Five years old is a good age. By then human beings are walking, talking and generally on the path to acting like the human beings they will be for the rest of their lives. Chances are you don’t even remember your second or third birthday. You were just a baby. But your fifth birthday: That was a milestone.
So we should be celebrating wildly that the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival turns 5 this year. In its short existence, the festival has already established a scrappy, self-sufficient personality. Its screened countless experimental, underground and plain-old non-Hollywood films. It’s given numerous local filmmakers an outlet for their growing talents. And its brought dozens of creative artists face-to-face with eager, movie-loving audiences. In just the past few years, we’ve seen Chris Eyre, Judy Blume, Russell Means, Gary Farmer, Wes Studi, Digby Wolfe, Kirby Dick and Rudolfo Anaya introducing screenings, running workshops, participating in Q&As and hanging out at post-film parties.
This year’s lineup could easily be mistaken for the schedule of a film festival twice SFIFF’s age. Things kicked off in red carpet style on Wednesday, Oct. 16, with the local premiere of Go For Sisters, the new thriller by indie stalwart John Sayles (Matewan, Passion Fish, Lone Star). That screening was attended by one of the film’s lead actresses Yolonda Ross. That’s par for the course at SFIFF, which packs as many cast and crew members as it can into every screening, big or small. This makes SFIFF less of a passive viewing experience and more of an active learning experience.
On Thursday, Oct. 17, the festival proper gets underway, pulling the curtain back on some of this year’s 28 feature films and documentaries. Among the local highlights is the New Mexico premiere of Tapia, Eddie Alcazar’s new documentary about the life and death of five-time World Champion boxer Johnny Tapia (Thursday, 7pm, at Lensic). There will also be a New Mexico premiere for punk rock auteurs Jon Moritsugu & Amy Davis’ new experimental horror opus Pig Death Machine (Saturday, 9:30pm, CCA Main Theater).
It’s the guests, however, that really turn this into an interactive event. For example, acclaimed cinematographer Lee Daniel (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunset) will host a Master Discussion on the craft of cinematography (Sunday, 12pm, CCA Studio). On Sunday, 3pm, at the Jean Cocteau, famed fantasy author and Santa Fe-dweller George RR Martin will talk about adapting “Game of Thrones” for HBO with award-winning television writer Kirk Ellis (Into the West, John Adams). Halloween is fast approaching, and Blacula screenwriter Joan Torres will be on hand for an educative writing lab (Friday, 11am, CCA Studio). On Saturday night the festival hits a definite high note when notorious trash filmmaker John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray) performs his one-man show This Filthy World live on stage at the Lensic.
Of course this is all just the tip of the iceberg. Go to santafeindependentfilmfestival.com to see a complete listing of films and events. SFIFF runs Oct. 16 through 20 at the Center for Contemporary Arts, The Lensic Performing Arts Center, The Screen, Jean Cocteau and other Santa Fe venues. Individual tickets and passes are on sale now.