East Austin Stories

Since 2000, as the forces of gentrification and development make profound changes in neighborhoods of East Austin, University of Texas RTF students have made short documentary films about the communities, families, individuals, institutions, and businesses east of I-35.

East Austin Stories is the name of the ongoing class in documentary filmmaking; the annual, free, public screening of new films in neighborhood venues; and this collection of all of the short films. 

The King Holds Court
The King Holds Court
The King Holds Court
Director
Amber Rademacher
Laying the Foundation
Laying the Foundation
Laying the Foundation

Champion boxer Ann Wolfe wasn't always on top of the world. On the contrary: boxing gave her a way out of poverty, personal tragedy, and homelessness. Now it gives her a way to share something with East Austin kids, and to live her philosophy that it's the people whose lives you touch that really make a difference. (And as an added bonus, it gives her a way to make fools of a lot of guys who think women can't box.)

Directors
Amy Khoshbin, Matthew Carey, Aaron Castillo
Cemetary of Steel
Cemetary of Steel
Cemetary of Steel

Sculptor Barry George builds his art out of found objects and metalworking techniques he picked up traveling the world. In his sculptures, wood, steel, cardboard, and wire are transformed into political statements and images of beauty.

Links:

Directors
John Johnson, Alec Dahl
Skillpoint Alliance
Skillpoint Alliance
Skillpoint Alliance

This film documents the work of Skillpoint Alliances Community Technology Training Centers that have served more than 4,000 low-income and unemployed adults, while helping build the Information Technology capacity of the two under-resourced high schools--Reagan High School and Travis High School. The documentary narrates CTTCs work through the stories of past and current students, instructors and individuals who coordinate the program. You will hear stories of how these student lives have changed for the better because of the CCTC program.

Directors
Pete Elam, Emmet Campos
Holly
Holly
Holly

When the Holly power plant was built in the 1960s, no one in the city government cared that it was being located in a residential neighborhood in the heart of Mexican-American East Austin. In 2001, an accident at the plant reminded the city that the danger is still real, and raised the buried questions of environmental racism to the surface.

Directors
Apolinar Garza, Matthew Drenik, Kevin Terrill
American Dollars and Cokes
American Dollars and Cokes
American Dollars and Cokes

Arturo Escamilla came to this country for "American dollars and cokes", that is, to make a better life for his family.

Directors
Raul Ereivev, Josh New, Jordan Peterson
Por Media de mis Heridos
Por Media de mis Heridos
Por Media de mis Heridos

Since 1986, Casa Marianella has sheltered, among others, young men fleeing lethal gangs in Central America. This film shows how wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador and the waves of U.S. political asylum and deportation that followed gave rise to violent pandillas. Human rights activists explain how the issue has been distorted through binoculars of hype and machismo. Government crackdowns, they say, only punish the victims -- people like Osman, Jorge and Marlon, who have found refuge at Casa Marianella. Bearing los heridos (the scars) of gang membership, they are struggling to their feet in Austin, as students and as workers, sending support to their families back home.

Directors
Damien Brockmann, Maure Kennedy, Juan Valadez
How Roller Derby Saved My Life
How Roller Derby Saved My Life
How Roller Derby Saved My Life

Roller Derby is alive and well in Austin and Rebecca Gutierrez (aka radioACTIVE) is here to talk about it. While it didn't exactly save her life, it definitely gave her another way to have some fun. Meet radioActive, Cherry Crush, and the other Hot Rod Honeys who are part of the txrollergirls.com scene.

Directors
Wayne Cheong, Jeb Kendrick
Grito 2002: Celebration Salsa
Grito 2002: Celebration Salsa
Grito 2002: Celebration Salsa

Salsa is a lot of things for a lot of people. For Leila, it’s a way to show off her Mexican culture. For Carlos, it’s just something his whole family does. At Huston-Tillotson College, the celebration “Grito 2002” is also a way for African-American and Hispanic students, who don’t always mingle, to develop friendships.

Directors
Alexis Carreiro, Ruth Ann Knudsen, Jamie Lagesse, Josh Neu
Yellow Bike Stories
Yellow Bike Stories
Yellow Bike Stories

One of the many great things about East Austin is that there are plenty of places to walk and bike. For many people, riding a bike is the ultimate form of freedom. It gets you where you need to go, you get some exercise, you're never stuck in traffic, and even if you have a crash, you've got a great story to tell.

