ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After dwindling to a slate of eight mostly art-house films in 2010, the Santa Fe Film Festival is back with a lineup of 23 feature films, two of them starring Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes, and five series of shorts.
Billing itself as a four-day celebration of “the best in independent world cinema,” the festival runs Oct. 20-23 in a staggered schedule at The Screen and the Center for Contemporary Arts, with the closing film at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.
“We consider ourselves an indie boutique festival,” executive director Diane Schneier Perrin said. “We made the decision that we could re-emerge stronger this year.”
Although there are no signs of the crowd-pleasing, popcorn features of the past, two British films come with glittery pedigrees. Directed by Terence Davies, “The Deep Blue Sea” stars Rachel Weisz as a woman whose obsessive love alienates the men around her and destroys her well-being. The film is based on Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play. “Coriolanus” marks Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut with a cast that includes Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox and Jessica Chastain. Fiennes updates Shakespeare’s play about a war hero exiled by his own people, compelling him to ally himself with his sworn enemy in order to exact revenge.
The other films include “The Artist” (France), about a silent movie star facing the end of his career with the advent of the talkies; “A Separation” (Iran, a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar candidate), about a couple torn between leaving their country for a better life and staying to care for a dying parent; “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” (Turkey; winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes), about a frustrating murder investigation; “Salt of Life” (Italy), a comedy of love and life in a quest for lost youth; and “Sleeping Beauty” (Australia), about a young university student who lets the flip of a coin decide the outcome of random sexual encounters. Other films hail from Guatemala, Korea, Japan, Uruguay, Poland, Finland and the U.S.
The New Mexico films include “Wild Horses and Renegades,” a chronicle of the plight of the wild American horse by director James Anaquad Kleinert , who lives in Santa Fe.
The festival that once drew star wattage like Tommy Lee Jones to Santa Fe is emerging from a “sizeable” debt load accrued during heady earlier years, Schneier Perrin said. About 50 percent of that debt — to mainly local businesses — has been paid off, she said.
Some locals wondered if Santa Fe could even mount a festival this year.
“Some of us involved in it were wondering the same thing,” said board chairman Nick Durrie, a semi-retired TV producer. “It just lived beyond its means. It lost money in 2008 and 2009. “
Durrie declined to specify the debt.
“What we inherited 2½ years ago was substantial,” he said. “It’s under six figures now.”
“It is our intention to work with our creditors within the next couple of years,” Schneier Perrin added.
“I think the checks and balances were not in place for (the) best practices,” she continued. “It’s been challenging. I think it’s beyond just the money. I think when you have a local film festival, you have to honor the local community. I think there’s a lot of hurt feelings.”
Last year, organizers moved the event from December to October to accommodate annual publications with early deadlines. The festival was helmed by co-directors Michael Hare and Rose Kuo, who followed retired Santa Fe Film Festival founder/director Jon Bowman. Organizers scaled back the 2010 festival after a 50 percent drop in national sponsorships, paired with a 20 percent decline in local support. In April, Kuo and Hare moved to New York to the Lincoln Center Film Society, organizer of the New York Film Festival.
Schneier Perrin is an independent producer who ran the New Mexico Filmmakers Intensive at the College of Santa Fe. She served on former Gov. Bill Richardson’s Council on Film and Media Industries.
A recent fundraising event honoring Santa Fe Studios chief executive officer Lance Hool was successful, Durrie maintained.
“I think we made a large number of new friends for the festival,” he said. “The way for us to survive is to hang in there and make sure this doesn’t get too big.”
If you go
WHAT: 12th Annual Santa Fe Film Festival
WHEN: Oct. 20-23
WHERE: The Screen, the Center for Contemporary Arts, the Lensic Performing Arts Center
CONTACT: 988-7414 or www.santafefilmfestival.com