Please curb your fes­ti­val

Pasatiempo - - Art - Robert Nott

A film fes­ti­val isn’t just about the movies. It’s also about the face it presents, the en­joy­ment it spreads among pa­trons, and the sat­is­fac­tion it gives vis­it­ing film­mak­ers as they watch their movies on the big screen with an au­di­ence. Like­wise, it helps de­fine the com­mu­nity it serves. From Dec. 2 to 6, the Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val — which started as Cin­ema Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val in 1999 be­fore of­fi­cially re­nam­ing it­self— once again paid trib­ute to the in­de­pen­dent cin­e­matic spirit at var­i­ous venues in town.

I talk to enough vis­it­ing film­mak­ers to know that they ap­pre­ci­ate the fest. It’s warm and wel­com­ing; it’s low-stress; it gives them a chance to dis­cuss their creative baby with pa­trons; and it’s set in Santa Fe. What’s not to like?

Well, pro­jec­tion equip­ment not work­ing, lead­ing to the post­pone­ment or can­cel­la­tion of a screen­ing, is one thing not to like. See­ing the word “can­celed” marked on ad­ver­tise­ments for your film at the box of­fice when it hasn’t been can­celed isn’t much fun ei­ther. Some of the “galas” weren’t so gala-tastic. Hand­some Harry didn’t start un­til about an hour af­ter it was sched­uled, ac­cord­ing to one dis­ap­pointed viewer who pulled me aside to com­plain. An­other pa­tron called me to say that the print for Up in the Air didn’t ar­rive on Fri­day, so the show was can­celed at the last minute — and this af­ter a ca­pac­ity crowd was lined up to see it. (That film was even­tu­ally resched­uled for Sun­day.)

The big­gest mess-up came on the last day of the fest, when au­di­ence mem­bers stand­ing in line at Re­gal DeVar­gas with tick­ets for Crazy Heart (shot in New Mex­ico) were told that cast and crew mem­bers who worked on the film— about 150 in all— had first pri­or­ity for seat­ing. A New Mex­i­can staff mem­ber who was there told me this in­for­ma­tion caused an an­gry up­roar, and the news­pa­per re­ceived sev­eral calls and let­ters of com­plaint about it af­ter­ward. SFFF op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor Karen RedHawk Dal­lett con­firmed this occurred and took her share of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the in­ci­dent. Jon Hendry, busi­ness agent for IATSE 480, the lo­cal film tech­ni­cians’ union, was there at the time and said the union would re­im­burse any ticket holder. He’d al­ready paid out about $300 in cash to roughly 50 dis­ap­pointed SFFF pa­trons by Mon­day of last week and will honor his of­fer through the end of the year. (Swing by IATSE at 1418 Cer­ril­los Road for a re­fund.) That’s a gen­er­ous of­fer from Hendry, but it doesn’t com­pen­sate fes­ti­val pa­trons for their time and com­mit­ment. More im­por­tant, SFFF, not IATSE 480, should honor those tick­ets.

The awards cer­e­mony, usu­ally re­plete with em­bar­rass­ing sna­fus that stamp “am­a­teur” on the event, lived up to its rep­u­ta­tion for in­famy again this year, with pre­sen­ters talk­ing more about them­selves than the per­son they were in­tro­duc­ing, one winning ti­tle be­ing tele­graphed be­fore the nom­i­nees for that cat­e­gory had been an­nounced, and one pre­sen­ter— cin­e­matog­ra­pher Christo­pher Doyle— spout­ing of­fen­sive pro­fan­i­ties and act­ing bizarre and rude. One trib­u­tee joked that he was slur­ring his words due to the strong Ir­ish whiskey he had im­bibed. Of­fer­ing al­co­hol to the spe­cial guests at the event— which was held at the youth-ori­ented Na­tional Dance In­sti­tute of New Mex­ico Dance Barns— was a bone­headed and in­sen­si­tive move, given that this com­mu­nity is still reel­ing from the sum­mer tragedy in which four teens were killed in a crash re­port­edly caused by a drunk driver. Santa Fe Film Fes­ti­val and NDI-NM of­fi­cials should have known bet­ter, and if the two team up to present the awards cer­e­mony again next year, they should en­sure that it is a drug-and al­co­hol-free event. In­ci­den­tally, the af­fair was em­ceed by Anna Gunn and John Car­roll Lynch, who were class acts— as were pre­sen­ter Miguel San­doval, trib­u­tee Mark Ry­dell, Drago Su­monja (win­ner of the New Face in Film award for Char. ac.ter), and sev­eral other par­tic­i­pants.

The fes­ti­val is un­der­go­ing a tran­si­tion of power, from co-founder and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Jon Bow­man to RedHawk Dallet, so cut them both some slack for pos­si­ble com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems. I ad­mire RedHawk Dal­lett’s straight-shoot­ing at­ti­tude, but now she and her board have to get things organized and pay some out­stand­ing bills. Whether the makeup of the board will change as lead­er­ship does re­mains un­clear, but board mem­bers— new and old— should pull out those check­books and de­crease that debt. SFFF board pres­i­den­tWal­ter Gal­le­gos told me at the awards cer­e­mony that this is a pri­or­ity. Good. Get it done. Soon. And raise funds for tem­po­rary paid staffers to help next year— a ca­pa­ble box-of­fice and venue man­ager could help elim­i­nate th­ese messes that per­me­ate the fes­ti­val and an­noy pa­trons.

As one loyal SFFF fan e-mailed me, “It’s the only fes­ti­val that I’ve ever at­tended that just can’t quite get it to­gether. Must be the alti­tude!” If so, then it’s well past time to get the oxy­gen tanks out.

Not-so-classy act: cin­e­matog­ra­pher Christo­pher Doyle, right, with trib­u­tee Ellen Kuras and em­cee John Car­roll Lynch

Class act: pre­sen­ter Miguel San­doval, left, with Mayor David Coss in back­ground

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