Atanasia - filming the Movie
Villarreal Ranch, Kleberg County, Texas 2000

Stuntman David Alvarado on KamakaziOut of the brush comes a Mexican rider galloping at full speed zigzagging his horse through the small mesquite trees that have sprung up as regrowth in the desert-like land. Behind the small bushes lying in wait is not the traditional bad guy waiting for an ambush but a cinematographer complete with a sound person ready to shoot the scene.

What is happening in the brush lands of South Texas is a rare event, the filming of a motion picture. The Mexican horseman is David Alvarado and his stunt horse, Kamakazie. Alvarado, an Alice native is a professional stunt man appearing regularly on “Walker, Texas Ranger”, as well as motion pictures such as “Desperado”, “Con Air”, and “Pearl Harbor”. Kamakazie, was just featured on the program “Animal Planet” for his famous stunts. What brought Alvarado back to South Texas to work? ATANASIA.

ATANASIA is a story written by Roberto M. Villarreal and his daughter Alicia Villarreal-Wallach of the Riviera area of South Texas based on the true story of his great-grandmother Atanasia Escobedo, illegitimate daughter of the great Mexican General Mariano Escobedo.

Movie scene - Fleeing from banditsATANASIA, is the tale of a strong-willed woman making her way from Nuevo León Mexico, during the 19th century war with the French, into also violent plagued South Texas in search of a better life for herself and family. She eventually ends up on the “La Atravesada” ranch of Doña Eulalia Tijerina.

During her lifetime, Atanacia loses two husbands, one to the war in Mexico and the other to bandits in Texas. Her children grew up to be vaqueros of the brush country and eventually they went to work on Mifflin Kenedy’s La Parra Ranch where several generations were brought up.

Why film a historical based movie of South Texas and Mexico in South Texas? Villarreal, who is president of the family owned business, VAMOS Productions, says in their company mission statement: “Our goal as a production company is to provide a means by which the Hispanic voice can be heard across this great country—a voice whose message will be powerful, positive and affirming of the beauty and dignity of our culture.

It is also our goal to provide a needed opportunity for talented Hispanic writers, directors, producers, actors, musicians, technicians and others to work in their chosen field. There is a great hunger among our people to see their stories reflected in American media; this can only happen if we ourselves join together to make it a reality.”

David Alvarado and Alicia Villarreal-WallachAnd a reality it is. Villarreal conceived the idea for ATANASIA in 1991 as a way to both contribute something positive to the Hispanic community and also to afford his daughter Alicia a means to pursue her professional dreams as an actress, writer, director and composer. From 1991-1996 they worked together on the idea and finally in 1996 they decided it was time to begin. They started building sets on their ranch, published a book, wrote music and making all the necessary contacts to make ATANASIA a reality. This past Labor Day weekend the work culminated in the first filming of the movie.

Award winning stuntman/stunt coordinator David Alvarado was contacted and he agreed to help out with the movie as an associate producer, 2nd Unit Director, (of all action sequences) and stunt coordinator/stuntman. Being present at the film shoot I can attest to David being the professional he is. He and his horses seem to work in rhythm in their stunts and I see why he is a much sought after stuntman.

The film producer Chet Falkenhainer’s professional background includes 10 years with the Navy as a cameraman, Gulf War combat photographer and producer. He was assigned to the White House as director of all archival film and video footage of President Clinton. He is also Roberto’s nephew and Alicia’s first cousin.

Tejano/Country music legend Freddy Fender heard about the movie in a newspaper article and contacted the family offering his services. He will portray the real-life character of Ramón de la Garza, a courageous and tough landowner targeted for murder by the Texas Rangers. Fender has also written a song, “Margarita”, especially for the film. Another Tejano music star, David Lee Garza of Poteet, Tx. also recently joined the cast. His role has yet to be decided.

This film will give many local actors a chance of a lifetime to participate in a movie filmed and based in South Texas. We wish the best for the Villarreals and eagerly anticipate the release of the movie.

from the editor:

Alberto "Buddy" Juarez - Camp CookAll movie sets have caterers to cook meals for them, but I bet there aren’t many Hollywood caterers that cook their meals South Texas style, using mesquite wood, dutch ovens, and steel kettles (pilas).

One of the benefits that the actors, extras, directors, relatives, press, and just about anyone who was out at the sets during the filming of “ATANACIA” was camp cooking.

When I arrived at the set at 7:00 a.m., camp cook “Buddy Juarez” and his partner Danny Canales had three skillets of chorizo with egg, bean and egg, and potato and egg to go with flour tortillas and camp bread (pan de campo) along with camp style coffee brewed over hot mesquite coals with the egg shells in the coffee grounds to give it that extra flavor.

For lunch Buddy had a large kettle (pila) filled almost to the top with stew meat for some delicious carne guisada to go with rice, beans, and potato salad.

Some of the actors who came from San Antonio, Houston, and Austin said this was some of the best food they ever had on a set. I will agree with them.

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