SJMC grad taking first documentary to Texas State University film fest

Colombian-born Andres Rodríguez MS ’11 is a first-time documentary filmmaker who will attend Puntos de Vista 2012, Texas State University’s third international Spanish-language documentary film festival on Friday, April 27.

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) grad will present Levantándose del Pantano, a 25-minute edit from Rising from the Swamp. His is the only film representing a Florida university and one of only two entries affiliated with an American academic institution. You can watch and vote for Levantándose del Pantano by clicking here through Monday, April 23.

Rodríguez’s original 45-minute, English-language graduate professional project is a video investigation about how the fishing community of Everglades City survived after commercial fishing in the area was eliminated in favor of the creation of the Everglades National Park and the Big Cypress National Preserve. After the departure of the big fishing companies from Everglades City in the ’70s, some in the community saw an opportunity too good to pass up: they could take advantage of the 10,000 islands labyrinth to become the gatekeepers of the South American drug traffic into the United States.

The practice led to a 1983 raid from the Drug Enforcement Administration, which put more than 30 percent of the city’s population in prison.

Rodríguez literally stumbled into the story while on a road trip.

“I was coming back from Tampa and running out gas,” he said. “I stopped to ask for directions to a gas station and ended up somewhere off I-75. It was Everglades City, the ‘outlaw town’ as a classmate at FIU later told me it’s known.”

The Panther, intrigued by this nickname, began researching and gathering as much information as possible, collecting footage and photos that made it into his film.

“Documentaries are a great resource and channel for journalistic exercises,” he said, noting that he recruited a fellow SJMC alumna, Gabriela Vélez-Stanelis MS ’09, to serve as the narrator for the shorter, Spanish version of his doc.

“Making Raising and Levantándose has been a journey that has brought an incredible deal of learning. I’m proud to represent FIU at the film festival.”