In 2019, while filming a project along the US-Mexico border in Texas, directors Sam Osborne and Alejandra Vasquez came across one of the first fully sanctioned University Interscholastic League State Mariachi Festivals, where high school mariachi bands perform at the same competitive level as students in cheer, football and marching. in the band The pair was surprised to hear that a publicly funded arts program that celebrates traditional Mexican culture existed within a state politically engaged against immigration. Osborn and Vasquez, who are both Mexican American, immediately knew the subject was perfect material for a documentary. Eventually they found Edinburg North High School’s Mariachi Oro, who opened their doors and allowed the directors to capture a year in the life of a varsity mariachi squad. The result is “Going to Varsity in Mariachi.” A 104-minute competition documentary for distribution at Sundance.
“We realized that we wanted to make a film centered around the experiences of millions of first, second and third generation Mexican Americans, best characterized by the phrase “ni de aqui, ni de alla”. Neither here nor there,” the directorial duo said in a joint statement. said in a statement. “It’s a feeling that we both grew up in families that pulled from a hodge-podge of their Mexican and American roots. We wanted to show that competitive high school mariachi represents a concerted effort by a frontier Latin community to answer this question of world cultural identity and offer its young people some concrete steps—to show them the beauty, thrill, and joy of their heritage, and to reassure them that They belong to them.”
Ahead of the docu’s Sundance premiere on Jan. 22, diversity Spoke with Osborn and Vasquez.
You originally made a short documentary for Pop-Up Magazine about the Edinburg North High School Mariachi Band. Why did you then decide to dock a feature?
Vasquez: We loved the community, the coaches and the kids so much that we wanted to make a feature.
Osborne: We also recognized on the team that they weren’t quite focused on the championship and that the coach was going after something a little more holistic, which we thought was more interesting than a team that was just supposed to win a state trophy.
Was it a long process getting into high school and its mariachi band?
Osborne: Most of the kids in the short film we made graduated, but the kids we wanted to film saw the short and were really excited about it. But it still had some credibility. We spent a lot of time talking to parents and coaches. Before we filmed there was a meeting between the coaches, parents and administration just to make sure that parents wanted to be involved and that no one was stuck in a documentary they didn’t want to be a part of.
At the beginning of the doc, Mariachi Oro is struggling big time. Has it made you nervous since you created a competition document?
Vasquez: The team has historically always placed in the top third, second or first. But when we were filming we knew it was a comeback year for the kids because Covid had decimated the team. A lot of these kids were in school as sophomores and now they’re seniors who didn’t get that extra year of playing music. That said, I don’t think we realized how bad they were going to be. It made us very nervous, to be honest. At one point we weren’t even sure they were going to qualify for the state championship and then it was like, what is this movie?
Osborn: It was rough in the beginning. At that point we thought we were going to make a movie about the art of losing gracefully.
How do you fund docs?
Vasquez: Osmosis Films offered development funding in early 2021. With their help we completed the shoot for a week. We filmed the audition and we did a sizzle and a deck and then we went to pitch. And then very soon Lewis A. Miranda, Jr. came to the board of Embeleko Unlimited and had a relationship with the fifth season. So, then the fifth season came on board and then Impact Partners came in early 2022.
Impact helps fund social issue documentaries, so would you describe this as a social issue-competition document?
Vasquez: This is a coming-of-age music competition doc. We tell these different stories that reveal what kids are going through outside of school, but through music.
OSBORN: There’s border politics inherent in all these people’s stories, but we didn’t want to put it in a really messy way. We realized that the existence of the party itself is political.