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A movie with a message: Alex Moratto’s The Parting premieres at Secca

by Mark Burger

The Parting, a short film by UNCSA graduate and social activist Alex Moratto,will have its Winston- Salem premiere this Thursday at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem.

Filmed entirely in Winston-Salem, with an all-Latino cast of non-professional actors, The Parting is the timely tale of an impoverished Latino immigrant (played by Gustavo Garcia Lopez) struggling on a day-to-day basis to make ends meet, a situation made more difficult because he’s a single father trying to raise a 10-year-old son (Mark Mancha).

Torn between his responsibilities as a father and the need to survive, he contemplates sending the boy away to live with relatives. Whether his son stays or goes, the consequences will weigh heavily on his conscience. Is there actually a right decision to be made?

The Parting “is my first ‘post-grad’ picture,” said Moratto. “I was inspired because when I was Ramin Bahrani’s assistant on Goodbye Solo, he sent me around looking for local Latino actors. I was exposed to this world of immigrants in America which I had heard about but not seen. After doing that, I knew I had to make a film about these people.”

Working with non-professional actors on a shoestring budget presented its own set of hurdles for Moratto and his crew, yet those hurdles served only to galvanize and intensify his efforts even further.

“I almost gave up on the film because it was so hard finding the actors,” Moratto admitted. “The whole process took about five times longer than I’m used to. I had to cross language and social barriers — and they’re both equally difficult to overcome. But I learned how to speak Spanish and I made more friends in the Latino community, and slowly but surely we found our cast. Ramin always told me that persistence and hard work make the impossible possible, and I see now why he’s right.”

He’s hardly one to take all the credit for himself, however. “I had some of the best young filmmakers working with me, mostly recent UNCSA grads and some current students,” Moratto said. “They worked hard and for no pay, which is very difficult, and I can’t thank them enough. There’s an air of camaraderie when you’re working with the right team, and by the end of the shoot, I felt like we had that.”

Moratto only graduated from the School of Filmmaking last year but is already making a name for himself in film circles. His student film The Other Side won the 2010 Student Film Jury Award from the Director’s Guild of America. He has worked closely with such esteemed filmmakers as the aforementioned Bahrani (a Winston-Salem native) and Werner Herzog (Moratto is a veteran of Herzog’s popular Rogue Film School program), and counts among his UNCSA mentors current faculty members Peter Bogdanovich and Dale Pollock.

“I was in the directing discipline which gave me the freedom to make a short film every year,” Moratto recalled. “Then Peter Bogdanovich came. I idolized his work and studied his films in school even before that, so you can imagine my excitement when he became my teacher! It’s still exciting to talk to him.”

Bogdanovich reciprocates the respect and affection. “I knew Alex was special and talented the moment I met him,” he said. “He is deeply sensitive and artistically-minded, and I believe he will do some important things in his life. I am also very fond of him personally.”

Pollock agrees. “He’s a very committed filmmaker and very talented. He’s got a lot of drive. Having worked with Ramin Bahrani and Werner Herzog, he’s gone out of his way to learn more than he learned at the film school. I expect he’ll be very successful.”

Following the screening, there will be an informal discussion period with Moratto and actor Lopez.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Moratto confirms that he has a number of ideas for future films.

“Yes,” he said, “I’m always working on projects! I was fortunate enough to be awarded a 2012 Artist Fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council, [so] I’m now writing and developing multiple stories under their support.

“I have to say that I love the Triad — particularly Winston-Salem,” he said, “I thought I would leave after graduating, but I stuck around. Now I’ve been here for over five years. I hope more people make films here. I’m certainly planning on it.”

The Parting will be screened 7 p.m.

Thursday at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), 750 Marguerite Drive, Winston-Salem. Admission is free. For more information, call 336.725.1904 or visit the official website: secca.org. For more information about filmmaker Alex Moratto, visit his official website: www.alexmoratto.com. You can also view the trailer for the film here: vimeo.com/29800976.

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