Award winning film: Local film “Our Quinceañera” wins best documentary at Film Festival

By David Lee Zamora

Special to the PRESS

San Benito Veterans Memorial Academy students see themselves for the first time on film during the 4th Annual VMA Quinceañera in 2018. The documentary was shown at the 26th Annual CineSol Film Festival on November 23 and 24, winning Best Documentary of the festival. Photo courtesy of Our Quinceañera Facebook Page.

Our Quinceañera is a heartwarming documentary, putting a spotlight on the community of San Benito, Texas, and San Benito Veteran’s Memorial Academy (SBVMA) as they host a quinceañera for 75 students. The documentary was shown at the 26th Annual CineSol Film Festival on November 23 and 24, winning Best Documentary of the festival. 

Film festival attendees there to see Our Quinceanera were easy to spot, as many were adorned in tiaras. 

In 2015, the principal of SBVMA, Gilbert Galvan, Sr., hosted a quinceanera for 10 students who couldn’t afford to have their own. Since then, every year, he and the school staff and San Benito, Texas, residents throw a quinceañera for students who sign up for it. 

The documentary mostly focuses on Galvan, following him through the days leading up to the quinceañera, talking to students of SBVMA and members of the community that will be involved with the quinceañera. Almost everyone involved with the event has their own scene, showing how they got involved and what they specifically do for the quinceañera. For example, SBVMA’s conjunto and mariachi classes plays the music for the quinceañera, and students and staff build the decorations for the quinceañera, which is held in the gym. SBVMA’s staff registers the students who want to have a quince and getting them there dresses. Families help by donating dresses or money and even baking the cakes. 

Through watching the film, you can tell Galvan cares for his students. Galvan says all he wants in return is that the students do something after they graduate, like go to college, a trade school, or join the military.

The film focuses on the more positive side of South Texas, showing how communities here can get together, put everything aside, and help give these students a dream ceremony. 

Now that’s something very rare, and it’s incredibly inspiring how all it took, initially, was one person to influence a whole community to help out these students.

As someone who’s helped throw two quinceañeras, I have nothing but respect, not just for Galvan, but for the entire community of San Benito. Organizing quinceañeras is an incredibly daunting task that is stressful, expensive and frustrating, so the fact that they do it for all these students every year, and with consistent, amazing results, is incredible.

This film captures the beauty of South Texas and its culture and people. Towards the end, this film made me a little teary eyed and, honestly, that’s not that rare for me, but this film really did hit me hard, and the fact that I wasn’t the only one crying by the end really speaks volumes about this film. 

According to the film’s producer, Gilbert Galvan, Jr., Galvan’s son, he plans to make more films based in the Rio Grande Valley and I happily look forward to viewing them.

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