Former Faculty Members Work with Islander Alumni to Film, Produce Cheech Marin Documentary

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Imagine the opportunity to work alongside your mentors – the professors who taught you the skills needed to be successful in the hypercompetitive world of film production – on their documentary project based on a cultural initiative led by a world-renowned celebrity.

That’s exactly what Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi alumni Carlos Villarreal `14, Ryan Ewart `15 and Carlos Flores did as part of the production team for the 2019 short documentary feature, “The Cheech,” starring longtime actor/comedian Richard “Cheech” Marin.

The film was directed by former Island University Associate Professor of Communication and Media Edward Tyndall, with former A&M-Corpus Christi Assistant Professor of Media Production Nick Manley as Director of Photography. Tyndall is now a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver, and Manley now teaches at Harvard University’s Department of Continuing Education in Boston.

“This was a total Islander project,” said Manley. “We love leveraging the assets of the University to make real and competitive pieces of art that we push out into the world.” 

Villarreal, who is returning to the Island University to pursue a Master of Fine Arts this fall, said his previous experience in photography and cinematography, which includes all of the music videos by Latin Grammy nominee El Dusty, were his key to the project.

“I’m an image maker – that’s the kind of business I’m in,” Villarreal said. “So, I was the assistant camera operator and I was also one of the producers of the film. I also oversaw some of the post-production and the music production. El Dusty scored the film so I was the go-between for Professor Tyndall and El Dusty.”  

The production team screened its documentary before a packed house at the Art Museum of South Texas, or AMST, on Aug. 1. The premiere event included a post-film Q&A session with Marin.

The project’s roots has its origins in the “Los Tejanos: Chicano Art from the Collection of Cheech Marin” exhibit at the AMST in January 2018. Tyndall credits retired AMST Director Joe Schenk with helping him to connect with Marin, whose extensive collection of Chicano art was the basis of the 39-piece show and featured works by Islander faculty and alumni.

“We shot the interviews with Cheech at the main gallery at the AMST, then we shot in different parts of town – in artist studios and places like K Space Contemporary,” Tyndall said. “We produced two versions of the film: The 11-minute version is screening at film festivals all over the place. The AMST screening is the first screening of the 25-minute version.”

Perhaps one of the most prolific and visible Chicano actors in Hollywood, Marin owns a personal collection of more than 700 works of Chicano art – creations by artists who are Hispanic or Latino and are often based on neighborhood observations, spiritualism, and cultural pride. The film details Marin’s plans to launch the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture, and Industry of the Riverside Art Museum in Riverside, California, in the future. 

“Art stands forever – thousands of years later it’s the only thing we leave behind as a culture,” Marin told the AMST capacity crowd. “You can’t express things any better than art; it doesn’t need a language; it is its own language and you understand it by looking at it and by experiencing it.”