Film festival turns eight

-A A +A
By Roger Snodgrass

A former editor of the Los Alamos Monitor said Monday that the Hollywood system for making movies is collapsing under its own weight.Now director of the Santa Fe Film Festival that he founded, Jon Bowman said many feature films turned out by major studies have budgets that rival the gross national product of third world countries.“Even when these projects are well managed, it’s hard for smaller and really creative talent to surface,” he said. “Film festivals are a safety net to catch things that would otherwise be lost.”With a major focus on independent filmmakers, the Santa Fe Film Festival, to be held Nov. 28-Dec. 2, has stuck to its guns and held onto a vision that Bowman had from the beginning, said Stephen Rubin the festival’s deputy director.Going on eight years now, the destination film festival has never lost sight of some local values that have universal significance. Themes like stick-your-neck-out art, ethnic cultures and mavericks who made it have blended together into a unique and authentic experience. Although the roster of films changes completely each year, the overall quality of the festival experience has been sustained, organizers said.It would be hard to find a four-day festival in a small city that offers more of the good stuff with less glitz.Patterned after the Toronto International Film Festival, the festival is divided into five smaller festivals within the overall framework: Independent Spirits (representing narrative American films made outside the studio system); Making it Reel (documentaries, both short and long); Eye on the World (some of the best films in the world that will never play at the neighborhood multi-screen); Art Matters (celebrations of the creative spirit in visual art, dance, music, theater and film); and Southwest Showcase (a selection from the growing list of regional productions). Another major module is the festival’s partnership with National Geographic, the All Roads Film Project, now in its third year. All Roads will showcase 20 first time and seasoned filmmakers from around the world, host a photography exhibit and present a concert with the celebrated Touareg group Tiniwaren, who were BBC World Music Award winners in April.New this year as the festival continues to evolve is a partnership with the New York Jewish Film Festival from the Jewish Museum of New York. Four films from that venue held earlier in the year will be shown as a prelude to the Santa Fe festival and again during the main program.Then there are the Galas and Luminaria recipients, also called Tributees. Galas are traditional major movies, 10 of them this year, like “Margot at the Wedding” with Nicole Kidman and “Grace is Gone” with John Cusack. These are usually only shown once each during primetime evenings.Although there are celebrities, the Santa Fe festival is not about star mania.Actor Rutger Hauer (“Bladerunner” and “Ladyhawke”) headlines the list of Tributees, which also includes Russian documentary filmmakers Marina Goldaskaya and Alanis Obomsawin, as well as a married couple, director of photography John Bailey (“Silverado,” “The Big Chill,” “Groundhog Day,” “Ordinary People”) and editor Carol Littleton (“E.T.,” and many others including “Margot at the Wedding,” screening at the festival). This year’s Maverick Award recipient is Alan Cuming, Scottish-born actor and performer who won a Tony for his performance in Cabaret, and has gone on to all kinds of creative work, including two films that will spool in the festival.There will be a healthy portion of professional meat and potatoes in a series of educational panels, one of which will include a discussion of a virtual reality theater planned for Los Alamos.And all that doesn’t even begin to include the socializing and networking events, the openings, parties, hospitality suites, happy hours and special events, culminating with the Milagro Awards ceremony at the Lensic Performing Arts Center Saturday, Dec. 1. Major new sponsor CBS will be taping some of the events, providing the hospitality suite and cosponsoring the weekday happy hours at the Hotel Santa Fe with Heineken.The only incidental problem, Bowman said, is figuring out how best to spend one’s time with such a complex schedule – more than 200 films in 10 major locations.Best advice, he said, is to hurry on line to the festival website (www.santafefilmfestival.com) and start browsing. Pursue any inclination, when possible, by checking the film’s website. Even independents are becoming increasingly savvy about marketing their films; so many of the sites have synopses, blurbs and more video samples than ever. Get a copy of the matrix of the festival schedule that conveniently breaks each day down by time and place. Use the thumbnail descriptions in the guides not to lose track of all the possibilities.About 7,000 patrons will purchase 21,000 tickets over the course of the main four days.


The roving box office this year is located at 519 Cerrillos Road, next to Sage Bakery. Individual tickets are $10; 10-ticket packs are $75. A Film Pass or All-Festival Pass adds various levels of deep or total immersion.Phone orders for tickets are available at 505-989-1495.Visit the Santa Fe Film Festival online at www.santafefilmfestival.com.