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The Magnet Tribune: Lauren Melendez
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (right) stands alongside a woman who interviewed him at a reception to raise money for renovation of the old Plaza Theater.

Reception for filmmaker Alfonso Gomez-Rejon to help old Plaza Theater

November 10, 2015

Some Laredoans believe there are not many opportunities here. Sure, Matthew McConaughey is from Dallas, and there are other artists born in Texas, in cities like Austin or Dallas.

Now, add Laredo to the list of celebrity home towns because Hollywood film producer Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has proven that the city has many sparks to ignite, and he is just the starting flame.

On Thursday, July 16, the Plaza Partners of Laredo held a cocktail reception at the IBC Annex for the restoration of the Plaza Theater in downtown Laredo. To enter the event was $100, and all money will be used for the theater’s renovation.

The special guest who helped promote the event was Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, director of award-winning independent film, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”

The reception had a lively ambient. People were talking and constantly taking pictures throughout the night.

Magnet Tribune staff writers interviewed spectators at the event about the movie and their thoughts on the rebuilding of the theater.

One question was, Do you think that the fact that Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has achieved such great things will inspire Laredo’s youth, and if so how?

“Yes, I think that it will inspire Laredo’s youth because they have somebody from Laredo who’s accomplished so much in his life. I think it will kind of help students who are young (like yourselves in high school) to dream and to not give up, and like he said you’re gonna have setbacks but you’re gonna go ahead and move forward and you just never give up, when you find something you really want you just have to keep reaching for that,” Victor M. Navarro responded.

Another person agreed.

“Absolutely. I think Laredo is headed to a lot of good places and the fact that someone can come from what people think is a place of not a lot of opportunity to go to New York University and go to Sundance and sweep the floor with awards means that anyone else from Laredo can do the exact same thing,” Alec J. Martinez said.

If you could describe the movie in one word, what would it be?, a Magnet Tribune staff writer asked.

Some responses by people at the reception were:

—“Moving. It moved me, and I’ll probably start crying just by saying that,”

—“Emotional,” and

—“Nostalgic.”

I think that it will inspire Laredo’s youth because they have somebody from Laredo who’s accomplished so much in his life.”

— Reception guest

A guest discussed how he felt about the balance between sadness and comedy in the movie. Did one of them tip the scales?

“No. I think it’s a great combination because in life, through the saddest moments it’s humor that gets us through the tough times, and I think that the movie states that and gives you an idea about what life is really all about and how precious it is, and how we can’t take life too seriously,” Andrew L. Carrinco said.

The movie itself had quite the impact on viewers in terms of the characters being very relatable. Magnet Tribune reporters asked, Do you see yourself in any of the characters?

“I think we all have struggles in life no matter how old you are, and sometimes in your old age you struggle, your youth, and so I guess I would relate, I think a little bit of every character,” Julian Rotnofsky said.

With all the talk about the film, people also recognized the importance of rebuilding the theatre.

A guest discussed, What do you expect from the restoration of the Plaza Theater?

“I expect great things. Downtown is revitalizing, downtown is becoming a focal point, and I think it’s one of the things that we’re missing. It’s going to bring a lot of activity to downtown Laredo as well as just in general Laredo,” IBC Bank executive Gabriel Castillo explained.

Rotnofsky added, “I’ve been wanting to see that happen for the longest time. It is a landmark in Laredo that needs to be restored.”

The rest of the evening consisted of an interview with Gomez-Rejon, who not only directed his upcoming film, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” but has also produced episodes for “American Horror Story” and “Glee.”

His creative style of directing and producing have led him to win some highly acclaimed awards. He was nominated for a Primetime Emmy and the People’s Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature and Outstanding Directing Award. He has won many Independent Film awards, but probably best known for his two wins at the Sundance Film Festival for the Most Dramatic category.

Gomez-Rejon was born in Laredo, and attended St. Augustine High School. As he mentioned during the interview, Gomez-Rejon was an introverted teen who began making films at 13. As he decided to get serious about his goal of becoming a director, he attended New York University in which he launched his career when he became  Martin Scorsese’s assistant.

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