The 12th annual Santa Fe Independent Film Festival opens October 14, 2020. The usual multitude of parties and events is on-hold till next year, but the eclectic mix of acclaimed independent films remains.
On October 14, Santa Fe Independent Film Festival opens its twelfth annual event, with Zappa. For the very first time, SFiFF’s opening night is being held at Santa Fe’s new drive-in movie theater. With almost forty films and nine different shorts programs being shown at the drive-in or virtually, the continued closure of indoor theaters hasn’t dampened the multitude of independent films being shown at the festival this year.
While there won’t be hundreds of visiting filmmakers, nightly parties and networking events, or in-person awards ceremonies, Liesette Paisner Bailey, the festival’s executive director, said the festival will continue to serve its purpose of transportive storytelling. “We’re really trying to look at films that reach out to people and bring you into a new world,” she said. “Especially if you’re sitting in your house, you want to be engaged in something totally new, and maybe not be reminded so much of what’s going on in the world.”
Motorama at the Downs, the drive-in theater that opened in July in response to the pandemic, makes for an especially nostalgic experience of the festival. On Saturday, October 17, SFiFF is showing the iconic, socio-political (and very scary) 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. As Bailey explained, Night of the Living Dead is “A quintessential late-night drive-in movie. Drive-ins used to play it all the time, so we thought it would be that perfect horror movie, especially for October.”
This year’s lineup features a number of films that speak to the moment, including the world premiere of We Are Unarmed, a documentary about policing at the Standing Rock Protests. Two films, Birddog Nation and Represent, are being shown in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. This year’s selections also include films that tell stories from international and often unheard voices, such as The Names of the Flowers, shot in Bolivia, and the Spanish film Isabella, one of the festival’s narrative features. This coming together of voices here in Santa Fe is another integral part of the festival’s mission. “There’s this connectivity of watching these films fo the first time, and having the jumping-off point be New Mexico and Santa Fe,” she said. “It’s about connecting the creativity that’s so well known in Santa Fe to film as a greater art form.”
Each year, the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival also shows a number of New Mexico-made independent films. “It’s a really great starting point for NM films,” Bailey said, “a lot of them end up getting picked up, or being seen more widely, and introduced into the festival world with their beginning screening at our festival.” There are two New Mexico shorts programs, both narrative and documentary, as well as a number of features: Fukry, directed by Blackhorse Lowe; They Cry by Night, directed Wes Sheridan; and Truth or Consequences, directed by Hannah Jayant.
The festival’s virtual program is open for at-home viewing October 14-18, and films at Motorama are scheduled nightly October 14-18. Festival passes and individual film tickets are available at santafeindependentfilmfestival.com.