Bitter Memories


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On Demand Lesson Plan Cast & Crew

Running Time 14:12
Behind The Scenes 9:35


Rob is a young man who grows up watching his father abuse his mother. When jealousy brings Rob face to face with his own violent tendencies toward women, he confronts his father’s behavior so he can learn how to be “un hombre vero.” This film was written by Mariella Zavala from Pharr, Texas and directed by Joshua Marston.


Bitter Memories was written by Mariella Zavala in Pharr, Texas at PSJA North. The film was directed by Joshua Marston, shot by Stuart Dryburgh and produced by Anish Savjani.


  • Airing on Showtime
  • Aired on MNN 2010
  • Aired on BCAT 2010
  • Screening at the 2010 Lights. Camera. Help. Film Festival in Austin, TX.
  • Screening at the 2010 San Diego Latino Film Festival
  • Screened at the 2009 Provincetown International Film Festival
  • 2007-2008 National South Contest Winner, Pharr Texas
  • Writer Mariela Zavala interviewed on Bloomberg TV’s “Night Talk With Mike Schneider” in 2008

The story behind the story

Mariella Zavalla wrote the story for Bitter Memories for a writing assignment as a freshman from PSJA North in Pharr, TX. The assignment was given to the class by teacher Gilbert Zepeda, who also taught the winning writers of Nightmare on AIDS Street and Don’t Dance With Death.

Mariella chose to write about gender-based violence when she noticed a difference between what boys and girls in her class thought was appropriate behavior in a relationship. She discovered through her class discussions and writing assignments that there is a certain definition of masculinity that is used to justify control over women. Mariella started to observe this definition at play in many places outside the classroom as well. She observed men dominate women in generations old and young, among her friends, by people in the public spaces of her community and even in the private moments of her own family. Mariella decided she wanted to do something—to hold a mirror to people’s behaviors and beliefs. She wanted to write a story about breaking this definition of masculinity and the cycle of violence it creates. In so doing, she bravely chose to expose something people would rather deny than admit.

Bitter Memories was filmed in Pharr, Texas. Mariella was already a sophomore by the time production began. The professional film crew was comprised of Local, San Antonio, Austin and New York technicians who shared their knowledge and craft with a dozen interns from PSJA North and its neighboring high schools. On the first day of shooting, just before the camera started to roll, a team of construction workers pulled up across the street and began opening up the street to lay a new pipeline. When Joseph, the head of construction asked what was going on, we told him we were making a movie with students from the local high school. When we told him what it was about—gender—he told us it was a very important story we were attempting to tell. Having Mariella’s mirror in front of him gave him the chance to share his own story. Like Rob, the main character in Bitter Memories, Joseph used to watch his father beat his mother when he was a boy.