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Manteca High grad’s film makes it to Sundance
smanatha jackson
Samantha Jackson, a 1999 graduate of Manteca High School, is half of the ownership team of Percolate Galactic.

 When Samantha Jackson and her husband Ryan had a break in the production schedule of their Indonesian creative company, they were searching for something to do that would be fun to work on.

And when they came up with the idea for “Rendang of Death” – an animated short film that centers on a delicious Indonesian dish and an all-out fight over the last of it in a restaurant – they were just hoping to create something fun for the team to work on together until another contract came in.

They had no idea that it would take off the way that it has.

Next month the owners of Percolate Galactic – based in Jakarta – will be on hand at the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah alongside some of the most important names in the entertainment business to screen their short eight times over the course of the 10-day festival.

While it’s technically the second major festival to accept their submission – South-by-Southwest (SXSW) accepted the short last year – it’ll be the first time that they’ll get to participate in all of the festivities surrounding one of the most significant film festivals in the world.

“It normally costs a pretty decent amount of money to apply to a festival like Sundance, and they had given us a waiver so that we could, and we just thought, ‘What can it hurt?’” Samantha Jackson, a 1999 graduate of Manteca High School, said. “And when we got the email that we had been selected, it was a complete shock to all of us – we didn’t think that it could be real.

“We were all thinking, ‘This has to be a pity invitation.’”

But it wasn’t – as evidenced by the dedicated page that Sundance posted to its festival website detailing the creative team that worked on the film.

Originally designed to help foster the concept of adult animation in a part of the world that Jackson says still largely views animation and cartoons as something that children enjoy, the short film was completed just before arrival of COVID-19 to the globe – limiting the way that they could promote their  newest creation.

When they got word that they had been accepted into South by Southwest, it just so happened to be for a virtual festival where none of the creators actually got the chance to meet each other face to face – or, in the case of the animators from Percolate Galactic, travel to the United States to proudly show what creatives in other parts of the world are able to do.

While the recognition was something that the group enjoyed, not getting to actually participate put a damper over the celebration – something that was repeated with the news of Sundance because of the logistical difficulties that the Indonesian employees would face when traveling to the United States.

Jackson and her husband Ryan are the only non-Indonesian people at Percolate Galactic.

“We’re trying not to be overly excited because we just don’t want the disappointment if it ends up being fully virtual,” Jackson said. “And more than that, our entire team is Indonesian – the only foreigners are me and my husband – and they were very excited at the prospect of showing what the Indonesian film community can create.

“We really wanted to be able to bring the main animators to Sundance, but with visas and border restrictions and quarantines it just isn’t going to work. We want them to experience this – rightfully, they are more involved in this than I am and they’re the ones who should be showcasing their work. It’s a bummer that we can’t the team members here to share in this.”

And while the road to Sundance has been paved with a lot of different stones, at least one of them, in Jackson’s estimation, stems from her upbringing in Manteca.

While the city has drastically changed in the last 20 years, the Manteca of her youth afforded her the opportunity to dream about the world beyond the borders of the small agricultural community, and those dreams ended up taking her half-a-world away where she has been able to help amplify the stories of people that might not otherwise have a voice.

And while the circle of Manteca’s animators is in fact quite small, it’s also relatively mighty – with a recent invitee to Sundance joining the established ranks of Justin Roiland and his hit Adult Swim show Rick and Morty.

Jackson said that she has been communicating with Roiland recently, and while both moved far away from the Central Valley to pursue their career ambitions, their roots in the heart of California are never buried too deep.

“The Manteca that we grew up in was very different than the Manteca now – growing up in Manteca in the early 1980’s meant that you had to have a lot of imagination since there was nothing there,” Jackson said. “I remember when K-Mart came to town and how big of a deal that was – I think that growing up in that era forced you to have a lot of imagination which helped you realize that the world is much bigger than you realized and is more than the tiny town that you grow up in.

“I do think that there’s something about growing up in a small town dreaming of all of the possibilities in the world and harnessing your imagination – creating this desire to get out into the world and be bigger than the things that you saw growing up.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email call 209.249.3544.