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We are not only giving people tools, resources, knowledge and shares to learn about filmmaking, but that gives them the agency to tell their own stories about people’s lives here on the border, to say what is it to grow up here along the border, instead of other people from outside documenting that for us.
HARLINGEN — The smell of popcorn and Bandera Coffee’s cold-brew coffee filled the air on April 28 as the lights dimmed and a red glow filled the room while the film “Valley Vision 1- Light” began for the grand opening film screening at ENTRE Film Center at 415 West Jackson Avenue.
This location is the first brick-and-mortar space for ENTRE, which began in 2021 in the homes of the founders C. Díaz and Andres Sanchez, to provide a community-based film center for the Rio Grande Valley.
ENTRE is a worker-run co-operative organization that highlights and showcases local films and talent. It also provides access, knowledge, and skills in filmmaking and archival procedures to preserve and share the community stories and oral history of the Valley.
“We are not only giving people tools, resources, knowledge and shares to learn about filmmaking, but that gives them the agency to tell their own stories about people’s lives here on the border, to say what is it to grow up here along the border, instead of other people from outside documenting that for us,” Díaz said of ENTRE’s mission.
ENTRE introduced itself to the community in McAllen with a platica session on Oct. 10, 2021, at the McAllen Creative Incubator.
Valley native Díaz, who has experience in Los Angeles working in film, connected with fellow native Sanchez over their work on social media. When Díaz moved back to the area, Sanchez was asked to join in forming a community film organization for the Valley like that of Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles.
The duo started with screenings and collaborations across the Valley but wanted a dedicated space for their organization.
“Having our home base for this kind of stuff makes everything simpler and expands the kind of programming we can do,” Sanchez said of the decision.
Now on the corner of Jackson Avenue and North D Street, ENTRE has a dedicated space for screenings, community workshops and equipment rental storage just a short walk from the site of their first event as an organization in 2022.
“We did our first screening at Bandera Coffee, so it’s cool that where we are now is literally like a block over,” Sanchez said.
The new film center is a mixture of free and ticketed screening events highlighting the work of filmmakers, artists and community members on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, in addition to workshops, an A/V library of movies and books, filming equipment rentals and lectures.
The center offers membership at $5 a month or an annual rate of $50. Members receive free rentals from the AV library, 30% off any gear rentals, discounted ticketed screening events, free admission to their weekly film screenings, one free ticketed event each year for a friend, discounted venue rental for screenings and a free copy of the center’s annual zine, its self-published periodical.
In addition to providing a community to promote the art of filmmaking, ENTRE also has an archive project to help residents transfer and archive home movies and oral histories — like the “Boca Chica, Corazón Grande Project,” which focuses on collecting and preserving the memory and landscape of Boca Chica Beach.
Currently, the center offers transfer services for VHS, miniDVD, Betamax and soon Hi8 recordings. Additionally, in partnership with The Texas Archive of the Moving Image, the center can offer transfer services for home movies made on film such as 8mm, Super 8 and 16mm.
Eventually, the center plans for an interactive map that tells the region’s stories from an individual-lived perspective.
“We would like to recreate an interactive map of our region from all four counties where you can explore the map on your own time and toggle geographic locations. So you can pick maybe what was going on in Roma, let’s say, and so we’ll have home movies from Roma from all different eras, oral histories and different things that happened in Roma,” Díaz said.
While the center is just starting in its new location, the co-founders’ vision is for the organization to grow beyond Díaz and Sanchez. Currently, they are looking and open to new members to provide their own experiences and skills, from technicians to grant writers.
In the future, the duo hopes their center can continue to be a bridge to increase the flow of ideas, art and experiences between the United States and Mexico as an organization and a people that exist in an interchange region between the two countries but dreams of a post-border future.
“We are thinking about what a world would look like without borders. What that kind of freedom might allow people to create and bring into their lives. There’s a lot of restriction here, and we have to navigate those constraints all the time. But before the river became a dividing force, it was a place where people united,” Díaz said.