Starring: Pedro Castañeda, Veronica Loren, Walter Perez
Directed by: Chris Eska (debut)
Written by: Chris Eska (debut)

In his first feature film “August Evening,” director Chris Eska is so aware of his surroundings it’s almost as if the entire film was shot without the actors knowing the cameras were rolling. It’s a breathtaking success from a truly poetic and minimalist point of view.

The film follows Jaime (Pedro Castañeda), an undocumented Mexican farm worker, and his widowed daughter-in-law Lupe (Veronica Loren), who is still in mourning for her husband after four years. Because of this, she can’t bring herself to continue on with her life. The family dynamic changes, however, when Jaime’s wife passes away and he and Lupe are forced to move to San Antonio to look for work.

Although Lupe wants to take care of her father-in-law, Jaime feels like he has been enough of a burden on her and considers himself at a crossroads where both can go their separate ways. But Lupe is not ready. It’s almost like she needs to know that she is needed. Even when her brother-in-law tries to play matchmaker by introducing her to one of the neighbors (Walter Perez), Lupe is timid about starting another relationship and how that would affect her ability to care for Jaime. She feels safe with Jaime and that’s all she really wants out of life.

As viewers we also feel safe within the confines of Eska’s creativity. Through gentle and leisurely-paced scenes of everyday emotion, Eska wants us to be part of the family’s life. He wants us to recognize their hopes and fears and experience the same eternal love that Jaime and Lupe share for one another.

Castañeda, who has never acted in a film before, uses his natural personality to make Jaime’s soft-spoken manner come alive, while Loren gives a touching performance as a young woman who learns to allow true happiness to find her. Their characters are placed on a vibrant Texas background created by cinematographer Yasu Tanida, who captures the richness of rural South Texas.

This isn’t a story about immigrants looking for the American Dream. Instead, Jaime and Lupe realize who they are an are comfortable in those roles. “We’re put on earth to make more dirt,” says one of the characters in the film. While it could sound like a depressing sentiment to some, Eska is able to translate it into a statement brimming with authenticity and insight.

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