Laura Varela’s Latest Doc Honors Veterans on this Special Day

Its pretty cool to watch a documentary develop through the stages of the creative process. The challenges independent documentary filmmakers overcome to see their films reach the screen is a test of one’s mettle for sure.

I remember talking with Laura Varela several years back about her project As Long as I Remember: American Veteranos, which was just in the conception stage at the time.

I have a deep soul connection to parts of Texas. San Antonio became one of those places after I moved there to work on the Guadalupe Film Festival. As a transplant from California, I had kinda felt strange to be there just for one film festival that could have been so easily run by talented local professionals with more local connections than myself.

The Iraq war had started just as I was about to move to San Antonio for a full-time position at the Guadalupe Cultural Center, to run the Film program that so many others had cultivated over many years. The still unknown impact of the war on the budget made the organization and myself both concerned about making a long term commitment. I was asked if I would consider taking the temporary position of director of CineFestival. I felt like there was something I could contribute, and I was grateful for the opportunity to work at the Guadalupe, which had something familiar in its neon pink and blue lit corner location in the historic South side community. I listened to the strong gravitational pull, and said yes, agreeing to work on the festival mainly from California, until my son and I traveled to live there for six weeks towards the lead up to the festival.

I have many people to thank for supporting the process. The Martinez family made the entire deal possible given that the budget didn’t exactly account for much in the way of accommodations, and they graciously opened their home to us. I won’t go on, but I have many people to thank for making us feel at home.

Still, I knew I had walked into a community of long standing relationships, and so it was that I was grateful to Laura Varela, Dora Peña, Lizzy Martinez, and several women who stepped forward to offer help when we first arrived in San Antonio. My friendships with these comadres has inspired me in watching each one follow their heart, finishing their films with the support of their husbands and families, and raising beautiful children. I am grateful to these women for their support since then, and while I was in the process of making Transition and Witness the Healing.

Bueno, so it was on a hot afternoon in downtown San Anto several years ago that Laura Varela tells me about her vision for a film sharing the experiences of Latino Vietnam Vets and their recovery process. Laura was thinking about veterans returning from the then-newly initiated Iraq war. Laura saw how the experiences of Veterans in San Antonio offered hope for healing for all veterans.

Four years later, many soldiers will never come home, many more than ever thought will come home needing healing. My heart aches to think about the men and women serving right now. I swear, I never thought I would witness our country at war. I feel so indebted, and my special prayers go out to those who are required to serve tour after tour, now that is a true test of the mettle.

I want to congratulate Laura Varela for completing this documentary As Long As I Remember: American Veteranos and offering returning Veterans hope that one can begin to heal from the trauma of war. Check Laura’s site for details about a pre-screening of her film at the Guadalupe Cultural Center if you are in San Antonio on Tuesday.

To the veteranos in my family, to those who fight now, today is a day to honor your sacrifices and give thanks for holding strong to the vision of a better tomorrow. My prayers are for speedy healing, and safe journey home.

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