Among the short films selected to screen during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, is one from a local filmmaker: writer-director Jesus "Chin" Beltran's debut, The Grass Grows Green. The Sundance Web site says of the movie only this: "A Marine's complicated relationship with life and death, from behind the recruiting office desk." So we'll rely on a press release we received last night to fill in the blanks; it's after the jump.
But make no mistake: This is a most impressive feat, for any first-timer or veteran. The Fort Worth-based Beltran's movie is among 71 shorts screening at the fest; there are directors from 19 countries joining him in Utah next month. And The Grass Grows Green was among 4,445 submissions; them's some long odds. And if you can't make the fest, fret not: As it's done in previous years, from January 18 to April 18 Sunance will screen the shorts, gratis, at www.sundance.org after they've premiered at the fest. And, of course, it will be eligible for the Short Film Jury prize in American and International Short Filmmaking given to movies under 30 minutes in length. --Robert Wilonsky
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"The Grass Grows Green" selected for 2007 Sundance Film Festival
First-time writer/director native of North Texas
Mountain View, CA — Zumpango Films announced the selection of "The Grass Grows Green" to the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. A debut for writer/director Jesus "Chin" Beltran and his newly formed production company, Zumpango Films, "The Grass Grows Green" is one of 80 short films selected out of 4500 submissions for competition in the 2007 Shorts Program.
"I was definitely aiming for Sundance, but to actually make it in is insane. It's hard to describe how I feel without a few choice expletives really." says Beltran. "I'm thrilled to screen this film with other Sundance filmmakers and I hope it gets an audience all over the world. It's a neighborhood tale that reaches beyond borders."
"The Grass Grows Green" is the first Suandance selection for Beltran, but lead actor and Kansas City resident Santiago Vasquez and Director of Photography Aaron Platt have enjoyed success at the acclaimed film festival in previous years. The Sundance Film Festival is scheduled for the end of January 2007.
About "The Grass Grows Green"
Marine Corps Drill Instructor: What makes the grass grow green!?!
Marine Corps Recruits: BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD!
"The Grass Grows Green" explores the often-forgotten reality that each life sacrificed in war is more than just a number.
The film opens in a working-class section of FORT WORTH, TX. STAFF SERGEANT LOBOS (Santiago Vasquez), a Marine recruiter with an unshakable sense of honor, awakens to the news that one of his recruits has died in IRAQ. For the first time, Lobos begins to question his life as a recruiter. Wracked with guilt and mourning the loss of a young man he thought he'd saved from the familiar violence of the "hood," Lobos attempts to clear his head as he follows his daily routine. But a seven-mile run and pushing papers at the office do nothing to purge his mind of the specter of the dead recruit.
As the day ticks slowly by, his coworker, STAFF SERGEANT WORTHY (Anthony Neil Moss), pressures Lobos to seal the deal on another young recruit. Confronted with conflicting meanings of honor and duty - to country, family, and self - will Lobos be broken by his awakened conscience or does he have what it takes to be "one of the few?"
About the Writer/Director — Jesus "Chin" Beltran
Writer/Director Jesus "Chin" Beltran, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, debuts his first independent short film at Sundance Film Festival, January 18 — 28, 2007 in Park City, Utah. The Stanford '00 graduate currently lives in the Silicon Valley and is a mechanical engineer for one of the leading computer manufacturers in the world.
Inspired by the domestic impact of the war in Iraq, in early 2006, Beltran decided it was time to turn his long-term pipe dream of writing and directing films into a reality. Drawing from his own observations of life in a Mexican-American working class neighborhood and his brother's experiences as a U.S. Marine, Beltran wrote the first drafts of "The Grass Grows Green" during long red-eye flights as he traveled the world for his day job. With an inspired original screenplay in hand and an engineer's eye for detail, Beltran assembled a gifted and skilled cast and crew, took a leave of absence from the real world and didn't look back.
Filmed on location in Fort Worth in July 2006, "The Grass Grows Green" is the first-time Director's vision-turned-reality and his proudest accomplishment to date.
Nacho Everyday Leads:
Santiago Vasquez — Staff Sergeant Lobos
Vasquez, a Kansas City, KS Police Officer, takes on the lead as Staff Sergeant Lobos. Vasquez played the lead in the short film "First Date." Directed by Gary Huggins, "First Date" was an official selection at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, Claremont Ferrand 2006, South by Southwest 2006 and numerous other film festivals across the country.
Anthony Neil Moss — Staff Sergeant Worthy
Moss, a Dallas, TX resident, costars with Vasquez in the role of Staff Sergeant Worthy. Moss costarred with Academy Award Nominee Gary Busey in "Shadowlands", directed by Matthew Kilburn and produced by Gamma Films. Moss brings authenticity and intensity to his role as Staff Sergeant Worthy.
Nacho Everyday Team:
Larissa Eisenstein — Producer & Casting Director
The Stanford '00 graduate and current University of Hawaii at Manoa masters student lent her production and casting experience within the TV/Film industry to this project. Eisenstein has worked on various projects in Los Angeles and Honolulu. She is a staff columnist for the Ka Leo O' Hawaii newspaper and writes an irreverent advice column online at www.thebitchisin.blogspot.com.
Raymond Beltran — Producer & Military Advisor
Beltran's five years as a U.S. Marine gave inspiration and direction which led to the reality and success of "The Grass Grows Green". Currently living in the DFW area, Beltran is an entrepreneur and consults on film projects for Zumpango Films.
Aaron Platt - Director of Photography
Shot in Super 16, "The Grass Grows Green" is Platt's fifth project to win him a trip to Sundance Film Festival. The UC Santa Cruz graduate is currently nominated for a 2007 Film Independent's Spirit Award for Best Cinematography for his work on the 2006 Sundance Selection "Wild Tigers I Have Known" - directed by Cam Archer and executive produced by Gus Van Sant.
Ethan Holzman — Editor
Holzman, a Los Angeles based filmmaker, completed picture editorial in September and is now supervising Post-Sound Phases. Ethan has edited three independent features and has worked with Disney, Paramount and Sony's Sound Departments.
This Alibi — Music Composers
This Alibi composed and recorded the original score for The Grass Grows Green. Combining an admiration for both the intricate and the expansive the Kansas City band represents a perfect musical marriage of wide-skied atmospherics and dirt-in-your-teeth rock realism. Formed by friends and musical blood brothers Bob, Justin, and Robb; This Alibi plays complex and exploratory rock music characterized by stringent guitar lines, an explosively precise rhythm section and a grandiose vision.