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Celluloid celebration

Over the course of five days, 148 films will be screened at the Las Cruces International Film Festival.

“Rose,” starring Cybill Shepherd and James Brolin, is the opening night film at the Las Cruces International Film Festival.

Add to that nearly a dozen panels and even more events.

“We felt that we’d program more films,” says Ross Marks, LCIFF director. “One of the goals is for filmmakers to have a film convention where films are the backbone of the event. We have over 100 filmmakers coming in for the festival.”

The annual festival kicks off on Wednesday, March 7, with the opening night film, “Rose.” Last year, the festival had overall attendance of about 8,000.

The film stars Cybill Shepherd, James Brolin, Pam Grier and Cindy Picket. It is directed by Rod McCall.

It was filmed in southern New Mexico and tells the story of a widowed ex-cop who discovers that she may have a life-threatening illness, and decides to go on a solo road trip in a motorized wheelchair to explore the beauty of the Southwest.

On her journey, Rose discovers more than just the simple beauty of New Mexico when she meets – and falls in love with – Max, an old cowboy who comes to a crossroads of his own.

“I’ve been working with Rod to make this our opening night film for a while,” Marks says.

Shepherd will also be given an award for outstanding achievement entertainer award.

Grier is a special guest at the festival.

Both women will be part of a panel discussion on Thursday, March 8, called “Diversity & Inclusion in Entertainment.”

They will be joined at 2 p.m. by Anne Caufell Saunders, Jamie Marchi, Monica Rial and Brian Espinosa at Corbett Center New Mexico State University campus.

Marks says the festival will also pay homage to the impact of “Breaking Bad” on its 10th anniversary.

“Breaking Bad” actor RJ Mitte will be inducted to the New Mexico Film and TV Hall of Fame.

Actor RJ Mitte, who played Walter White Jr. in the acclaimed series, will be inducted as part of the inaugural class of the New Mexico Film and Television Hall of Fame on March 10 at the Rio Grande Theater.

“We’re also going to be going inside ‘Breaking Bad’ with a panel,” Marks says. “We have a writer and a costumer to talk about how this show helped changed the landscape of television. TV has become a huge medium, and there are more TV shows being made than actual feature films.”

Although Marks is eagerly awaiting the entire festival, one moment he’s excited about is getting Ralph Bakshi in for a panel.

The legendary animator will be presented an award for outstanding achievement in animation.

Bakshi has worked on “Mighty Mouse,” “Heckle and Jeckle,” “Deputy Dawg,” “Foofle” and “Lariat Sam.”

He also created and directed a series of superhero spoof cartoons called “The Mighty Heroes.”

He was also at the helm of the 1970s animated film “Fritz the Cat.”

“We wanted to add animation as a category,” Marks says. “We have 28 animated shorts, and Ralph has been influential in this genre. He’s going to give a talk, and it’s an honor because he doesn’t do many public appearances.”