Showcasing secrets: ASU documentary makes Arizona debut at Phoenix Film Festival

The Phoenix Film Festival returns and with it, a showing of the student-created documentary ‘The Man Behind the Suit’

Keeping a secret is hard enough, and when it comes to sharing the life story of a man whose job it was to keep secrets, it may be even harder. 

However, after three years of working on “The Man Behind the Suit” ASU alumni will now share their documentary at the biggest film festival in Phoenix.

“The Man Behind the Suit,” directed by ASU alum Victor Vargas, will be showcased this weekend during the 17th annual Phoenix Film Festival among 177 other screenings that will be shown during this week-long event.

Jason Carney, the executive director for The Phoenix Film Festival, said that not only is it an eight-day event that features a plethora of screenings, but is so much more.

“It’s not just film,” Carney said. “It’s special events and parties and we have film makers here representing the films, so if they’re here with their film, afterwards they’ll talk about it (and) do a Q and A with audience. It’s really fun.”

“The Man Behind the Suit,” a documentary that tells the story of the former head of security for the Reagan administration, Robert DeProspero, was finished last summer by Vargas and his five person crew and will have its Phoenix premiere at the festival.

“The only other time we’ve shown the film was at the (Richmond International Film Festival),” Vargas said. “We were able to fly out to Richmond and view the film there, but this will be the Phoenix premiere.”

He said that the film had also gotten into the Chandler Film Festival and will be at L.A. Film Fest this summer.

Vargas graduated last May with a B.A. in Film and Media Productions, and he said being able to showcase this film has meant a lot.

“Just being able to actually have a feature film under my belt by the time that I graduated and have it be this incredible personal story … it really does mean a lot to me,” he said.

Vargas said knowing that it will be shown at Phoenix Film Festival has personal significance too.

“I love The Phoenix Film Festival,” he said. “I’ve been there about three years. Last year I actually volunteered too, so it was an incredible honor being able to volunteer last year and then come back this year and actually play a film at the festival.”

Vargas wasn’t the only one of the six who worked on “The Man Behind the Suit” that had also worked at the festival.

His producer, Janett Salas, who got her undergraduate degree last May and is currently a graduate student at the W. P. Carey School of Business, also worked at the film event.

“My junior year I interned with them prior to the festival,” Salas said. “Last year I just volunteered for the week of the festival.”

Salas said that being a previous intern and then showcasing a film in the festival was awesome as well as a first.

“Jason Carney, the director for the festival, he called me to congratulate me,” she said. “He told me that I’m the first intern to be showing a film in the festival, so it was really exciting … It’s awesome that my first time submitting I got accepted, so I’m really happy about that.”

Salas reflected on the experience after finishing the movie and when they were deciding what festivals they wanted to enter.

“As a team, we came up with a list of the film festivals that we wanted to submit to,” she said. “One of them was Richmond International Film Festival which luckily we got into … and we also wanted to get into Phoenix. I had volunteered with Phoenix for a few years so I had a little soft spot.”

Carney said when he saw they had gotten in he thought it was great.

“You love it when things like that happen,” he said. “Obviously they made a good film and it got in on its merits and everything. It was nice to see one of our interns and volunteers breakthrough in the festival.”

He said that he’s seen a good portion of the movie already and he really enjoys it.

“I really like it,” Carney said. “I think they did a good job. It’s one of those things where I‘m watching and working at the same time at this time of year, but I think they found a good subject and they just executed it wonderfully.”

The Phoenix Film Festival begins Thursday, April 6 and ends Thursday April 13th at the Harkins Scottsdale 101 Theaters at 7000 E. Mayo Blvd. in Phoenix. 

Tickets to the event range from $13 for a single ticket to $300 for a platinum pass and can be purchased at phoenixfilmfestival.com.


Reach the reporter at Owen.Baldner@asu.edu or follow @baldnerwin on Twitter.

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