For starters there are plenty of films to be seen during the festival’s week-long run (June 1 through 8). Last year the festival established itself as a haven for long- and short-form documentaries with a bent toward the globally and socially conscious. This year certainly follows that path with a number of hard-hiting docs. Brave Miss World (June 7, 5pm) relates the story a Miss Israel contestant who was abducted, stabbed and raped in Italy at age 18 and went on to become a prominent lawyer and activist. Healing the Mind: The Synthesis of Ayurveda and Western Psychiatry (June 6, 7pm) was “created to inspire our young adults to take charge of their own healing and realize that they have the power, the capacity, to heal themselves from the mind afflictions that are so affecting our culture.” Running For Jim (June 7, 2pm) paints an inspiring portrait of a decorated high school cross-country coach and his fatal battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Passionate Politics (June 4, 5pm) brings the story of Charlotte Bunch to light—from idealistic young civil rights organizer to lesbian activist. Bunch herself will speak at the screening, one of several special guests at the festival.
“New Mexico really is the best of both worlds for indie filmmakers—low production cost, supportive communities, stunning scenery and a trained and professional crew base that’s full of people who are willing to take a chance on a small film if they believe in it.”
In addition to national and international media, AFME also features several made-in-New Mexico offerings. Tapia, director Eddie Alcazar’s posthumous snapshot of five-time world champion boxer Johnny Tapia, screens twice (June 5 at 6pm and June 7 at 2pm). Gallup native Sydney Freeland’s debut film, Drunktown’s Finest, makes its first Albuquerque appearance (June 4, 8pm) after screenings at a number of film festivals around the world—including Sundance London. It’s a darkly fictionalized drama about several characters growing up and coming of age on the Navajo Nation. Mateo Frazier & Diego Joaquin Lopez’ Española-shot heroin-trade drama Blaze You Out—which took home AFME 2013’s Best Feature Film Award—makes a return engagement (June 6, 2pm). The psychological thriller Dead Billy, directed by Los Alamos-born filmmaker Scott Milder, will receive its world premiere at AFME (June 5, 9 pm). It tells the story of a grad student with a thriving career in academia whose impending marriage unlocks memories of a much darker past filled with violence, abuse and manipulation—not to mention a mysterious man named Billy. “It’s rewarding beyond words to able to premiere Dead Billy in Albuquerque, because Albuquerque's the only place I could have made a film like this on the budget I had and on my own terms,” says Milder, who raised most of his funding on Kickstarter. “New Mexico really is the best of both worlds for indie filmmakers—low production cost, supportive communities, stunning scenery and a trained and professional crew base that’s full of people who are willing to take a chance on a small film if they believe in it.”
In one of its many perambulations away from filmmaking, the festival kicks off on Sunday with a concert by alumni of the famous Buddy Rich Big Band (June 1, 2pm). Hometown comedian and former “Breaking Bad” sidekick Steven Michael Quezada hosts “A Night of Comedy and Poetry” at the Lobo Theater (June 6, 9pm). Actor Vivian Nesbitt will perform her award-winning one-woman show The Bark and the Tree at Aux Dog Theatre (June 4, 8pm). And for aspiring artists who crave a little hands-on, a string of panel discussions running throughout the festival cover topics ranging from “cinematography” to “financing your film” to “music in movies.”
Passes for the festival run the gamut from $50 for a day pass to $500 for an “All Access” pass. Tickets for individual events have a range of prices as well, with panel discussions going for around $5 and feature films selling for between $7 and $10. The key, of course, is to get over to the AFME website and check out all of the events they’ve got on offer. It’s a dauntingly diverse list—ranging from films about horses to rockabilly concerts to humanitarian photography exhibits. Dig around, though. There’s definitely something for everyone.