Though the submission process remains unjuried, the Film Office has worked on attracting a more professional lineup. “One of the things I’ve done since I took over as program director for the showcase two years ago is to look for ways to improve the quality,” says the Film Office’s Trish Lopez. “We used to get a lot of ‘home movies,’ I call them—someone grabbing a camera and showing how to cook a burger or something.” Adding simple guidelines such as getting releases for all music used and requiring a full credits sequence for each film has decreased the number of films submitted, but it’s bumped up the quality significantly. “The first year, we had no problem filling up a whole week,” notes Lopez. Last year, the festival attracted 17 hours of content. This year is down around 12 hours. Still, Lopez insists the 2011 showcase features some of the best film and video work to date.
This year’s showcase begins with a public reception on Thursday night at Nob Hill’s Laru Ni Hati. This catered, opening night party allows filmmakers from around the state to rub elbows with each other and with members of the viewing public. The reception will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. After that, it’s down the street to Guild Cinema for the unveiling of two popular blocks of films—horror and comedy. The comedy block starts at 7:15 p.m., showing off seven short films from Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. Indicative of this block is Holly Adams’ “Leather Kittens Gone Bad.” Adams—a longtime dancer, filmmaker and acting coach—originally shot the six-minute short for last June’s chaotic 48 Hour Film Project. In it, an all-girl band kidnaps a record producer and tortures him with their music. Adams has done significant work to the film since its 48 Hour debut and is presenting this as the film’s “director’s cut.” The second film block begins at 9:15 p.m. and showcases a triple shot of horror/thrillers from filmmakers Arturo Portillo, Brandon Scott Jensen and Gregory Byrd.
This year, organizers of the showcase decided to dump daytime screenings so that “nobody gets stuck with a bad time.” Friday night’s blocks, therefore, kick off at 7 p.m. and will focus exclusively on drama. Lopez is quick to point out Don Gray’s “Delia”—about two broken people in a dysfunctional relationship—as one of the highlights. Gray works as a location coordinator for the Film Office.
At 7 p.m. on Friday, the documentaries block starts. Among the many topics covered there are the National Institute of Flamenco, the history of the Native American Church, rock climbing, endangered river otters and a Vietnam vet turned Zen priest.
Sunday’s films start with another documentary block beginning at 5 p.m. The popular “wild card” block starts rolling at 7 p.m., unleashing such uncategorizable treats as Tom Thode’s humorous “Monkeybear vs. Scary Robot,” Bryan Konefsky’s experimental “Fertile Ground Corporate Slug” and Rudy J. Miera’s monologue-loving “Shakespeare’s Women.” The showcase closes out at 8:45 p.m. on Sunday night with a brief music block featuring a trio of music videos, including a new one for up-and-coming singer/songwriter Alex Carbonel.
All told, more than 40 short films from Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Chaparral, Lamy, Taos, Glorieta, Española, Los Lunas, T or C, Los Alamos, and Tijeras will be screened throughout weekend. Winners will be chosen in each category, although judging has changed somewhat from previous years. “One of the things I eliminated was ‘Audience Favorite’ awards,” says Lopez. “Somebody from Albuquerque could get 40 of his friends to show up and vote for him. What’s a kid from Lordsburg supposed to do?” To replace the lopsided audience voting process, Lopez has assembled volunteers, “professionals from within the film community—either filmmakers or instructors. They will judge the best in each category.” Once chosen, those winning films will be showcased throughout the summer on various cable access channels around the state. Also, there will be a “Best of the Showcase” tour touching down in smaller communities like Belen and Ruidoso. At each stop, the Film Office is working with local theaters—like the historic Fountain Theatre in Mesilla—to present a program of winning shorts. Just remember: You saw them here first!