Dallas International Film Festival Film

Texas Documentary WATER WARS Wins Grand Jury Prize for Best Texas Feature at DIFF

Written by Kelly Kitchens

Dallas International Film Festival announced the Grand Jury Prizes and Audience Awards for the 18th edition of the Film Festival, which wrapped May 2 and included screenings of more than 140 films curated from submissions received from nearly 90 countries.

Top prize among these winners was WATER WARS, which won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Texas Feature at the Festival.

WATER WARS, a feature-length documentary directed by Mario Mattei had its world premiere at DIFF. RedAcesProductions.com/Water-Wars

tells the story of a clash between West Texas ranchers, farmers, and billionaires in a high-stakes legal battle over water rights. From the unforgiving desert to the Texas Supreme Court’s chambers, this story ripples into the state’s future.

“Winning the Grand Jury Prize for BEST TEXAS FEATURE at our world premiere at DIFF is a true honor. DIFF is a top-shelf festival with jury members I respect, so it really means a lot to all of us. I do wish that Laura Lynch could be here to enjoy this moment with us, too,” said Mario Mattei, director of WATER WARS.

Included in with the winning honor the Grand Jury Prize winner of the Texas Competition category enjoys a camera rental package worth $30,000 or more for their next production, courtesy of Panavision.

Jurors for the Texas Feature Competition included Thaddeus D. Matula, Sara Madsen Miller with DFW-based 1820 Productions,  and Kerri Navarro.

WATER WARS is a testament to the power of documentary filmmaking, showcasing the complexity of a seemingly straightforward issue and revealing the human stories behind the headlines. Through masterful cinematography and even-handed storytelling, WATER WARS invites viewers to explore the intricacies of a legal battle that will have far-reaching consequences for the people of Texas,” said

Thaddeus D. Matula: Emmy and Peabody Award-winner, 2x director of ESPN’s 30 FOR 30, Double Life Films.

WATER WARS takes an in-depth look at the colorful characters and political maneuvering that led to the 2007 Texas Supreme Court case Guitar Holding v. Hudspeth County, one of the most significant cases in Texas water law to this day. It examines the turmoil that erupts in small town Dell City, nestled in the “Valley of Hidden Waters,” over new water board rules when El Paso offers lucrative water deals to some landowners while others are locked out. RedAcesProductions.com/Water-Wars

About the author

Kelly Kitchens

Kelly J Kitchens (Wickersham), film publicist

As an editor and feature writer, Kelly J. Kitchens found herself engrossed in North Texas’ arts, entertainment, leisure/hospitality and fund-raising events scene in the early and mid-'90s where she was a feature writer, critic and editor for a weekly arts and entertainment magazine in Dallas called The Met. Her love of film, music, art, theater and worthy causes drove her to then pursue the publicity side of the media business in 1995. Kelly has been honored by being named a “master publicist” in the Fort Worth Business Press and an “ace media maven” in The Dallas Morning News.

For more than 25 years, Kelly has had her hand in much of the Dallas film world. For instance, she publicized Angelika Film Centers openings in Dallas and Plano and the revitalization of Houston’s Angelika. She is the director of press and publicity for several area film festivals and independent films playing at other film festivals. And in 2022, she plans to return to be the publicist for Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas in DFW.

During the pandemic, Kelly wasn’t sure where her career would take her. Fortunately, she was able to help save Thin Line Film Festival, Dallas VideoFest's DocuFest and AltFiction Fest, Pegasus Film Festival, among other film festivals as they turned to go virtual instead of canceling.

As the world emerges from the pandemic, Kelly is working on publicity for Pegasus Media Project, Who Needs Sleep Telethon, as well as several films making their ways into the festival circuit and an Amazon series nominated for a Daytime Emmy, #WASHED.

One of Kelly’s specialties is her Media Roundtables. RTs are modified press conferences that turn into conversations and virtual film schools with filmmakers, festival directors and anyone else she happens to be working with at the time. Get a feel for these media roundtables at this YouTube playlist: https://tinyurl.com/KJKPRMediaRoundtables