SANTA FE, N.M. — The time has come for a ride on the “Sun Belt Express.” And Evan Buxbaum couldn’t be happier.
The director is gearing up to premiere his feature film at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival.
Not only is the screening a world premiere, but Buxbaum is bringing the film back to New Mexico – where it was filmed. It will be screened at 8 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Jean Cocteau Cinema.
“It’s pretty amazing to be in my shoes right now,” he says. “I imagined the day the film would premiere, but it’s here now and the ride is just beginning.”
“Sun Belt Express” is set south of Tucson in the Sonoran Desert. It follows Allen King, played by Tate Donovan, an offbeat ethics professor who ends up on a disastrous – and hilarious – run across the Mexican border with his conservative teenage daughter Emily, played by India Ennenga, with four people who are in the country illegally in the trunk.
For nearly a month, Buxbaum and crew filmed on location in Belen, Los Lunas, Socorro and Albuquerque.
The home base for the production was at the La Mirada RV Park, which was transformed into a restaurant and hotel all set in Tucson.
The production employed about 30 New Mexicans for its crew, as well as 24 New Mexicans as principals and background actors.
Buxbaum says the editing process took about seven or eight months to complete. He says it took a long time because the editor was doing other jobs.
“We would have done it faster if we had money,” he says. “We were doing it out of people’s basements for free.”
Buxbaum says the best part of shooting in New Mexico was that the crew was well received in the community and the landscapes just added to the film.
“We were hoping to get the film accepted into one of the film festivals in New Mexico,” he says. “I’m personally excited to bring it back and let the cast and crew have an opportunity to see the film.”
In addition to Donovan and Ennenga, the cast includes Stephen Lang, Rachael Harris, Ana de la Reguera and Miguel Sandoval.
Harris is known for her roles in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series and “The Hangover.” De la Reguera was in “Cowboys & Aliens” and “Nacho Libre.”
Buxbaum is trying to fly out for the premiere from New York, and hopes that his schedule on another project allows him to do that.
He is in talks with distributors for the film, and the movie will screen at 12 other film festivals before the end of the year.
“We’re building some momentum and everything is moving in the right direction,” he says. “It’s really cool to be able to take it back to New Mexico.”