Several residents have collaborated to turn their self-described “intimate relationship” with the San Marcos River into a cinematic experience scheduled to premiere at the South by Southwest film festival.
“Yakona,” a locally produced documentary titled after a Native American word that means “water rising,” follows the flow of the San Marcos River without narration, using what directors Paul Collins and Anlo Sepulveda call pure cinema style.
“We wanted the focus to be the images and that was the perfect vehicle,” Sepulveda said. “The river doesn’t have a voice, doesn’t speak our language. It became a creative challenge that kept us focused on a specific, unique way to tell a story.”
The “Yakona” team, which originally started the project “on a credit card and a whim,” has received grants from the Austin Film Society and reached out to the San Marcos River Foundation for funds and information. The team raised more than $50,000 to cover the filmmaking expenses.
“They took it as far as they could, but they had to really raise funds,” said Dianne Wassenich, program director and liaison between the San Marcos River Foundation and the “Yakona” team. “We invited them to show it here at our office. The donations poured in.”
The “Yakona” team has spent every penny raised on everything from color correction and an original score to historical reenactments for the film. The volunteers working on the project have been dedicated to their collective goal, expending countless unpaid hours capturing scenes, creating music and campaigning for donations.
“The river really raised me, and I’m very emotionally attached to anything that helps the river,” said Kevin Huffaker, producer and benefactor for “Yakona.” The longtime San Marcos resident set aside his own documentary project to further Collins’ and Sepulveda’s film.
“It’s no holds barred,” Huffaker said. “I’m glad I’ve been able to contribute this much.”
Sepulveda said the film has had many contributors come and go throughout the span of the project, but Huffaker’s contributions have been indispensable.
“We couldn’t have done it without Kevin,” Collins said.
Sepulveda and Collins, who have been working on “Yakona” for more than three years, have collaborated before. Collins co-produced Sepulveda’s directorial debut, titled “Otis Under Sky,” which was shown in 2011 at SXSW.
“I think (‘Yakona’) is more accessible to a lot more people, and in that way I think it’s going to be hugely successful and have a good, long life,” Huffaker said. “I’m grateful we’ve come this far and so excited.”
“Yakona” will be shown at 9:30 p.m. March 8 at the Marchesa Theatre and at 11 a.m. March 11 at the Paramount Theatre in Austin. Both screenings will feature a Q-and-A session with the directors after the film.