RGV documentary wins big at film festivals
January 14 – In September 2001, tragedy struck the Laguna Madre area when the Queen Isabella Causeway Bridge collapsed after being struck by a barge.
The horrific night resulted in the loss of eight lives and unforgettable memories for those who witnessed and experienced the disaster.
Now, 20 years later, first-hand accounts filled with detail and empathy from those who suffered the tragedy are being shared around the world through an award-winning documentary.
Robert Espericueta and Joshua Moroles, of McAllen, directed and produced “The Collapse: The True Story of the Queen Isabella Causeway Collapse”.
Esperigueta is one of four fishermen who witnessed the incident 20 years ago and took part in the rescue efforts.
The 75-minute documentary discusses the experience of Espericueta and others, such as JP Montoya who was an EMS worker at the time who helped rescue driver Gaspar Hinojosa and Jeff Lester who was a coast guard who was present that night.
In 2021, Espericueta and Moroles’ documentary received 11 Best Documentary Feature awards and a Silver Award for Best Documentary Feature at the New York International Film Awards.
Some residents and visitors to the Rio Grande Valley will have the opportunity to see the film soon.
The documentary will screen at the Edinburgh South Texas International Film Festival on Wednesday, January 19.
Tickets for the performance sold out less than an hour after the January 10 sale.
“We are completely overwhelmed by the support we have received on this project,” Moroles said. “Those present will enjoy themselves.”
What sparked the creation of the documentary were comments and reactions from a nine-episode Espericueta and Moroles podcast started in February 2021.
“The views, comments and shares really fueled Josh and my motivation to make it a documentary because hundreds of people were saying it had to be a movie or a documentary,” Esperigueta said. “People were asking what we were going to do next.”
Creating a documentary was uncharted territory for Espericueta and Moroles.
“Josh and I were learning things on the starting point, on the road to getting vaccinated and it was something we had never done, so we didn’t know what to expect, but we’re not quitters,” Espericueta said. “As soon as we started to see these obstacles, instead of discouraging us, they almost challenged us and motivated us to find a way to do it.”
The film’s production was assisted by the team at the PSJA Southwest Theater and McAllen’s Gregorio Garza, Jr., who created the entire musical score for the documentary.
Espericueta and Moroles feel blessed and humbled by the whole experience.
“Now we’re saturating our movie poster with laurels and it’s really sparked an untapped desire for me and Josh to collaborate and keep making documentaries and hopefully shorts and features,” Espercueta said. . “I think it was a learning experience, as well as a boost in confidence and morale for us.”
Espericueta and Moroles’ main goal when creating this documentary was to have some closure.
“I think this whole process helped Robert shut down a bit of the PTSD that he suffered through all of this, but also the people who were hugely affected by it,” Moroles said. “They are still affected to this day, so hopefully this helps someone else get some closure.”
Following the January screening in Edinburgh, the final film festival screening of the documentary will take place in April at the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival in Iowa.
“We will no longer be submitting The Collapse to other film festivals,” Esperigueta said. “We’re trying to get it into a streaming network, like Amazon Prime, HBO, TBS or whoever is out there and interested in helping us get it out to the mega masses through a streaming company, that’s who we’ll have business soon.”
Esperiqueta and Moroles plan to tackle new documentaries and standalone projects together.
“It inspired us to take on other South Texas stories and untold stories that tell about preservation, which is kind of what we started,” Esperigueta said. “We are working on our next podcast series which will eventually become a documentary about the Alton bus crash.”
The first episodes of the duo’s Alton Bus Crash podcast series aired in early January and can be viewed on Moroles’ YouTube channel.
To view this podcast episode or the Queen Isabella Causeway Collapse series, visit https://tinyurl.com/yeyt885k.
“The podcast goes deep into the nooks and crannies that we didn’t have enough time in the hour and 15 minutes to bring the documentary to the screen,” Moroles explained. “For people who really want to understand what happened that night from different angles, the podcast is where you need to go.”