HCISD filmmaker honored in virtual time

HARLINGEN — The young girl seems at once captivated by the mischievous nature of the music, and she immediately draws viewers into the spell.

The quick-moving music video “Fig in leather” was a refreshing surprise April 18 at the Harlingen school district’s 9th Annual Student Film Awards.

The video, which reveals a clever sense of the playful and dramatic, won Illary Rocha the best overall award.

“I was pretty shocked,” said Illary, 17, a senior at Harlingen High School South and also a student at the Media Arts and Communications Academy.

Illary didn’t get to receive her honor in person. Like everything else, the awards ceremony was held in virtual reality, with about 160 viewers logging in.

“There were a total of 106 entries that were submitted into 17 categories and we had a total of six schools that competed,” said Pat Guajardo, practicum audio-visual teacher for the Harlingen school district.

Those entries came from Harlingen High School, Harlingen High School South, MACA, San Benito High School and Gladys Porter Early College High School. They competed in such categories as best actor, best actress, best editor and best director. Rocha’s piece won best cinematography along with best overall.

There’s a sense of the coy and the whimsical as Illary’s sister Inti moves impishly along the streets of downtown Harlingen and La Feria. Illary pours energy into her camera angles and the brief flashes of scene, color and movement. It’s a refreshing departure from the gravity of events unfolding outside this sprightly little dance of the imagination.

Illary said as soon as the heard the song “Fig in Leather” by Devendra Banhart she was sold on its potential.

“I started picturing the story lines, the music video,” she said. “We all discussed it. As I was making the music video, writing down the script and everything, I took a lot of ideas from other music videos that I had been very fond of.”

Experiencing the ceremony in virtual reality was an unfortunate reality for everyone, Guajardo said.

“Videos were submitted by March 9,” Guajardo said. “They were submitted to the judges and the judges consisted of people who were in the media industry, from TV stations, advertising agencies, or from universities. So they had these videos and I gave them two weeks.”

But within those two things the world changed dramatically.

“We didn’t know what we were going to do with them and we decided we were going to have a virtual presentation,” she said. “It was done in 45 minutes compared to when we have it live, it goes for two hours.”

Normally, it’s like a trip to the Oscars.

“We didn’t have the students go up and accept their award which was sad because of course being seen by their families, their friends and they go up there and they get the whole experience,” she said. “They receive the award, and then they go to the back, they take their pictures, and then they get interviewed.”

But, there was a good turnout and that turnout continues to grow. Since the event was posted on the Harlingen school district’s Facebook page, it has had more than 3,000 viewers.

Although the ceremony was in virtual time, the work was done in real time and Illary got to experience the challenges and triumphs of it all. One was having a main idea and then changing direction as the project progressed. Another was filming in two different locations.

“That was a bit of a challenge because it had to be a certain day, at a certain time, and making sure that my actors were available and it wasn’t cloudy,” she said.

She looks forward to working in media and communications after high school.