SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — The 26th annual Cinesol Film Festival happening at the South Padre Island Convention Center this Saturday and Sunday will feature an internationally known actor as celebrity guest.
R.J. Mitte, best known for his role as Walter “Flynn” White Jr. in the critically acclaimed AMC series “Breaking Bad” (2008-2013), will be on hand Saturday for a question-and-answer session related to the new film “Carol of the Bells,” which will be screened at the festival and in which Mitte plays Scott Johnson, a businessman and typical, stressed-out family man haunted by his past, hobbled by guilt and “somewhat broken,” Mitte explained in a phone interview with the Herald.
“It’s a Christmas film (but) not strictly a Christmas story,” he said. “No one’s really seen this story before. This isn’t like your typical Christmas feel-better movie.”
The film’s director is Joey Travolta, actor John Travolta’s older brother, who in 2007 founded Inclusion Films to teach filmmaking to children and adults with developmental disabilities. The company produced “Carol of the Bells,” three-quarters of the cast and crew of which are developmentally disabled, Mitte said. The actor has a mild form of cerebral palsy, which he had to exaggerate for “Breaking Bad.”
On day two of the festival, Mitte will lead a panel discussion on diversity and inclusion in the arts and media. He said there’s still much work to be done on that score, for disabled and non-disabled people alike, but that he’s glad he was given a chance to help influence attitudes about developmentally disabled people. Mitte called it “an honor and a great responsibility.”
“It’s a hard business,” he said. “The more you excel in it the harder it gets. I think Walt Jr. did have a hand in opening the door for perceptions and for how people are viewed, and what it means to see an accurate representation that you feel is relevant to the screen. It makes a difference. But we still have a long way to go. I’m very lucky for Walt Jr. and what Walt Jr. gave to me.”
Mitte has been busy since “Breaking Bad.” Besides to “Carol of the Bells,” recent projects include roles in “Now Apocalypse” on Starz cable network and “Standing Up for Sunny,” a film by Australian director Steven Vindler. This is Mitte’s first visit to Cinesol, a festival he said he’s been aware of for some time but has been prevented from attending due to a packed schedule.
All told, the festival will screen 31 independent films over two days, including three features, five documentaries and 23 shorts. International offerings will include films from France, Malaysia and Spain. Cinesol will also feature screenings from the Texas Filmmakers Showcase, and on Sunday, screenings and awards from the 14th annual Cinesol 36-Hour Film Race.