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Poppy Jasper festival celebrates filmmakers at gala

Shanshan Whittall interviews Henry Kingi before the start of the “Poppy Bash!” Kingi’s career as a stunt car driver includes work in the “Fast and Furious” films. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

The stars not only gathered in the clear night sky above Gilroy on April 8, but also under one roof downtown.

The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival, back for the first time in-person since its 2019 iteration, celebrated its filmmakers, volunteers, sponsors and others that have supported the regional event with the “Poppy Bash!” gala at the Gilroy Event Center.

The festival ran April 6-13 at locations in Morgan Hill, Gilroy, San Juan Bautista and Hollister. Director Mattie Scariot said more than 150 filmmakers from 11 countries and five states attended Poppy Jasper this year, with the lineup including more than 100 short films from 30 different countries. 

The festival also featured panel discussions with industry leaders, discussing subjects such as women in film, the film industry, visual effects and more.

Scariot was busy making the final preparations for the gala event in the hours leading up to the celebration, and took note of the large turnout of volunteers who were there rolling up their sleeves.

“You can see the doors haven’t even opened, and how many people are here helping,” Scariot said an hour before the “Poppy Bash!” got underway. “This is just a small fraction of what it takes to make this festival. That’s the beauty of this. So many people came together to pull it together.”

Scariot said it was risky making the decision in January to move forward with an in-person festival, as the Covid-19 surge fueled by the Omicron variant was hitting its peak. But despite a few hiccups over the past few months, Scariot said many things “went even better than I could’ve imagined.”

“I couldn’t have imagined this evening happening as it did in such a short time,” she said. “I’m really thankful for everyone that’s participating. This will be a great event and something to remember.”