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‘Touching the human spirit’: Virtual ABQ Film & Music Experience features ‘intimate conversations,’ 73 screenings

Giancarlo Esposito, who played Gus Fring in “Better Call Saul,” will participate in an event with the Albuquerque Film & Music Experience on Wednesday, Sept. 23. (Warrick Page/AMC/Sony Pictures Television)

Ivan Wiener imagined a festival that would create a community of not only filmmakers, but musicians and artists.

That was eight years ago.

Today, Wiener is at the helm of the Albuquerque Film & Music Experience. Like many other festivals, it will be celebrated virtually, because the show must go on.

“We are excited about our upcoming program where filmmakers, musicians, and artists of all types come together from around the world to share stories, on screen and off, throughout an incredible week,” Wiener says. “Whether you are a die-hard movie buff, a fan of music, a poet, painter, photographer, or dancer, you are at the center of AFME’s focus in bringing audiences together and touching the human spirit.”

This year’s festival will be held from Tuesday, Sept. 22, through Sept. 27.

Wiener decided in the spring to convert the festival to a virtual event.

The festival will screen 73 projects – ranging from shorts to full-length features.

There will also be blocks of films, such as the Students Rock Block, as well as a Native American block.

“What we’re doing this year is making the intimate conversations free and presented on Facebook Live,” Wiener says.

The festival is known for its “Intimate Conversation” series, which puts an actor or filmmaker together with a small audience. It’s been one of the most popular elements of the festival for years.

On Wednesday, Sept. 23, there will be two intimate conversations.

Stewart Lyons is a producer behind “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

The first, at noon, is called “Breaking Bad – An Intimate Conversation with Stewart Lyons.”

Lyons is a producer who has worked on 33 TV series, 24 pilots and dozens of features and TV movies.

He’s been a producer on New Mexico-filmed projects such as “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul,” “The Night Shift” and “Roswell, New Mexico.”

The next intimate conversation also has a New Mexico connection and is live on Wednesday, Sept. 23.

It is called “Giancarlo Esposito Live: Do the Right Thing Intimate Conversation.”

Esposito is best known for his award-winning role as Gustavo “Gus” Fring on both “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.”

The actor’s profile has risen in the past decade, and he has roles now on “The Mandalorian” and “The Boys.”

In 1989, Esposito appeared in the groundbreaking film “Do The Right Thing.”

“We’re getting Mike Silva to moderate this conversation with Giancarlo,” Wiener says. “Mike is a leader in the community for peace, justice and equality. ‘Do The Right Thing’ shares why it is important that we come together as one, and a depiction of why Burque Against Racism was created.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the AMFX opens with the film “Of Love & Artistry,” “Can Art Stop a Bullet,” “This is Time: A Musical Life,” “The In-Between” and “Tom of Your Life.”

At 8:30 p.m., Wiener says there will be a drive-in theater screening of “Young Guns.”

“The drive-in series has been successful for us,” he says.

Wiener says the pandemic allowed the festival to put on more virtual events and expand its reach outside New Mexico.

“We’ve seen interest from all over the world,” he says. “We had 400 submissions for the festival, and it was a difficult decision to narrow it down to the 73 we are screening.”

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