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Musician Juanito Castillo subject of ‘Juanito’s Lab’ documentary, will open S.A. CineFestival July 7

The feature documentary explores the life of the 32-year-old musician, blind from birth and proficient in 14 instruments.

Juanito Castillo | Courtesy photo

Fifteen years in the making, Juanito’s Lab is a feature documentary that explores the life of musician Juanito Castillo, 32, a native of San Antonio’s Westside and blind from birth, proficient in 14 instruments and widely considered to be the heir to Esteban Jordan, “the Jimi Hendrix of the accordion.”

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“Even though I’m blind, my life is full of lights and shadows. This movie shows me as I was in that unforgettable 14-year period. It’s all of me: the good, the bad and the groovy.” said Castillo.  

Juanito’s Lab co-directors Guillermina Zabala and Enrique Lopetegui are residents of San Antonio since 2004. Born in Argentina, Zabala is a multidisciplinary artist and educator whose art examines the intersection between the individual and their social-political-cultural environment.  

“We wanted to take Juanito out to do a movie but, in the end, he took us out. This was a magical, unpredictable project with an open ending. Every time we felt it was a wrap, Juanito would come up with something and we had to film it,” said co-director and producer Zabala, who is also the cinematographer of the film. “I hope this little grain of sand will help Juanito get the recognition and acclaim he deserves.” 

A native of Montevideo, Uruguay, Lopetegui is a music journalist, author and self-proclaimed “amateur recording artist.” “When I came to San Antonio in 2004, to work for Rumbo, my very first assignment was to cover a Conjunto Shootout at Market Square. It was there that I saw Juanito for the first time, and he blew me away. Sometime later, I arranged a meeting between Juanito and Egidio CuadradoCarlos Vives’ accordionist, and it was his turn to be blown away. The same thing happened with Gustavo Santaolalla in L.A. and all the musicians he played with in the West Coast,” said Lopetegui, co-director and producer. “But on top of his musicianship, Juanito is a great character, and I suggested to Guillermina that we should make a movie about him. He’s an incredible talent and I hope this movie helps him transcend way beyond the limits of Texas.”

The film will be featured on opening night (July 7) of the 42 CineFestival, San Antonio’s original Latinx film festival at the historic Guadalupe Theater with a large Texas filmmaker presence. The film festival, which continues through July 11, features 80 films with more than half from the Lone Star State and is the first of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s programs to be held entirely in-person after the pandemic lockdowns.

Juanito’s Lab screens on Wednesday, July 7 at 7:00 PM at the Guadalupe Theater, 1301 Guadalupe Street, San Antonio, Texas. Tickets can be purchased online at GuadalupeCulturalArts.org/cine-festival. All screenings are in person and will be limited to 200 seats, just over half capacity of the Guadalupe Theater, to continue to practice safety and sanitation measures. For more information call 210-271-3151.

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