Links:

Director
Danielle McMillen
Nokoa News and the Observer
Nokoa News and the Observer
Nokoa News and the Observer
Directors
Damien Brockman, Mary Ann McQuillan, Jack McWilliams, Chris Obel
Nothing Like Mama's
Nothing Like Mama's
Nothing Like Mama's

“Mama” Sustaita never uses a recipe to cook her pies, cakes, and tamales for her family, neighbors, and bake sales. She doesn’t need to—she learned it all from her own mother. In this documentary, she shows off some of her unwritten techniques.

Director
Jon Benner
Daniel Gomez
Daniel Gomez
Daniel Gomez
Directors
Alisha Brophy, Jeb Kendrick, Kevin Pinkerton, Wayne Cheong
Stories Alive
Stories Alive
Stories Alive
Directors
Christina Kim, Mary Ann McQuillan, Roger Timm
La Tierra de Mis Hijos
La Tierra de Mis Hijos
La Tierra de Mis Hijos

People leave their homes and move to the United States for many reasons. As Francisco Rodriguez explains, the move may be difficult, but it also comes with rewards.

Directors
Raul Erivez, Eric Jenkins, Andrew Lasky, Amy Mullin, Steven Ray
Change
Change
Change

Marshal Rawlins had it rough for a long time. He struggled with drugs and spent time in jail. He lost his parents, and watched his sisters pay for their addictions with prostitution. But finally, something changed inside him, and he started to turn his life around. Even if he didnt achieve all he once dreamed, the lonely man with a bucket collecting change for charity on the intersection of IH-35 and Highway 183 still believes he has much to teach his children and acquaintances.

Director
J.D. Krilo
Ruth's Ladder
Ruth's Ladder
Ruth's Ladder

In more than 20 years of helping the homeless get back on their feet, Ruth Robinson has learned that you cant help everybody. But for those who just need a place to stay, a good meal, and a little time to sort things out, her Community Crossroads Home on East 12th Street is a haven. Maybe its because Ms. Robinson knows what its like to just need a little help through the hard times.

Directors
Russel Baldonado, Wes Stone
It's Just Art
It's Just Art
It's Just Art

Is art "just art"? At the George Washington Carver Museum, people say it's a lot more than something pretty to hang on the wall. Rather, it's a way African-Americans can present their own visions of the world, and reflect their pride in their culture.

Links:

Director
Carlos Cruz
a.k.a. Venus Velvet
a.k.a. Venus Velvet
a.k.a. Venus Velvet
Directors
Alisha Brophy, Kevin Pinkerton
Rocha's Ghost
Rocha's Ghost
Rocha's Ghost

In Roman Rocha's Spanish class, verbs are conjugated and floors collapse. He dims the lights and students' eyes open wide, ready for another tale of local mystery. Martin Middle School's Rocha says he makes ghost stories "a reward" for work, but, weaving two languages in the tale-telling, his "kinesthetic" teaching never stops. Everyone will remember that a bruja (witch) makes candles out of corpses. Pencils scratch and doors creak. That whooshing sound is Roman Rocha, sneaky as a phantom, passing East Austin's lore on to another generation.

Directors
Caroline Hoffman, Maure Kennedy, Laura Kincaid, Melissa Woodward
Historic Victory Grill and the Holmes Family
Historic Victory Grill and the Holmes Family
Historic Victory Grill and the Holmes Family

Johnny Holmes opened the doors of the Victory Grill in 1945, the first customers being Black servicemen from Fort Hood who were not allowed in the USO or other segregated Austin clubs. This portrayal of the people behind one of Austin's original spots offers a taste of authentic Blues and Jazz and down-home hospitality.

Directors
Carlyn Hudson, Creston Whittington, Benjamin Lyon, Hannah Kitziger
Graphic Glass
Graphic Glass
Graphic Glass

Rejina Thomas sold her first painting when she was 15. Now, the award-winning glass art and etching she does in her East Fifth Street studio is collected and shown internationally. Vivacious and opinionated, Thomas shares her Graphic Glass studio, her art, and her advice to young artists: “Don’t wait for the money. Hurry up and do it.

Transitions
Transitions
Transitions

Life is a process of changes: finishing school, going to college, having children, making a living. As Robert Mendoza and Cuquita Rangel explain, every change comes with rewards and struggles.

Directors
John Henicke, Markell Pool
Making the Grade
Making the Grade
Making the Grade
Directors
Taylor black, Sweta Vohra, Caroline Hoffman, Lindsay Stillman