Art & Culture

The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival comes to San Juan Bautista

Local filmmakers and Mexico-themed movies among the highlights.
"Amor en Cuarentena" by Eugenia Renteria. Courtesy of PJIFF.

For the first time since it was founded in 2003, the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival will be including San Juan Bautista as part of its weeklong celebration of movies and moviemaking, with 15 films to be shown at The Barn at Mission Farm RV Park.

“These are all really passionate films,” said Festival Director Mattie Scariot. “Our goal is to inspire and engage our local filmmakers and connect them with the rest of the industry. It gives them a chance to show their films when they may not otherwise have that opportunity.”

The festival began on April 6 with showings at the District Theater in Gilroy. It will run through April 13 with blocks of films also being shown in Morgan Hill and Hollister at the Granada Theater on April 9 starting at 2 p.m. 

The festival comes to San Juan on April 10, with nine films shown in two blocks starting at 10 a.m. at The Barn at Mission Farm RV Park.

April 11 has been designated “Mexico Day” and begins at 11 a.m. with a brunch for filmmakers at Jardines de San Juan, followed by a 1 p.m. screening of “Life is Art,” a documentary by Director Luis Reyes on the life and work of Pepe Serna, a veteran actor with over 160 films and television show credits in his 52-year career.

Serna is probably best known for a scene where he is gruesomely dismembered by a chainsaw in Brian DePalma’s “Scarface,” but he has had a wide-ranging career and the documentary highlights some of his unforgettable films.

“I was always more of an improvisational guy,” Serna said, “which meant I looked at myself as part of the team. Now with this documentary, it makes the audience think that I have starred in every movie I have ever done! But there are not many actors that have been in as many iconic films, things like ‘Car Wash,’ ‘Day of the Locust,’ ‘The Jerk,’ and ‘Red Dawn.’”

Serna’s off-the-top-of-his head resume leaves out many of his truly great films, such as “The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez,”  “Fandango,”  “American Me,”  “Postcards From the Edge,” and my personal favorite, his role as Reno Nevada in “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.” He is also starring in the Netflix series “With Love.”

Showing his film in San Juan underlines Serna’s impeccable local credentials: he first performed with El Teatro Campesino 48 years ago and was a cast member in the original 1978 production of “Zoot Suit” by Teatro founder Luis Valdez. 

“It is incredible to be part of that epic group,” Serna said. “I learned so much from the workshops that Luis held and I count him as a close friend.”

The documentary will receive a wider screening following the festival and Serna is also publishing a memoir under the same title.

“I have had a pretty eclectic career,” he said. “It is kind of amazing to look back and to have had this career, making so many films with so many wonderful actors. It has been a great journey—the expression I always use is ‘Life is groovy like a movie and good like Hollywood.’”

Following the showing of “Life is Art,” an awards presentation is scheduled at 3 p.m. The festival will resume at 5 p.m. with two blocks of films, ending with “Amor en Cuarentena” by Eugenia Renteria.

Another local talent, 29-year-old Renteria was born in Mexico and grew up in Hollister, attending Rancho San Justo and San Benito High School. After attending college at CSUMB, she returned to Hollister for a few years before moving to Watsonville.

She has already produced several documentaries, but her new film is a fictional story born of the pandemic.

“When COVID hit, everything changed,” she said. “I wanted to keep working so I just got together with a few friends and we made this film happen. From there, we wanted to keep the story going, so what we are showing at the festival is actually the first episode, with four more that have been planned or shot.”

“Amor en Cuarentena” follows Emi, a hopeless romantic, who is bored because of the quarantine, so she decides to find love online. 

“Her family and friends try to help her,” Renteria said, “but she finds out that love was already present in her life in different forms.”

Following the final block of movies, there will be an afterparty at San Juan’s 18th Barrel featuring a special Poppy Jasper Festival beer brewed by Brewery Twenty-Five.

“It is very exciting to have part of our festival in San Juan Bautista,” Scariot said. “We are hoping people enjoy this celebration of film that we’ve put together and support the local talents who produced these excellent films.”


Poppy Jasper tickets are available on Eventive.


Hollister Events on April 9

All events at The Granada Theater, 336 5th Street, Hollister


Industry Panel: 2pm – 3pm


Films: Block One: 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Ice Cream and Doughnuts – Reece Lipman – Drama – United Kingdom

Addict Named Hal – Lane Michael Stanley – Drama – Colorado


Film Block Two: 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Eternal Harvest – Karen Coates – Documentary – New Mexico

All That Glitters – Dan Bonzite – Drama/Thriller – United Kingdom

The Recess – Navid Nikkhah Azad – Drama – Iran

Memento Mori – Paul O’Flanagan – Animation – Ireland

Stay Alert – Lou and Dave Elsey – Drama – United Kingdom

Feeling Through – Doug Roland – Drama – Los Angeles

Just a Ghoul – Jameson DeSantis – Comedy – Los Angeles


San Juan Bautista Events on April 10 – 11

All films will be shown at The Barn at Mission Farm RV Park, 400 San Juan Hollister Rd, San Juan Bautista.


April 10 events


Films: Block One: 10 a.m. – Noon
Bahar – Maryam Hamidi – Horror/Drama – United Kingdom

Finding Beast – Olivia Accardo – Documentary – Oregon

Dog in Translation – Ross McClure – Comedy – Spain

Dog Years – Natalys Willcox – Drama/Comedy – United Kingdom

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – Shiyue Xu – Drama – China

The Small Hours – Melissa Pinsly – Dramedy – Los Angeles

Couched – Kaia Lavendar – Drama – US


Films: Block Two: Noon – 2 p.m.
Memento Mori – Paul O’Flanagan – Animation – Ireland

Vinyl Nation – Kevin Smokler and Christopher Boone – Documentary – New Mexico


April 11 events: Mexico Day


Filmmakers Brunch, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Jardines de San Juan, 115 Third St, San Juan Bautista


Panel Discussion with Pepe Serna, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Celebration and Awards Ceremony, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

At The Barn at Mission Farm RV Park

The discussion included a showing of “Life is Art,” the documentary on Serna’s career.


Films: Block One: 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Honest Days – Ulises Pérez Mancilla – Drama

Kumite – Cristal Gonzalez Avila – Comedy – San Juan Bautista


Films: Block Two: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

After the Earthquake – Santiago Maza Stern – Documentary

More Tomorrow Than Before – Ulises Pérez Mancilla – Drama

Amore en Cuarentena – Eugenia Renteria – Comedy


After-Party at 18th Barrel

22 Third St, San Juan Bautista


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