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Film fest puts safety first with drive-in theater

The Santa Fe Independent Film Festival is collaborating with Motorama at the Downs Santa Fe from Sept. 6. The festival will program one night of films for six weeks leading up to the festival beginning Oct. 14. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Like many other organizations, the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival is pivoting in order to present its festival in October.

“Once the governor extended her order through August, we started thinking that it would be unlikely that movie theaters would be open in October,” says Jacques Paisner, SFIFF artistic director. “We knew we had to move forward with making the festival happen.”

When the 12th iteration of the festival takes place Oct. 14-18, it will offer a different experience.

“The essence of SFIFF is an in-person experience, since red carpet premieres, Q&A sessions with filmmakers and fabulous parties can seldom be done at home,” Paisner says. “The competition, cash prizes and juried awards can, however, be completed remotely.”

Of course, there will be the expected program that represents the year’s best international films, American independents and documentaries.

The festival will launch a safety-focused online platform for part of the festival, offering further accessibility to more distant audiences.

One major change is the collaboration with Motorama at the Downs Santa Fe.

The drive-in movie theater – made of shipping containers – is owned and operated by Liam and Amber Nohr-Forrester from Santa Fe and is set up on the infield of the Santa Fe Downs.

Paisner says beginning Sept. 6, the festival will program one night of films at the drive-in theater.

The series kicks off with the independent film “Yes, God, Yes,” which stars Natalia Dyer.

The rest of the September dates include “The Big Ugly” on Sept. 13; “The Mortuary Collection” on Sept. 20; and “Ava” on Sept. 27.

“We will program two more events in October until the festival starts,” Paisner says. “These will be releases that people will have the chance to see for the first time.

“A lot of movies are coming to us,” Paisner says. “We’re going to have films that are going to be special presentations, as well as those films that are expected to be in competition come awards season.”

Motorama was able to collaborate with the festival.

The screen is made of 16 shipping containers and the infield area fits 300 socially distanced vehicles.

“By having this collaboration, we’re going to be able to show more films,” he says. “While we can’t be in theaters right now, this is something that gives movie lovers an experience to see cinema on the big screen.”

George R.R. Martin and Wes Studi are past recipients of awards at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, which takes place October 14-18. (Courtesy of Santa Fe Independent Film Festival)

Since half of festival’s programming is in the competition section, official selections will be announced in early September.

As in past years, SFiFF will award the same cash prizes and trophies, according to Paisner.

If theaters remain closed through October, Paisner has a plan.

“(The festival) will present a selection of festival films once local theaters reopen,” he says. “This is in addition to the drive-in options.”

Paisner says the festival has partnered with the State of New Mexico in making the New Mexico Safe Promise.

This state-wide pledge of cooperation with businesses, citizens and organizations for adherence to operating safely, allows New Mexicans to work together toward a safer environment.

“Monitoring reports from the State of New Mexico and around the country, SFiFF maintains its top priority: the health and well-being of both Festivalgoers and residents of the Santa Fe community,” Paisner says.

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