The Big Picture
The Taos Picture Show Brings Hollywood back to Northern New Mexico
By Devin D. O'Leary
The demise last year of the Taos Talking Picture Film Festival left many wondering what would happen to the artistic, movie-hungry mecca of Taos, NM. A tricky bankruptcy derailed the homegrown festival in 2003, ending (at least temporarily) any chance of hanging out for a weekend, rubbing elbows with a few stars and watching movies in the cool, pine-lined environment of northern New Mexico. Thanks to some last-minute efforts by a team of dedicated film lovers, though, Taos will once again play host to an annual film festival.
In fact, the popular TTPIX was not the only film festival to take up residence amid the pines. Taos has also been home to the successful, high altitude sports-and-culture-oriented Taos Mountain Film Festival for the past three years. It's no wonder then that that festival's founding director, Jonathan Slator, was drafted to serve as director of the newly minted Taos Picture Show. Slator and his team were drafted in January, and in only three short months have managed to whip up an exciting collection of films.
"We did the Mountian Film Festival. Having shown we could do that one successfully, we were therefore the obvious choice and got asked to pick up on the idea of a spring festival," says Slator, sounding amazingly calm for such a harried man. "What we're doing is trying to keep alive the spirit of a quality independent feature film festival."
TTPIX created a lot of fans in its lifetime and Slator admits that, "there were several bodies in the state—from the governor on down—who wanted to see the festival either kept alive or some version of it revived."
With the state's renewed interest in the film industry—productions have flooded into the state in the wake of tax incentives and a State Film Museum is being built in Santa Fe—it's no surprise that there would be those interested in keeping New Mexico's few film festivals going. Several groups scrambled to fill in the gap left by TTPIX's departure. (The Taos Vision Quest International Film Festival, for example, is scheduled for April 21-25.) But it was Slator's experience and enthusiasm that ignited the biggest interest among sponsors and community members.
His first duty was to recruit Kelly Clement and Jason Silverman, the former director of programming and artistic director of Taos Talking Pictures. Individually, the two have served as programmers or advisors for events including the San Francisco Film Festival, the Telluride Film Festival and the Native Cinema Showcase. "I have two of the best guys in my opinion from Taos Talking Pictures, which is why I was able to pull it off," says Slator. "I get involved in programming, certainly, in terms of being allowed to give my opinion. But they are the ones who have the contacts and have found the films. So, we'll have a damn good slate this year."
Slator is averse to comparing the brand new Picture Show with the late, lamented Taking Pictures. Still, the clean slate only emphasizes the changes that have been made. "The difference, chiefly, is size," says Slator. "We're going to have a much smaller event." Taos Picture Show is based on Slator's Taos Mountain Film Festival. It concentrates on a single venue and a single program of films. TTPIX's huge annual slate of films, workshops, panel discussions, student conferences, parties and dinners often left attendees racing from theater to theater in an attempt to absorb just a tiny portion of the ambitious catalogue of events.
The Taos Picture Show is all about the movies.
Among the films to be screened at this year's inaugural Picture Show are two made-in-New Mexico films. Blind Horizon, shot largely in Las Vegas, features Val Kilmer as an amnesiac racing against the clock to figure out his role in the potential assassination of a presidential candidate. Kilmer and the film's director, Michael Hausmann, have both been invited to attend the screening. The Thief of Time, filmed in Albuquerque, is the latest adaptation of a Tony Hillerman novel and stars Wes Studi and Adam Beach. Ojibwa Indian actor Beach is scheduled to make an appearance.
Other programs at the Taos Picture show include the musical documentary Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, the Academy Award nominated Swedish film Evil and the Irish drama Song for a Raggy Boy starring Aidan Quinn, which has won 10 international film festival awards. The festival's centerpiece is a documentary called Festival Express, which chronicles the historic 1970 counterculture cross-Canadian train tour by Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, The Band and others. All tolled, the festival features 14 films over the course of four days. Directors and actors from many of the films are expected to be there in person.
All screenings will take place at the Taos Center for the Arts. Tickets are $10 each or $100 for a complete festival pass. You can find out more info by calling the box office at (505) 758-2052 or by logging on to www.taospictureshow.com
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