The Spotlight Shines On Santa Fe

Lauren Bacall, left, and Woody Harrelson, right, in a scene from THINKFilm's "The Walker."
Film festivals traditionally draw upon their surroundings to add flavor to the event.

The gritty downtown atmosphere of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, the Utah mountain setting of the Sundance Festival and the luxurious beaches and yachts of the Cannes Film Festival in France are part of what makes each festival unique.

The Santa Fe Film Festival, which runs this year from Nov. 28 through Dec. 2, has the beauty of the New Mexico desert for a backdrop and a laid-back Southwestern charm for attendees to savor.

The festival was created in 1999 by founder and executive-director Jon Bowman as a non-profit organization and officially began running its film schedule in 2000.

Photo Essay: Santa Fe
"In its first three years, it was primarily a local and regional event, though we did attract some outside interest and guests - filmmakers, industry veterans and sponsors. As is customary with most festivals, around year 3-4, major growth began," the festival's deputy director Stephen Rubin told The Showbuzz. "We received more and more national and international press. Our submissions increase each year as our reputation amongst filmmakers as a special festival which takes care of its attendees and provides excellent screening facilities, press opportunities, and awesome networking and social opportunities. We are now known as a destination festival with major prestige."

Set in picturesque New Mexico, the Santa Fe Film Festival, this year's festival runs from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2.

More than 80 programs with almost 200 films, shorts and features from various genres, themes and topics will be shown this year.

The festival will feature seven categories of films:

  • Independent Spirits - American made narrative films, outside the studio system, of any budget, shorts and features;
  • Making it Reel - Documentaries, shorts and features;
  • Eye on the World - Films of any genre and length made outside the USA;
  • Art Matters - Films of any length that celebrate the creative spirit be that about visual art, dance, music, theater, film, etc.;
  • Southwest Showcase - Films of any length and genre made in the Southwest region including New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Utah;
  • Gala films - Films from major distributors and pieces drawn from the professions of Luminaria Tributees (honored veteran filmmakers).

    The opening night Gala film is "Juno" starring Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. Other Gala films include Brian DePalma's "Redacted," and "The Walker" starring Lily Tomlin, Lauren Bacall and Kristin Scott Thomas. "Grace Is Gone" starring Joan Cusack will close the festival.

    When the festival began, the initial award categories included: "Best Short," "Best Documentary," "Best Feature," "Best Native American Film," and "Best Latino Film."

    Fast forward to 2006 and the awards became more diversified with the "Milagro Award" (best American independent film), the "Independent Spirit Award" (Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Independent Spirit Award), and the Audience Award, Honorable Mention (if needed), Creative Spirit Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award (if warranted).

    This year's Luminarias are documentarians Marina Goldavskaya, Alanis Obomsawin, Editor Carol Littleton, Director of Photography John Bailey, and the Maverick award will be awarded to Alan Cumming.

    Veteran actress and Santa Fe local, Ali MacGraw and New Mexican native actor, dancer, and choreographer Raoul Trujillo will host the Santa Fe Film Festival's Milagro Awards ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 4 p.m. at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. Jurors and celebrity presenters will unveil winning films for the festival's competitive awards.

    "This is our eighth season and we expect major growth with attendees from around the world," Rubin said. "As we approach year ten we expect much more growth, thanks to our new sponsors and partners this year and those who come on board in the future as well as our growing reputation as a well- rounded and fun festival, not to be missed."

    By Melissa Castellanos