Ready! Set! Screen!
The 10th annual Santa Fe Film Festival
The Santa Fe Film Festival is surely that rare entity that celebrates “hump day” as the first day of its work week. Wednesday, Dec. 2, marks the kickoff of the 10th annual film festival, a five-day love affair with cinema.
The event officially begins with a screening of the fest’s Opening Night Gala feature, Everybody’s Fine, in which Robert De Niro plays a widower who goes on a cross-country trip to reconnect with his children. The Cowgirl BBQ hosts the traditional opening-night party at 8 p.m. (open to pass holders and anyone who has purchased a ticket to one of the opening-night screenings), and then it’s another four days of movies, parties, panel talks, and workshops.
The Milagro Awards Ceremony, in which the fest hands out its “best of” trophies and honors its invited guest tributees, takes place at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, at the National Dance Institute of New Mexico’s Dance Barns. This year’s tributees are actors Tommy Lee Jones andWes Studi, cinematographer Ellen Kuras, and director Mark Rydell.
The film line-up is heavy on documentaries, but it also features the usual assortment of indie narrative films, including comedies, dramas, horror, and stuff that’s just too weird to categorize. Following the belt-tightening trend of the rest of the country, the fest is cutting back— from about 210 movies last year to about 135 this year— but there is still plenty to do and see.
Next Friday’s Pasatiempo will feature in-depth coverage of the festival and the tributees. In the interim, here are some films to check out. Note: several of these screen once— and only once — before our next issue comes out. Automorphosis America’s obsession with the automobile gets outlandish in this 2008 documentary by Harrod Blank about people who treat their vehicles as four-wheeled canvases. The filmmaker lives in Douglas, Arizona, where he is building a museum called Art Car World. In this film, he examines the motivations, inspirations, and obsessions of about two dozen car-enhancers. There’s a zebra car, a love bus, a plaid car, a car covered in Mondrian paintings, a shark car, and a high-heeled-shoe car.
Blank gives Elmer Fleming, the Spoon Man of Newberry, South Carolina, some screen time. Fleming plays the spoons— here he is, shaking his overalled booty for the camera and singing his spoon song. He also has spoons covering his truck. Some people love it; some ask him why he messed up his vehicle with all that flatware. “It’s the only thing I got my name on, and I reckon I can mess it up if I want to,” is Fleming’s response. In London, we visit Uri Geller, the famous spoon-bending psychic. He also has a car covered with spoons (and forks), including the utensils of the stars. One was James Dean’s, and others were given to Geller by John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and Salvador Dalí.
There are cars covered with pennies, license plates, cigarette butts, television sets, and plastic lobsters. One man who spent most of his life repairing vacuum cleaners has encrusted his van with brass stuff like masks, coins, and horns. The hood alone weighs 270 pounds. Rebecca Caldwell of Oakland, California, who admits she has a melancholic nature, drives around in her “Carthedral,” a Super Beetle welded on top of a 1971 Cadillac hearse, all adorned with dark spires, flying buttresses, stained-glass windows, and gargoyles.
Eric Lamb of Ruidoso, New Mexico, spent four years making his car look like a boat. He hopes it will help him find a girlfriend. Then there’s Harry Sperl of Daytona Beach, Florida. The German immigrant’s project of creating a realistic hamburger-shaped vehicle (it’s more motorcycle than car) cost $60,000. He also sells souvenirs, including more than 500 hamburger curios. “My friends are always asking me why all these hamburgers? Why, why, why?” Sperl says. “I like to confuse people. It keeps me alive.” Not rated. 77 minutes. 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, New Mexico Film Museum aka Jean Cocteau (screens with Pirkle Jones: Seven Decades Photographed).— PaulWeideman
Char.ac.ter Dabney Coleman helped spearhead this affectionate documentary about what it means to be an actor. The movie relies primarily on interviews with veterans Peter Falk, Charles Grodin— who belittles acting exercises involving imaginary props— Harry Dean Stanton, Mark Rydell, and Sydney Pollack to discuss technique, training, and the other famous actors they worked with. It’s revealing— and fun. Shot in black and white. Not rated. 88 minutes. 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, New Mexico History Museum; 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, New Mexico Film Museum aka Jean Cocteau.— Robert Nott Dancing Across Borders “The culture of every country is the soul of that country,” says Roland Eng, former Cambodian ambassador to the U.S., at the beginning of Anne Bass’ first film. These words reverberate throughout the documentary, which is as compelling for the issues it raises as it is for the story it tells. In 2000, on a visit to AngkorWat, Bass sees Sokvannara Sar, a 16-year-old student of traditional dance, in performance. She is so struck with his spirit and natural grace that she invites him to New York to study ballet— an art form, the movie tells us, that hasn’t been seen in Cambodia for 40 years. His teacher there, Madame Boran, a dancer who survived the mass killings of the Khmer Rouge regime, recalls previously telling Sar’s parents that “they have a lucky child. He might become something.” Sar knows his parents will agree to let him go, “because in the long term, I will be able to help them more. I feel bad our family is so poor.” The film moves seamlessly between Cambodia and the U.S. as it charts Sar’s remarkable transformation from unlikely student at New York’s prestigious School of American Ballet— he begins his studies when most students are completing theirs— to company member of Pacific Northwest Ballet. Some of the film’s most moving scenes are the quiet moments in the studio between Sar and Olga Kostritzky, his first teacher at the school— perfecting a step, working out a combination. “There was a one-in-a-thousand chance that this could work,” says Peter Boal, another early teacher and now head of PNB. “And we found that one.” The documentary moves to its conclusion with Sar in a beautifully controlled solo performance of Benjamin Millepied’s ballet On the Other Side, accompanied by Philip Glass on piano, at the opening of this year’s Vail International Dance Festival. The transformation to mature artist is complete. We hear Sar’s words in voice-over. “It’s not really my
Automorphosis director Harrod Blank with his camera car; inset, Steve Baker the Penny Man from Tucson
Sokvannara Sar (airborne) and Philip Glass in
Dancing Across Borders