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Film festival brings in flicks ranging from local to foreign with a range of themes

“Mekko” features a homeless man who becomes convinced another is an evil witch. (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival)

“Mekko” features a homeless man who becomes convinced another is an evil witch. (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival)

Captivated by the scenic beauty of Scotland’s Loch Lomond, Nathan Hollis decided he definitely wanted to use it as a location for a 10-minute movie he needed to submit to get his master’s degree in film, which he was pursuing in that country.

Trouble is, that short film turned into a full-length feature. “That’s kind of how it evolved,” said Hollis, a local resident who manages the Cinematheque at the Center for Contemporary Arts and currently teaches a directing class at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

While he quickly had to whip together a shorter version to get his degree, his feature-length film has been seeing some success, with showings at the deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City and the AMFM Fest in Flagstaff, Ariz., where it won the Director’s Choice award.

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Now it’s coming to the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, with festival executive director Jacques Paisner saying Hollis is “the type of local filmmaker we want to create a platform for.”

“I loved it,” he said of Hollis’ film. “It has really compelling dialogue and zero budget.” And, he said, it holds true to famed filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard’s quote that all you need to make a movie is a gun and a girl.

“Harry & Avis,” scheduled to be shown 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16 at CCA’s Main Theater and 3:45 p.m. Oct. 17 at Violet Crown Cinema’s small theater, joins a festival in Santa Fe that keeps growing every year.

Now in its seventh year, the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival offers four full days of features and shorts – plus Wednesday’s one film, “The Adderall Diaries,” and its opening night party.

Films on the program, which were chosen from among more than 1,000 submissions from 40 countries, will be shown on various screens at the Center for Contemporary Arts, Jean Cocteau Cinema, the Lensic Performing Arts Center, The Screen and Violet Crown Cinema.

With more than 100 films, including over 40 feature-length offerings, the festival this year will see a 30 percent increase in screening hours, Paisner said.

Last year, the festival attracted more than 10,000 attendees, with 3,000 of them coming from out of town, he added.

An event highlight this year will be presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to actress Gena Rowlands at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lensic, followed by a showing of one of her most memorable films, “A Woman Under the Influence.” Panel discussions, social events and workshops also will be on the agenda throughout the festival.

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A festival pass costs $250; individual tickets are $10 per film. You can buy tickets and check out the schedule at santafeindependentfilmfestival.com.

“Krisha” tells the story of a woman trying to reconcile with her family over Thanksgiving dinner. (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival)

“Krisha” tells the story of a woman trying to reconcile with her family over Thanksgiving dinner. (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival)

Human ways

Hollis, who grew up in Clovis, said “Harry & Avis” is his first feature film.

He actually started out as an actor, located in Washington, D.C., after getting a theater degree in Oklahoma. “I did some really kind of bad films that I hope I never see,” he said. “I already had done some writing for film.”

But after acting in some of those bad films, Hollis found himself thinking that he could make films himself – better ones, with any luck and effort. So he got a film degree at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, traveled to Scotland for his master’s and now has landed back in Santa Fe.

“Harry & Avis,” a romantic comedy, focuses on one of the topics that Hollis finds most interesting: human relationships.

It follows a couple who take a camping trip to Loch Lomond in an attempt to revive their relationship but, as described in a film festival summary, “Harry’s neurotic existential ponderings interfere.” As Harry ponders the deep questions, Avis promotes the need for carefree spontaneity.

“Harry makes a decision that kind of forces them apart,” Hollis said. “He is looking for this ‘aha’ moment, without realizing it’s Avis.”

His love for film, he said, may have had its roots in his experiences watching movies with his grandfather, a real film buff. “We watched a lot of classic films together,” Hollis said.

Over a recent weekend, Hollis did some filming on a new short film with a Hitchcockian air, a comedy/thriller in which a man goes camping beneath a bridge and encounters two bad guys looking to get rid of a body, he said.

In “Ixcanul Volcano,” the character Maria awaits an arranged marriage while dreaming of seeing the city lights. (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival)

In “Ixcanul Volcano,” the character Maria awaits an arranged marriage while dreaming of seeing the city lights. (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival)

He’s also working on a feature that involves “an older gentleman and a younger guy who end up kind of forced on a road trip together,” he said. “It’s all about learning about each other and who each other is.”

Foreign films

A host of other choices also will be available during next week’s festival.

Paisner said he’s particularly proud of some of the foreign films that will be shown, including “Ixcanul Volcano,” Guatemala’s submission to the Academy Awards’ foreign film category, and “The Embrace of the Serpent,” Colombia’s entry.

Some of the other feature films among the offerings are:

A scene from “Songs My Brothers Taught Me.” (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival)

A scene from “Songs My Brothers Taught Me.” (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival)

“Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” directed by Chloe Zhao. With an older brother in jail and his father recently dead, high school senior Johnny wants to head out to Los Angeles, but wrestles with what it would mean to leave his beloved younger sister.

“Therapy for a Vampire,” directed by David Ruhm. A mysterious count, wanting to end an “eternally long” relationship with his wife, seeks help from Sigmund Freud and discovers an attraction to a young painter’s girlfriend.

“Krisha,” directed by Trey Edward Shults. In this character study, Krisha tries to make up for years of alcohol-stewed troubles by cooking Thanksgiving dinner for her long-estranged family, but buried secrets and old resentments derail the attempted reconciliation.

“Babushkas of Chernobyl” is a documentary about the lives of women living in the shadow of the crippled nuclear power plant. (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival)

“Babushkas of Chernobyl” is a documentary about the lives of women living in the shadow of the crippled nuclear power plant. (Courtesy of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival)

“All Eyes and Ears,” directed by Vanessa Hope. While following U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman in his attempts in diplomacy amidst international tensions, this documentary also weaves in the stories of his adopted Chinese-American daughter and an asylum-seeking legal advocate.

“The Babushkas of Chernobyl,” directed by Anne Bogart and Holly Morris. A group of women living in the dead zone around the disabled nuclear plant not only survive but thrive, picking berries and raising cattle on the contaminated land.

“Mekko,” directed by Sterlin Harjo. Released from prison after serving 19 years, Mekko has no one to take him in except a Native homeless community in Tulsa, which he tries to free of a man he becomes convinced is an evil witch.

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