Bow­man takes a bow

Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val at 10

Pasatiempo - - Onstage This Week -

The Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val is cel­e­brat­ing the big 10 with an­other five-day fest of films and film-re­lated events (in­clud­ing pan­els, work­shops, and par­ties). The fest kicked off onWed­nes­day, Dec. 2, and con­tin­ues through Sun­day, Dec. 6, at var­i­ous venues around Santa Fe. The fest is go­ing easy this time around, cut­ting back on the num­ber of film ti­tles— from last year’s 210 or so to about 135 this year— and stream­lin­ing its bud­get in an ef­fort to stay lean and healthy as it heads into its sec­ond decade.

The fes­ti­val be­gan as the Cin­ema Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val in 1999 and was taken over the fol­low­ing year by Jon Bow­man, one of the founders of that ear­lier ver­sion of the fest and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val since 2000. It’s known for its shot­gun ap­proach to pro­gram­ming (quan­tity some­times over­rides qual­ity) and for its open­ness, with vis­it­ing film­mak­ers hap­pily rub­bing shoul­ders with au­di­ence mem­bers, bar­tenders, and celebri­ties. This year the fest hon­ors ac­torsWes Studi and Tommy Lee Jones, cin­e­matog­ra­pher Ellen Kuras, and di­rec­tor Mark Ry­dell. The fes­ti­val cel­e­brates the ca­reers of this quar­tet at its an­nual Mi­la­gro Awards Cer­e­mony at 7 p.m. Satur­day, Dec. 5, at the Na­tional Dance In­sti­tute of New Mex­ico Dance Barns.

Be­sides mark­ing a sig­nif­i­cant birth­day, the fes­ti­val is also un­der­go­ing a tran­si­tion of lead­er­ship. This is Bow­man’s last year as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, though he said he may serve as a con­sul­tant next year. Karen RedHawk Dal­lett, cur­rently serv­ing as the fest’s op­er­at­ing man­ager, takes the helm as of the new year. She’s got a heap of chal­lenges pil­ing up on her plate: ad­dress­ing the fes­ti­val’s debt (she wouldn’t say how much, but her goal is to pay it off within a year), re­defin­ing the its iden­tity, and tak­ing it up a notch— to a “B+ level within two years,” she said at the fes­ti­val’s of­fice.

“We need to tighten up our mis­sion state­ment. The de­mo­graph­ics of our at­ten­dees are dif­fer­ent than three, four, five years ago be­cause of the growth of the state’s film in­dus­try. Guess what? The voice of L.A. is now the voice of New Mex­ico, Louisiana, and Ge­or­gia, and be­cause the bar is raised on the qual­ity of films be­ing made in New Mex­ico, the bar has to be raised on the qual­ity of in­die films com­ing in.” The bud­get this year is tighter too— down from a high of nearly $400,000 some five or six years ago to less than $100,000, Dal­lett said.

Among her planned changes: mount­ing a mini-fes­ti­val some­time in the sum­mer— which could in­clude a “walk-in” movie play­ing on the back wall of the SITE Santa Fe build­ing in the Rai­l­yard— and mov­ing the an­nual fes­ti­val from De­cem­ber to Oc­to­ber next year. She hopes to sched­ule pre­mieres of main­stream films shot in New Mex­ico dur­ing that Oc­to­ber time slot.

She praised Bow­man’s will­ing­ness to work on the fes­ti­val as a vol­un­teer. The dif­fer­ence be­tween her man­age­ment ap­proach and his, she said, is sim­ple: “Jon likes fire drills. I’m not a fire-drill per­son. I like to plan.”

Bow­man, who main­tained an easy­go­ing de­meanor and a be­mused, if not de­lighted, smile through­out all the ups and downs of his 10-year span as di­rec­tor, said, “It’s a good time to go. There’s a lot of stress at­tached, a lot of dead­lines. This job is bet­ter suited for younger peo­ple, and I’m not so young any­more.”

He took time to plug some of his fa­vorite ti­tles this year: “ Asy­lum Seek­ers was made by an Ira­nian woman in Hol­ly­wood. It’s the most over-the-top story we have in the fes­ti­val this year; it’s sur­real. It goes to places you don’t ex­pect it to go to and never lets up,” he said. He also fa­vors The Other Bank, a com­ing-of-age story of fam­ily angst set against the back­drop of the Abk­hazian civil war of the early 1990s. The retro sus­pense drama The Red Ma­chine, which plays out like aWarner Bros. melo­drama circa 1935, is an­other Bow­man fa­vorite. “That’s the rare ex­am­ple of in­de­pen­dent cin­ema that you just don’t see any­more, a pe­riod piece with snappy di­a­logue and crack­ling sit­u­a­tions.”

He ac­knowl­edged that the fest got too big in years past: “It’s hard for me to say no.” For a time, the fest played nearly ev­ery film made by an in­de­pen­dent film­maker in New Mex­ico, with the re­sult that au­di­ence mem­bers got a loser for ev­ery win­ner, and usu­ally a third of the work shown fell some­where in be­tween. Bow­man said he felt a strong re­spon­si­bil­ity to sup­port New Mex­i­can film artists, though to­day that’s less nec­es­sary be­cause, “There are a good 15 film fes­ti­vals in New Mex­ico alone, and a lot of dif­fer­ent out­lets for film­mak­ers, so it’s no longer es­sen­tial for us to pro­vide that out­let for every­one.”

Bow­man said that the fes­ti­val’s all-over-the-place ap­proach to its mis­sion made it seem like a wildWildWest show some­times. “It was very eclec­tic, more of a smor­gas­bord rather than an ar­ray of de­fined cour­ses. There was al­ways room for a dif­fer­ent kind of film, and for a dif­fer­ent kind of taste.” The fes­ti­val will taste dif­fer­ent next year, mi­nus that in­de­fin­able spice brought to it by Jon Bow­man. But af­ter 10 years, maybe a new dish fea­tur­ing fresh in­gre­di­ents will suit the next birth­day party.

Jon Bow­man, di­rec­tor of the Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val

Santa Claus is com­ing to town: Joulu­ta­rina

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