him a Playstation III game.

The following day, after the May Day festivities and parade Mayito gets separated from his class and his adventure begins when he mistakenly takes the wrong bus. After requests that the driver stop to let him off, he walks through the unfamiliar neighborhood filled with people and children playing in the dirt roads.

CQFF23_1000x316_Habanastation boy2

Fortunately he runs into Carlos (Andy Fornaris) an acquaintance from school that lives there in a shack with his grandmother (Miriam Socarras).  As they walk over to use a phone at the neighbor’s house, Mayito relizes that “La vida esta muy dura (life is hard)” for his classmate, yet in spite of having to work, save money to buy his own toys, and cook his own meals,  Carlitos too is a bit carefree.

Throughout their adventures in the barrio, the boys tease each other about their ignorance but have a bonding experience when they compare their relationships with their fathers, who are not around much. One father was incarcerated for self-defense and the other is a traveling musician.

The teacher finally remembers that Carlitos lives in the vicinity where the bus driver left Mayito, so she alerts the parents, and meets up with the grandmother at the shack.

Mayito not only grows from this experience but he learns about sacrifice, develops a sense of independence and appreciation for others.

Viewers seeking to gain insight into a day in the life of two boys who develop a friendship, learn about each other’s lives, and discover how to have fun in el barrio de la tinta in Havana, Cuba are invited to join Mayito and Carlitos as they get into mischief, play in the rain, learn to solve problems and share Mayito’s first crush.

To see the most current full lineup of films, ticket information and event schedule go to

Habanastation will be shown Thurs 2/28 4:15pm, Tues 3/5 6:45pm, Sat 3/9 11am

“Egyptian spell on Silicon Valley” by Elena Martina

An Egyptian Museum in Silicon Valley? That is exactly how I responded; surprised, when someone told me that there is an Egyptian museum in Silicon Valley.  He recommended it as, “A wonderful place to visit.” So one sunny weekend, I took his advice, grabbed my camera, and headed there to find out what it was all about.  Free parking was available at the back of the museum and after a short walk to the main entrance I came face to face with its architecture, greenery, and gardens.  A low entry fee of $9.00 allowed me to get in, where I was told that I could take pictures, but without a flash.

I was so intrigued that I put thoughts in my mind about this visit and expected something grand, and got it.  The front interior was dark, giving the impression of mysterious elegance, but it was well illuminated in display areas.  Slowly but surely, I started looking at all their art and historical descriptions at different floor levels.  Amazed at the variety of items displayed, some I could actually touch and watch at a very close range without anyone telling me to back off.  I also learned that the museum was established in 1928 and it was architecturally inspired by the Temple of Amon at Karnak and houses the largest exhibition and collection (over 4,000 items) of Egyptian artifacts in Western U.S.

The museum’s actual name is The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. “Rosicrucian” is an international organization specializing in the ancient mystic, devoting their studies to mystical, philosophical, and religious doctrines concerned with their application to our modern life.

As I was taking several photographs I kept looking back at my pictures to make sure they were good.  I knew then that I would be writing a piece about it, and glad it has come to be months later.  The museum is very interesting! And yes, there are a couple of Mummies in visible cases you can lean on for further inspection.  A ten minute video showed how ancient Egyptians embalmers rolled up their dead in wraps, after taking out fluids and internal organs.  A modern medical machine is now able of seeing through these corpses without unwrapping their ancient cloths.

By reading the museum posts, I learned that Egyptology is the study of ancient Egyptian history, language, religion, and art, and that Egyptians loved their cats and considered them protectors of their homes.  Most cats were called Ta-Mieuw, or “The Meower,” and were very spoiled. Some even wore jewelry and got embalmed just like humans.  A household cat was mummified and given a burial after death.


I also read there were dozens of Egyptian dynasties, but the first two from 3000-2800 B.C.E., showed typical characteristics of Ancient Egyptian culture; language, architecture, art styles, construction, administrative organization, calendar, weights, measures, and royal activities; were important enough to leave a legacy and where the Step Pyramid construction technique started.  In my many observations, I came across a black flat stone, and after reading what the post said, it turned out to be a copy of The Rosetta Stone.  I thought that Rosetta was a language learning tool, but how wrong I was. It used to be an ancient village in Egypt where the stone was discovered, by accident, in 1798 by one of Napoleon Bonaparte soldiers.  This stone was “key” for early researchers to decipher ancient Egyptian writings!

Once I had visited all the museum levels and left the main building, I was happy to have found such treasure in Silicon Valley.  What greeted me afterwards were outdoor gardens that included an Egyptian game floor that looked like checkers, but wasn’t.  I then leisurely meandered around, zigzagging the green areas and gods and goddess statues seemed to greet my every turn.  As the museum does not have a cafeteria, I would recommend visitors to bring a picnic basket and sit at the Peace Garden for lunch, while listening to a waterfall nearby.

And I leave you with an Egyptian proverb that says, “Stretch your legs as far as your blanket extends” which means: “Don’t live beyond your means.”

Want to know more? Check out their very educational website at: Address: 1660 Park Ave., San Jose CA. Hours: Wed – Fri: 9:00am to 5:00pm, Sat – Sun: 10:00am – 6:00pm, Mon – Tue: Closed. The Museum is also closed on: New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

Mia Perez: Latino Cinema

Mia Perez starring in Sin Padre

Juan is a street-smart, 17 yr Honduran in the Mission District of San Francisco. When he is given an assignment to write about where he comes from, Juan is reminded of a deep pain in his life: his fatherless childhood.


