Santa Fe Independent Film Festival 2017

Santa Fe Independent Film Festival (SFIFF), taking place Oct. 18-22, will feature more than 300 hours of programming. Its program consists of foreign and American independent films and film/writer-driven panel discussions. 

The event happens over five days, in five theaters: The Lensic, Violet Crown, Jean Cocteau Cinema, Center for Contemporary Arts, and The Screen at Santa Fe University of Art and Design (SFUAD). Opening night will debut at Violet Crown Cinema with the Swedish film The Square, the Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival in France this year. In the film, a museum curator installs an exhibit called The Square, meant to inspire altruism in people, only to have his own actions betray the film’s message. 

Jaqcues Paisner. Photo by Jason Stilgebouer

Jacques Paisner, executive director and co-founder of the event, believes this year’s festival will be somewhat different from previous years. “There’s a lot of focus on foreign films and top American independent films…” Paisner says.

Audiences should expect “…to experience a city that’s known for visual art and artistic sensibility among the people who live here and the travelers, and… get to see a lineup of films that is unparalleled…” he says. 

The Santa Fe Playhouse will be used for the first time to host the master’s discussions and panels with filmmakers and writers. There will be master’s discussion with William Broyles, screenwriter for Cast Away (2000) and Planet of the Apes (2001). Other highlights of this year’s festival include N. Scott Momaday, who is receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Max Evans, the American Author Award. There will also be an Independent Filmmaker Panel and the Art of Acting Panel. 

Of the films being shown, Paisner strongly suggests watching opening night’s The Square, as well as closing night’s Arthur Miller: Writer, which is a documentary about playwright Arthur Miller directed from the perspective of Rebecca Miller, his daughter. Paisner also suggest viewing Lone Star, a murder-mystery taking place in Rio County, TX, which will be shown Oct. 20. 

Charlotte Martinez, screen manager at The Screen, looks forward to this year’s festival, and hopes to provide the best experience possible to moviegoers and filmmakers by keeping the cinema “OCD clean” and stocking up on concessions.  

There will be four films playing at The Screen. A New Land, a documentary about three families’ poverty in New Mexico; Cowboy Drifter, a story of an anti-hero whose life takes a sudden turn; Defending the Fire, the journey of a Native Warrior; and Veiled Lightning, a mosaic documentary following the roots of protests born across America.  

Martinez looks forward to watching A New Land, which she previewed recently. “I’m into documentaries, [and] it’s a documentary. And I’m into New Mexican history so that [film] looked most exciting and it looked really well done,” she says.  

 Two SFUAD student films were accepted into the festival, which has more than 1,000 entries from which 50 features and 60 short films are chosen. Brissa Piñera, a foreign exchange student, directed the short film Radost, the story of a circus threatened with foreclosure. Senior Frank Quatrone’s feature film Lost Kiddy Found was also accepted into the festival. The film is a psychological horror following a reporter who finds an underground crime ring that likes to create child snuff films.  

Paisner and his team have high hopes for the future of the festival, shooting to become a household name in the next five to 10 years. “Not only do we intend to remain the top film event in the area, we really want national and global recognition for Santa Fe not only as a great theater city, but as a city that is the place to premiere your film,” he says. 

“We want the festival to be known internationally as a center for artistic creativity in filmmaking and writer-director driven content,” he says. 

Tickets went on sale this week and programs for SFIFF can be found at most theaters in Santa Fe. As a last word of advice, Paisner suggest attendees buy tickets online beforehand because many events, especially in the evening, sell out.