SXSW: Going Varsity in Mariachi – a winning documentary

I grew up in South Texas in a blend of cultures – my home and my mostly Hispanic community. I went to pachangas, attended quinceaneras, and had pinatas at birthday parties, and we listened to mariachis almost as much as rock n roll. Not really, but for sure, I am almost as familiar with the sound and songs of mariachi as I am of my marching band music. Back when I was growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, there were no competitive high school mariachi bands.  Going Varsity in Mariachi premiered at SXSW 2023, and it was awesome.

Mariachi music exhilarates and gets the blood pumping. When a bus pulled up outside of the Paramount Theater, and a group of youngsters clad to the nines played and sang mariachi music, pedestrians and badge holders alike stopped and paid attention. The music is loud, passionate, and unmistakably Latino.  It’s the kind of music you feel with your soul, and it’s obvious the performers experience it deeply too. Going Varsity in Mariachi follows a director and his mariachi band from North Edinburg High School as they come together to prepare and compete for top honors in their craft.

Directors Alejandra Vasquez and Sam Osborn take an inside look at the life of students and their leader who long to be great at one thing – their music. Group director Able Acuna takes a few seasoned musicians and singers and some new blood and manages to shape a quality band in spite of obstacles and pitfalls. The documentary is wonderfully done and maintains a perfect balance between the characters and the story it has to tell. Michael Crommett does an impressive job filming his shots, and the editor has a keen eye for keeping the story and goal front and center and the entire affair tight.

There is nothing wrong with Vasquez and Osborn’s movie. It is as perfect a documentary as you can get, leaving you wanting more. Having the current band attend the screening enhanced the experience, and seeing the graduated members discuss the film made the event even better. I am unsure where the film will play, but I am certain it is worth looking at. I am placing 5 stars up top for this one.

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