Local filmmaker casts COD students coming-of-age film

Audiences treated to student talent, emotional rollercoaster in film set in the Coachella Valley

by Cliff Horn
Managing Editor

Waterberry Tears promotional image. (Adrian Aldaz/Photo Courtesy)

The story of Waterberry Tears is set in the grape fields and trailer parks of the Coachella Valley, and revolves around a tightly knit Mexican family. Goyo, the only son in the family, is gay.

As Goyo struggles with his sexual identity, his receives support from his sisters, but is shunned by his father Ramon, a hard-working immigrant of Mexican descent, who openly discriminates against homosexuality.

Ramon will not accept that his only son is gay, and is therefore abusive to Goyo. Animosity within the family intensifies when Goyo and his sister Rosa both fall in love with Lucio, a Mexican farm hand, and Ramon’s co-worker.

The film offers a stunning and authentic look into the lives of Mexican immigrants living in the Coachella Valley, highlighting the nature of their families, their socio-economic environments, their hardships, and traditions.

The water berry is referenced in the film by Goyo’s father as the unwanted and discarded berry found when picking grapes; a metaphor for the relationship between Goyo and Ramon.

The film was written by Jaime Soria, a high-school counselor, cites the stories he had heard through his students as a primary influence for the film’s screenplay. The on-screen cast includes high-school student Raul Rodri-guez as Goyo, Marisol Reyes, and COD students Daniel Lugo, Mayra Gil, and Jose Hernandez III. Most cast members multi-tasked, performing on-screen and performing technical duties off-screen. Daniel Lugo, for instance, played the role of Lucio, but also wrote and performed the score. All of the cast members were volunteers. The film was created with a budget of $2000.

Student Jose Hernandez III, liberal arts major, describes his experience working on the movie, “I heard about the film through an ad posting at the college. I contacted the director and he set up an audition at The River then shortly after they gave me the part. The experience was interesting, we were using people’s trailers that they still lived in, so at times we were filming inside while they were in the other room. It was really cool of them to let us do that, so it made the experience worth while.”

Director, producer, and editor Adrian Aldez, is a COD graduate of 1998, majoring in Computer Information Systems. With an interest in filmmaking, he later studied film and television at San Diego City College in 2000.

Aldez says, “During this time, I worked on 4 short films. I finished there in 2007. Right away, I wanted to work on my 5th short film and submit it to festivals nationally. Due to work and personal responsibilities, I didn’t have the time nor the money to do so.”

After selling his house in San Diego to help fund his film-making endeavors, Aldez moved back to Indio, Calif.

“While searching for the right story to tell and the crew to work with, I soon realized that with the money I would use to make the short film, I could very well make a full feature, which would potentially get more attention. I’m glad I did… by end of 2010, “Waterberry Tears” was ready.”

Since its completion, Waterberry Tears has received a Silver Palm Award from the 2011 Mexico International Film Festival. The award is to be presented May 21, 2011 in Rosarito, Baja Calif. Mexico, along with a screening.

Although the movie has yet to be released on the wide film market, Aldez is interested in giving the film a wide distribution.

Aldez says, in a Q&A session after the COD screening, “Right now we want to showcase this film at schools, mainly so we can inspire those who are interested in film. You really can make a film happen and tell a good story without a huge budget.”

The two screenings drew in a large body of interested students. The crowds re-sponded positively to the film’s balance of drama and periodic comedy.
Laughs and gasps could be heard among the audience; a telling sign to the cast and crew present among the crowd.

Hernandez, reflecting on his thoughts regarding his experience, says “I gained knowledge of creating and processing a character… I also gained confidence.”

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