“The Aztec,” a 2001 film documenting life at the motel
Cinéma vérité on Route 66
The second of three pieces about the life and death of the famed, doomed Aztec Motel.
In 2001, then-Alibi-art-director Kirsten Browne collaborated with former NuCity photographer Jennifer Lipow and UNM Internal Medicine Resident Steve Pergam to shoot and edit a 10-minute film which featured interviews with Aztec resident Phyllis Evans and owner Mohamed Natha. “The Aztec” won for best documentary in the Flicks on 66 Wild West Digital Shootout competition and hasn’t been seen for 10 years.
Jen and I made this film for Flicks on 66. We could've picked ANYTHING to shoot a film about. It wasn't my idea to shoot the Aztec and its people—I was a bit intimidated, but Jen was all bitchin' and NYC about it, so three made a team. (At around the same time we did the feature in the Alibi, "Motel Hell," where Noah Masterson stayed a night in a bunch of Route 66 motels. It wasn't your typical sponsored travel story—they all must've been glorious once.)
We didn't have a plan for the film because we didn't know what would happen there or who lived/stayed there. We just knocked on the office door and asked. Phyllis and Mohamed were happy for the audience. And proud of their incarnation of the Aztec. All Jen and I went in with was an agreement to ask questions and stay out of shot so we could be edited out. We didn't need many questions, things just happened.
We won our section of Flicks. And came away with way more than we expected. I lived in Albuquerque for six years (I'll be back!). Now, back in New Zealand for eight years, that experience sticks out for me like climbing Cabezon or Old Town at Xmas. It was a worthy use of time (more so than fluffing round the kids' section of Old Navy or reading magazines with a latte in the Flying Star).