PHARR, Texas (KVEO) — The Pharr San Juan Alamo (PSJA) Independent School District (ISD) is proud to have three documentaries advance to the state UIL finals in that category, two of which are based on the historic Cine El Rey in downtown McAllen.

The students from PSJA Southwest Early College Highschool are proud to be a part of the theatre’s history as their documentaries will be shown during the theater’s soft reopening.  

Students outside of Cine El Rey in McAllen. (Courtesy: Charlie Palacios)

Two of the documentaries made by theater students at PSJA Southwest Early College Highschool are among the six finalists in the UIL Young Filmmaker’s Festival State competition. 

The historic Cine El Rey theater in downtown McAllen was the subject of a two-part documentary.  

Charlie Palacios, theater director for the school, said the film was the only way students were able to exercise their skills during the pandemic.  

“Film was really the one avenue that we could peruse normally because we didn’t necessarily have to meet on campus, but we could safely organize outside and meet on location, so we took advantage of that,” said Palacios.  

Palacios explained that originally the documentary on Cine El Rey was going to be one part. But as the students learned about the theater’s 75-year history and the current struggles, they decided to split the story into two separate entries for the competition.  

Students working on documentary. (Courtesy: Charlie Palacios)

“We kind of got all of our footage and interviews done in one go, however, postproduction was split into two films. It was kind of a happy accident in that way,” said Palacios.  

Christopher Nicanor is president of the theater group and worked on the cinematography, audio, and lighting for the documentary. He says he developed a deep appreciation for the history of Cine El Rey and was honored to be a part of the making of the documentaries.  

“As someone who really enjoys the arts, enjoys theater, who enjoys going and watching movies, who enjoys the art of wrestling, all these things take place at Cine El Rey,” said Nicanor. “I was honored to just set up a camera in there.” 

Nicanor feels working on the documentaries provided him with valuable experience for his future in acting.  

“It’s important to know the ins and outs of every part of filmmaking or stage plays, not just the acting portion, so it was a very strong learning experience,” said Nicanor.  

Vice President for the theater group, Iza Garza, worked behind the scenes and conducted the interviews for the project. She says the project provided a much-needed sense of normalcy during the pandemic.  

“This was our baby,” said Garza. “It was good to feel that excitement again. You know, with having to sit down in our rooms all day in school, it was hard to feel any sense of normalcy and to hear this amazing news that our films, not just one but two of our documentaries were able to be seen at a state level, that was incredible.” 

Students working on documentary. (Courtesy: Charlie Palacios)

The students will find out the results of the competition Friday around 6 p.m., following the screening of the documentaries at Cine El Rey.  

“For the students themselves to be able to have a product to grace that stage and premier their own films is incredible, they’re becoming a part of that legacy,” said Palacios. “For Cine El Rey to do that for their community, that’s just one other thing to add to the millions of amazing things that they provide for their community.” 

The screening will only be for students and their families. Those wishing to see the documentaries can watch them on YouTube through these links: El Rey and The Historic Cine El Rey.