It’s been a while since I have been this exhausted. Perhaps it’s age catching up with me or that I have been hiding behind my computer too long. Or maybe it’s just the summer heat and too many late nights drinking cocktails with fellow filmmakers and nerds alike. Whatever the case, the Albuquerque Media and Film Experience (AFME) absorbed several days of my life, and you know what, I had a fantastic time.
The biggest problem for me however has been summarizing such a large event.
The first couple days of the event were a little bewildering. Looking around some of the initial film screenings, the number of staff nearly matched the amount of attendees. This was particularly powerful during Made in New Mexico, an opinionated film about why we should support local filmmaking and film related infrastructure in New Mexico. This was a movie about community and local economy, yet where was the public aside from the staff members and director? Its low attendance was further dwarfed by a full theater for the following Hollywood feature, The Misfits, starring Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. With high hopes of a community building event and a pro local bias, there were not only more attendees at the later film but filmmakers and press. I could not help feeling a little let down.
The after party at the end of the day however was a ray of hope. With a little social lubricant/libations and an optimistic attitude, the parties functioned in bringing together filmmakers and lovers of art. Sure, you had your business card slinging egomaniacs, aspiring directors, industry veterans, eccentric artists, and the generally socially awkward, but most importantly, great locals in the mood for some healthy banter. Thanks to the daily wrap parties, by the time I made it to my first panel, I had already spoken with several speakers. In contrast, I had no such experience at any screening, even when they were full of excited spectators.
I saw some great films at AFME. My picks from the festival are Leon Stuparich’s Road to Peace: Ancient Wisdom of the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, a documentary that follows the Dalai Lama on his last tour of England — James Carman’s The Hidden Hand: Alien Contact and the Government Cover-Up, a title that explains itself, and the Vanishing of the Bees — a movie that aims to educate the U.S. on the importance of bee health to our food supply.
I did not attend every film I would have liked to, or probably even half of them. It was an impossible task with so much to do — both a blessing and a curse. Attending events was further complicated by screening times running over one another and the impossible task of leaving a film or panel, and then making it downtown from Nob Hill in five to ten minutes. I hope this is remedied next year and that more films will have second showings so that we do not have to miss one-of-a-kind panels to see them.
AFME succeeded in bringing the local fare they promised during their initial interview with me. However, I missed Blaze You Out, a local film recently acquired by Lions Gate that won the Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature at AFME, and played for a sold-out crowd at the Kimo Theatre. There was only one showing and little I could do about missing it. Hopefully the filmmakers will read this and take pity on me — allowing a full review of their film on our site.
My counterpart and I did however get to see Zipper, a low budget, fun, short sci-fi film that won a Jury Award for Best Short Film. I also enjoyed watching the winning films from last year’s Albuquerque 48 Hour Film Festival (even when subpar) and several episodes of Enter the Dojo, a fun local web series that falls somewhere in between The Office and Parks and Recreation. The New Mexico Short Films Program also contained several great films from UNM students and alumni (good job buddies).
Speaking of celebrities, actor and philanthropist Robert Redford was there, but I am sure you can find a thousand words about it in any Albuquerque arts write-up (that seems to be what local magazines are interested in). For me, Redford’s talk with Robert Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, was only mildly interesting. Their introduction by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry was amusing however. Berry explained that he believed the more funding for the arts could solve crime. A bit of a reach, but I appreciate the thought. The Redford events in general were the antithesis to the smaller local-film events: crowded and filled with non-film-related questions.
All in all, AFME was a great time. The panel discussions were terrifically interesting and informative — the socials were great — as were many of the films selected. I wish I had time to go to all of events, particularly all of the panels. Ivan Wiener and Lainie Sevante, the founders of the festival, did a fantastic job on their inaugural event. I am very excited to see this event grow over the next couple of years and see it become a staple to the film and larger art community.