Live @ the Pagoda

Tommy Aguilar and the music scene at the Pagoda in downtown San Jose

Sabor del Valle

Come to Sabor del Valle this Friday, July 20 at San Jose History Park.

Bel Borba Aqui Film Review

Brazilian artist Bel Borba | Photo courtesy of Cinequest

Meet Brazilian artist Bel Borba of Salvador da Bahia through an awe-inspiring documentary (English and Portuguese with English subtitles) about the man who loves his city as he, through his vast imagination and unlimited canvases, embellishes it.

The film, written and directed by Burt Sun and André Costantini, opens with Bel and an assistant crew at a decayed building frame, and he talks about the history of other fallen structures just like it throughout the city, he paints the exposed metal beams with white paint using a small paint roller. When he is done speaking, the camera pans out and the metal beams come to life with the patterned mural made up of cultural expressions.

Brazilian artist Bel Borba here stands next to one of his Mosaic Murals in Salvador du Bahia | Photo courtesy of Cinequest

“People from Bahia are very much on love with our town,” says Bel. “I have such a close relationship with my town where I was born, where I live.”

He is considered a gift to his town.

We follow the artist through the city and neighborhoods to discover what inspires him and experience the passion for his culture, people and home town. The open market, a small ranch, his back yard and an old boat yard all attribute to images in his work.

“I am a man that is moved by  passion. I just feel things.”

He works from small scale on single ceramic tiles to larger than life scale murals made of broken tiles –wood and ceramic – and his crew solders and saws out sculptures from steel and metal, as well.

“There’s my rocket!” Bel refers to a Christmas tree sculpture that he created from metal bars and plastic Coke bottles strung on rope; at night it is illuminated with green lights to be seen for quite a distance.

Director Burt Sun says, “Bel has tattooed the city with his art.”

Live like Bel as he eats, sings, works and sleeps in this creative film production that incorporates ten lapse photography and animation techniques. Feel the artist’s exhaustion while working on his masterpieces as he falls asleep on benches and the floor. One can almost taste the marinated steak dinner he cooks for friends. Feel free to sing along or whistle, if you know the tune, while he creates.

The Bel Borba Aqui world premier will be featured Sunday, March 4 during Cinequest 22 Film Festival in San Jose at Camera 12 at 6:30PM and experience a live painting by Bel.

Coming Soon the SVL exclusive interview with Director/Writer Burt Sun during the Film Festival!

Unfinished Spaces Movie Review

In this photo Architect Ricardo Porro | Photo courtesy of Cinequest

After the downfall of the dictatorship in Cuba during 1959, one day in April Fidel Castro and Che Guevara decided to play golf at a country club in Havana. Fidel decided that the landscape was perfect for a grand art campus. Recruitment of architects for Cuba’s National Schools of Art started immediately.

Alysa Nahmias

Benjamin Murray

Unfinished Spaces, a film by Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray (English and Spanish with English subtitles) truly captures the beauty of the landscape and amazing architecture in the documentary of a modern day landmark in ruins, whose designing architects are still living.

Architects of the campus, Selma Díaz, Ricardo Porro, Vittorio Garatti, and Roberto Gottardi retell their creative journey.

Fidel asked Diaz to head the design project of the School. She offered Porro the architect position but because it was for five schools, he recruited two Italian architects living in Cuba at the time, Garatti and Gottardi.

“I helped to make revolution but in a very soft way. I never fought, I don’t think I am a man to fight with guns, I am a man with ideas, that’s all,” Porro states.

The School of Dramatic Arts, The school of Ballet, The School of Music, The school of Plastic Arts and The School of Modern Dance were designed within a two months deadline and building began immediately. Even the Unites States embargo, which could have been an obstacle for construction because there were no materials being imported.

The School of Ballet designed by Vittorio Garatti | Photo courtesy of Cinequest

Construction was possible by using the islands natural resources of in creating bricks and terra cotta, along with 80 masons trained by an older man who possessed Catalan Vaulting skills.

Filled with pride, delight, and dreams Cuban youths, after a successful revolution, started classes as classrooms were completed, yet the campus was not complete. Students not only serenaded workers with musical drum circles, poetry, and song, they helped with the masonry and construction.

Artists who attended the art schools in the 1960s also share their stories about their comradery, female sexual liberation, and the creative freedom during that time. Alum and artist Fonseca says “Eso no lo había antes de la revolución.” It truly would not have been possible prior to the revolution.

They did not view it as a job and they were a family.

The passions and dreams of the artists and architects dwindled after terrorists and fear spread through Cuba. Then the 1961 Bay of Pigs occurrence along with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 added economic and political strain on funding the completion of the School. Two additional significant obstacles were that Cuba’s Ministry of Construction embraced The Soviet Union’s technique to pre-manufacture buildings and Che Guevara’s wrote an article titled the Socialism of the Cuban Man where he criticized the concept of the freedoms practiced at the school, so the schools were militarized.

Not only did war and the politics years stop the construction, but time and nature began to devour the campus, and after the fall of the Soviet Union Cuba’s leader approved restoration of the National School of Arts.

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t know about architecture you know that you are in a special place and you can feel that and … you can feel that energy. I think that is what the architects wanted to do and understood,” Theater School alum Felipe Dulzaides sums it up.

The designers’ passions are unimaginable captured and undeniably felt by the audience.