Taos: Take Two
Taos Picture Show returns
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then repetition is the surest sign of success. Following the triumph of last year's inaugural outing, the Taos Picture Show returns March 31 through April 3 with another fine selection of features, documentaries and short subjects from around the world.
Over the course of four days, 18 film programs will unspool inside the Taos Community Auditorium in northern New Mexico. Throw in a few gala parties and a chance to mingle with a bunch of indie film up-and-comers, and you've got the formula for a small-town film festival done right.
“I think the program is different than last year,” says festival manager Danielle Luther. “This year it's really a celebration of cinema from around the world. We've got films representing 12 different countries: Macedonia, Belgium, France, Italy, Germany and more.”
Three years ago, many local film fans were devastated when the world-famous Taos Talking Pictures Film Festival breathed its last, buried under a mountain of debt. But the cinematic town of Taos was eager to keep up the moviegoing tradition, and many of the behind-the-scenes faces at TTPIX were soon starting up a smaller, spin-off festival. Jonathan Slator, who also serves as director of the Taos Mountain Film Festival, jumped on board as festival director. Kelley Clement and Jason Silverman, longtime programmers of TTPIX, got right back to work hunting up films to screen at Taos Picture Show.
Though smaller in size and scope than the Taos Talking Pictures Festival, Taos Picture Show does give festivalgoers and guests the freedom and comfort to meet face-to-face. “It's a more intimate setting,” says Luther, who has also done her time serving on Taos' other film festivals. “People are able to talk to [filmmakers] about their films. You get to see the same people all weekend and you get to interact.”
Among the guests who are attending this year's second annual outing are Steven Marshall (director of This Revolution), Peter Riegert (longtime actor and director of King of the Corner), Ariel Roman and Alton Walpole (director and producer of the locally shot RX), Suki Medencevic (producer and cinematographer of The Great Water), Mario de la Vega (director of Robbing Peter), Heather Rae (director of Trudell) and this year's farthest traveler, Buddhadeb Dasgupta (director of Chased by Dreams). “He's coming all the way from Calcutta to hang out with us,” notes Luther.
The festival will kick off Thursday night with the classic film comedy Steamboat Bill, Jr. starring Buster Keaton. The silent film will feature live musical accompaniment by Santa Fe sextet Bing. The eclectic group plays “Indonesian rhythms and Ethiopian pop music” and describes itself as “toe-tapping and mind-bending.” Despite its age, Steamboat Bill is proving to be one of the festival's most popular screenings.
Among the newer films, musical documentaries seem to be making a loud noise. They get their due with Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice (an inspirational look at the female singing sensation), Trudell (a portrait of singer/poet/activist John Trudell) and Rhythm Is It! (a ballet documentary that became a box office sensation in Germany). The roadtripping crime drama Robbing Peter received plenty of accolades from the recent Independent Spirit Awards, and writer/director Mario de la Vega will be on hand to show the film off. International features, meanwhile, run the gamut from the dark, surrealist French Western Blueberry (starring Vincent Cassal, Julliete Lewis, Michael Madsen, Eddie Izzard and Ernest Borgnine) to The Great Water, a lyrical Oscar-nominated Macedonian tale of a young boy growing up in a post-World War II labor camp.
According to Luther, ticket sales are doing even better than last year's inaugural outing. Passes, which give festivalgoers entrance to all films as well as preferred seating and allow access to the Picture Show's assorted parties, seem to be a hot item.
Friday night, there's the Film Buff's Buffet at the Mable Dodge Luhan House. Saturday night there's a dance party at Joseph's Table, a well-known restaurant on the Taos Plaza. And if that's not enough for would-be passholders, Luther points out the Director's Brunch. “It's at Jonathan Slator's house. He's the festival director. He will personally make omelets and huevos rancheros for you.”
In each of these exclusive gatherings, rabid film buffs will have an opportunity to mingle with one another and to rub elbows with festival guests. Of course, if you can't shell out the dough ($200 for a Patron Pass, $100 for a Film Pass), individual film tickets are available for $10 each. Festival organizers assure us that seats will be set aside for all the screenings to make sure that ticket buyers have a chance to sample some of the festival's great offerings as well.
Fresh mountain air, soon-to-be-famous filmmakers and a great sampling of movies: What more could you ask for from your homegrown film festival?