ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Years went by – six to be exact – before Ben Daitz could finish his “pet” project.
The 30-year filmmaker has made other documentaries throughout his career but this one was special.
“I wanted to do this film because I lived in northern New Mexico and I also worked up there,” he says. “I started reading the Sun intermittently for years and I like newspapers and what they stand for.”
Daitz’s finished product is “The Sun Never Sets.” The film follows reporters and editors from the Rio Grande Sun, based in Española, as they write about the news, sports, arts and culture of a large, rural county.
It is narrated by Bob Edwards, who is an award-winning news anchor and radio host, and also features Tony Hillerman speaking about the role of community newspapers and Jock Lauterer, who teaches journalism a the University of North Carolina.
“Getting some of these interviews were vital to telling the story,” he says. “Newspapers are an important part of this culture and I wanted to show how this culture holds newspapers close.”
The film has been selected for the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, the Ojai Film Festival and the Albuquerque Film and Media Experience. The film also will be screened on Aug. 10 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
“This is such a huge honor for this film because it continues to get exposure from all over the country,” he says. “The Newseum is a cool little place and they actually sought us out to show this. I think it speaks well for the film.”
In addition to those screenings, New Mexico PBS is slated to screen the documentary at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 20 on channel 5.1.
“Having it aired on the local PBS station is also going to give us some more reach,” he says. “Hopefully, it will lead to a national airing, which would be phenomenal.”
In addition to being a filmmaker, Daitz is a physician and writer. His work has been shown and honored by PBS, American Public Television and multiple film festivals and he’s received Emmy nominations. He is a contributing writer for the New York Times. His novel, “Delivery,” was published by the University of New Mexico Press.
“For some reason, I always come back to filmmaking,” he says. “It’s gotten easier to do with the technology now available. It still takes time to make a documentary in the right way.”
Daitz says the documentary took him six years to finish mostly because of expenses. He began filming in 2006 and received a New Visions Award for $20,000, which helped start the project.
“I thought I would get more grants and then the recession hit,” he says. “I hit up press associations and other organizations, but no one was giving money. Therefore, the project had to wait a bit.”
Daitz would travel from Albuquerque to to film and at one point tried to have reporters use a camera and do a video diary.
“That was sort of a bust because everyone was just too busy,” he says. “I would try to coordinate with them but as we all know, the news business is never really quiet.”
Daitz says if he does another documentary on the news business he would love to do it in video-diary style.
“Who knows, this entire project may turn into a series of sorts,” he says. “It’s the film business and there are plenty of ideas out there.”
While “The Sun Never Sets” is making the festival rounds, Daitz is already working on his next project.
He says it is about a young woman, Marit Rawley, who is autistic and is also a filmmaker.
“We were asked to mentor her and she now has made three films and produced a play,” he says. “She’s making a movie about her play and we’re making a documentary on her.”