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Ben DeSoto: For Art's Sake

This short documentary unearths the history and body of work of Houstonian and photographer, Ben DeSoto. In a personal story, Ben reminisces and examines his photos during his 30-year run. Working as photojournalist for the Houston Chronicle and Houston Post, the window of opportunities allowed him to capture and document diverse genres of the early underground punk scene, major touring acts, rap/hip hop culture, and current events. Ben was never one to look at his work for its monetary value, but instead the importance of sharing his work with the world before his memories vanish. Join Ben as he reflects on his memories during shooting assignments, the lost art of developing film, the transition from manual to digital media, and the love For Art’s Sake.

  • michael witnes zapata
  • michael witnes zapata
  • Iren Siosan
  • Monir Zapata
  • andrew benavides
  • Ben DeSoto
    Key Cast
  • Jamar Riley
    Key Cast
    "DJ Screw"
  • Emily Vega
    Key Cast
  • ESG
    Key Cast
  • Russel Gonzalez
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    photography, punk, houstonrap, art, music, streetculture, photojournalism, hiphop, rock, pop
  • Runtime:
    33 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    October 30, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    15,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Houston Premiere Public Screening
    Houston, TX
    United States
    November 6, 2019
    Houston Texas Premiere
  • Houston Event Public Screening at the African American Library at the Gregory School
    Houston, TX
    United States
    November 16, 2019
  • Houston Cinema Arts Festival
    Houston, TX
    United States
    November 17, 2019
    Film Festival
    Official Selection
  • Gaspirilla Film Festival
    United States
    March 21, 2020
    Tampa Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Houston Latino Film Festival
    United States
    March 19, 2020
    Official Selection
  • Philadelphia Latino Film Festival
    United States
    June 6, 2020
    Philadelphia premiere
    Official Selection
  • Sound Unseen Film + Music Festival
    United States
    November 12, 2020
    Official Selection
Director Biography - michael witnes zapata

While studying Broadcast Communication at a Houston Community College in the early 1990s, Michael Zapata established his communications foundation as a contributing writer for a local publication. One of his editorial assignments was to cover a public graffiti mural event with local artists, and it was there that he connected with others that shared his same love for Hip Hop and DJing.

By 1995, his DJ aspirations became reality when he was asked to join a hip hop DJ collective that hosted a weekly night. It was there that “Witnes,” as Zapata was better known as in the local music scene, absorbed the ins-and-outs of curating and producing events, talent buying, managing street teams, and public relations. Notable artists like DeLaSoul, Hieroglyphics, Das Efx, DJ Q-Bert and Mix Master Mike are a few of the acts he was not only a part of securing for city-wide events, but was also included as a featured DJ on the line up. These experiences lead Witnes to become a Lifestyle Marketing Rep for Universal Music in 2005; hosting his own underground hip hop radio show “LateNiteSnax” on Houston’s community radio KPFT; and launching a celebrated weekly music event “Rock Box Thursdays” that attracted a diverse crowd with an open music format approach, a first of its kind locally. From event curator, promoter, radio host and DJ, Witnes established himself, as not only one of the go-to DJs, but was ultimately awarded “Houston Best DJ” in 2006 by the Houston Press. Utilizing his growing network, he started to tie in sponsorships with brands and publications like Red Bull, American Apparel, Vice and Frank151. 

In 2008, Witnes relocated to New York City to work at Frank151/Malbon Farms marketing group as an account executive and project manager. He helped launch Sailor Jerry Rum as a spirit brand by building brand ambassador teams and hosting events in key national markets.

By 2010 he relocated to Florida to continue managing brand activations and became a well-known DJ in Tampa's party district, Ybor City, and for Scratch Music Group’s nationwide DJ network.

By 2014, Witnes shifted gears to focus on directing his first short film. With his heart left in Houston, he’s internalized his passion for stories from the city and intrigued by the social and cultural anthropology he lived through.

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Director Statement

“It’s my responsibility to contribute, preserve and share stories that need not be forgotten.”