RGV documentary wins big in film festivals

In September of 2001, tragedy struck the Laguna Madre area when the Queen Isabella Causeway Bridge collapsed after being struck by a barge.

The horrific night resulted in eight lives lost and unforgettable memories for those who witnessed and experienced the disaster.

Now 20 years later, first-hand accounts filled with detail and empathy from those who underwent the tragedy are being shared around the world through an award-winning documentary.

Robert Espericueta and Joshua Moroles, of McAllen, directed and produced “The Collapse: The True Story of the Queen Isabella Causeway Collapse.”

Espericueta is one of four fishermen who witnessed the incident 20 years ago and assisted in rescue efforts.

The 75-minute documentary touches on Espericueta’s experience and others, such as JP Montoya who was an EMS worker at the time who helped save driver Gaspar Hinojosa and Jeff Lester who was a Coast Guard who was present that night.

In 2021, Espericueta and Moroles’ documentary received 11 best feature documentary awards and a silver award for best documentary feature at the New York International Film Awards.

Some residents and visitors of the Rio Grande Valley will have an upcoming opportunity to see the film.

The documentary is going to be screened at Edinburg’s South Texas International Film Festival on Wednesday, Jan. 19.

Tickets for the showing sold out within an hour of the sale on Jan. 10.

“We are completely humbled by the support we have received on this project,” Moroles said. “Those in attendance are in for a real treat.”

What ignited the creation of the documentary was feedback and reactions of a nine-episode podcast Espericueta and Moroles began in February 2021.

“The views, comments and shares were really what fueled Josh and my motivation to turn this into a documentary because hundreds of people were saying it needs to be a movie or documentary,” Espericueta said. “People were asking what we were going to do next.”

Creating a documentary was unknown territory for Espericueta and Moroles.

“Josh and I were learning things on the cusp, on the road traveling to get shots and it was something we’d never done so we didn’t know what to expect, but we’re not quitters,” Espericueta said. “As soon as we started seeing these obstacles, instead of discouraging us, they almost challenged and motivated us to figure out a way to get it done.”

The production of the film received help from the PSJA Southwest Theatre Team and Gregorio Garza, Jr., from McAllen, who created the entire music score for the documentary.

Espericueta and Moroles feel blessed and humbled by this entire experience.

“Now, we’re saturating our movie poster with laurels and this really sparked an untapped desire for me and Josh to collaborate and continue to create documentaries and hopefully short films and feature films,” Espericueta said. “I think this was a learning experience, as well as a confidence and morale booster for us.”

Espericueta and Moroles’ main goal while creating this documentary was to have a bit of closure.

“I think this whole process helped Robert have a little bit of closure of the PTSD he suffered throughout this, but also the people who were affected by this tremendously,” Moroles said. “They’re still affected to this day so I’m hoping it helps another person have closure.”

After January’s showing in Edinburg, the documentary’s final film festival showing will be in April at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival in Iowa.

“We won’t be submitting The Collapse into any more film festivals,” Espericueta said. “We’re trying to get it into a streaming network, such as Amazon Prime, HBO, TBS or whoever’s out there and interested in helping us bring it to the megamasses through a streaming company is who we’ll be dealing with soon.”

Espericueta and Moroles plan to tackle new standalone documentaries and projects together.

“This kind of inspired us to take on other South Texas history and untold stories that narrate preservation so that’s kind of what we’ve started,” Espericueta said. “We’re working on our next podcast series that will eventually become a documentary about the Alton bus crash.”

The first episodes of the duo’s Alton Bus Crash Podcast Series aired in early January and are available for viewing on Moroles’ YouTube channel.

To check out that podcast episode or the Queen Isabella Causeway Collapse series, visit https://tinyurl.com/yeyt885k.

“The podcast gets deep into the nook and crannies that we were not allowed enough time in the hour and 15 minutes to put on screen for the documentary,” Moroles explained. “For the people who really want to understand what happened that night from different angles, the podcast is where you need to go.”