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Las Cruces film fest rises from ashes of White Sands festival

It’s a race to the finish, and Ross Marks is ready for the challenge.

Marks is the executive director of the inaugural Las Cruces International Film Festival.

The festival takes place from Wednesday, March 2, through March 6 in Las Cruces.

“Things are heating up, and we’re putting all the logistics together,” he says. “The festival has exceeded my hope on so many levels. The community support has been terrific.”

The LCIFF rises from the ashes of the White Sands International Film Festival, which ended in 2015.

Marks says the purpose of the film festival is to screen films as well as offer more opportunities for those interested in film to attend panels.

New Mexico State University’s College of Arts and Sciences stepped in to sponsor the film. Marks is a professor with the Creative Media Institute at NMSU.

“We really want to create a community with the film festival,” he says.

Along with more than two dozen films screened the film festival will be honoring actor Danny Trejo with the outstanding achievement in entertainment award.

Trejo is known for the “Machete” trilogy of films. Oh, and he’s appeared in “Breaking Bad.” The first “Machete” will be screened, and then a Q&A with Trejo will take place.

Ross says comedian Robert Wuhl will also present a comedy panel at the festival.

“The first goal of the festival was to bring Hollywood to Las Cruces,” he says. “Having Danny Trejo and Robert Wuhl has helped elevate our festival on an international platform. These are elements of the festival that we worked on. We wanted to provide panels and discussions with people in the industry.”

The festival will kick off with “The Night is Young,” starring Matt Jones, Dave Hill, Kelen Coleman and Eloise Mumford.

The film is the story of the night Matt, played by Jones, and Dave, played by Hill, met Amy, played by Coleman, and Syd, played by Mumford.

All feeling a bit fed up with their jobs and Los Angeles, luck would have it that they decide to go to the same bar on the same night. Thankful to meet anyone who isn’t painfully self-absorbed, the drinks pile up as the four twenty-somethings find unexpected friendships, and maybe something more.

“This is a great opening film for us,” he says. “There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this film.”

Marks says there will also be a TV competition called “Shoot Las Cruces,” which has about 20 submissions. The winner will get a chance to make a short into a TV series.

He says IATSE 480 will host “Tune Up Las Cruces,” which will be informational to anyone interested in film.

“We have everything from a comedy workshop to a car casting workshop,” he says. “Each element is designed to help educate about film in New Mexico.”