It’s a big year for the Santa Fe Film Festival (Dec. 2-6).

The brains behind the outfit, Jon Bowman, retired from his post as executive director, and Karen RedHawk Dallett is now on the scene as the festival’s new operations director.

In addition to the shifting head honchos, the festival boasts steeply heightened standards; as a result, the number of films dropped from last year’s 250 to fewer than 150 this year. The powers that be at the SFFF have hopes that the festival will soon be as well-known and respected as its cousins Sundance, Toronto and Telluride, and the upped standards reflect this shift in mind-set.

Although there are fewer films on the docket, the number of workshops and panels has increased. SFFF cites increased interest from members of the public who want to make the most of this unparalleled access to filmmakers and actors.

Here, SFR gives the lowdown on only a handful of the dozens of great films and events featured at this year’s festival. Visit for a full listing of movies, workshops and panels. Tickets to movies are $10 per person per screening, with multimovie passes available.

luminaria tributees
Santa Fe resident Wes Studi, a native of Nofire Hollow, Okla., has portrayed Native Americans in a variety of historical films, including Geronimo: An American Legend and a new film, The Only Good Indian (both screening at this year’s festival). Tommy Lee Jones, of course, has played roles from Samuel Jones in The Missing to Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in No Country For Old Men. The Oscar-winning actor is honored at this year’s festival with a Tribute Salute screening of The Missing. Also honored this year is director of photography Ellen Kuras, who has lent her aesthetic touch to a variety of features, from Away We Go to Neil Young: Heart of Gold (the latter is screened this year). Eight actors have won Oscars under this year’s fourth honoree: director Mark Rydell, who received an Oscar nomination himself for On Golden Pond. He also directed The Reivers, The Cowboys and the TV bio-pic James Dean.

galas and awards
Everybody’s Fine
It’s the holidays, and Frank (Robert De Niro) is getting his Christmas plans in line for his grown kids’ annual visit when, suddenly, all three of his children cancel on him. Rather than sit alone at home like most empty nesters would, he sets off to visit each of his kids and find out what they’re doing instead. The Kirk Jones-directed film features Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell as the disparate siblings.

Youth In Revolt
We just never get sick of that geeky Michael Cera, do we? This time, Cera plays Nick Twisp and Francois Dillinger. Well, technically he’s only Nick Twisp but, once the love of his life, Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday), tells him she doesn’t like him “that way,” he develops Francois as a badass alter-ego, complete with a peach-fuzz moustache. In endlessly awkward and hilarious twists and turns, Francois and Nick get into all kinds of mischief.

tribute salutes
Cate Blanchett plays Maggie Gilkeson, a doctor in the rangelands of New Mexico in the late 1800s. When her daughter is kidnapped by a renegade band of Apache Indians, Maggie enlists her estranged father, Samuel Jones (Tommy Lee Jones), who has adopted Indian culture, to help retrieve her. Filmed in Santa Fe in 2003, The Missing is a classic cowboys-and-Indians story and is, if nothing else, fun to watch for the familiar Santa Fe sights—including a dramatic final scene in Diablo Canyon.

SFR SCREENED: Geronimo: An American Legend
A fresh-faced Matt Damon stars in and narrates this chronicle of Geronimo’s last months as the first “America’s Most Wanted.” Second Lt. Britton Davis (Damon) and First Lt. Charles Gatewood (Jason Patric) track Geronimo (Wes Studi) across Arizona and down into Mexico, encountering obstacles—both literal and bureaucratic­—along the way. Featuring infuriating scenes of American soldiers’ treatment of Indians, this one’s not for the faint of heart, but offers an entertaining glimpse into history (Hollywood-style).

El Corazón de Santa Fe
The movie that played a large part in Santa Fe’s 400th anniversary celebrations is screened again this weekend. Director E Anthony Martinez, a 15th-generation Santa Fean, constructed El Corazón de Santa Fe as a multifaceted look into the history of the City of Holy Faith, including dramatic reenactments of early Spanish interactions with Natives and a fascinating look into the construction of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

For the Next 7 Generations
In 2004, 13 women from all over the world came together as the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers out of concern for the earth, its environment and its inhabitants. Director Carole Hart is in Santa Fe for the screenings of the film.

SFR SCREENED: Humble Beauty: Skid Row Artists
Skid Row has become more of a symbol than an actual place for most Americans—most Americans, that is, except for the homeless and poverty-stricken who actually live in the infamous Los Angeles neighborhood. This documentary profiles a number of the artists and social workers who run art workshops for the homeless. It also follows the artists whose work has gone from being painted on discarded cardboard to being sold in galleries in downtown Los Angeles.

SFR SCREENED: Made in Pakistan
From the first scene of Made in Pakistan, we know it’s not business as usual: Lawyers in suits and ties have taken to the streets to boycott and protest the court system. In a disarming but genuine twist on documentaries about war-torn countries, Made in Pakistan follows the lives of four relatively wealthy Pakistanis. A lawyer, a magazine editor, a politician and the owner of a PR firm give the cameras an intimate glimpse into the Pakistani middle class and how political unrest affects the country’s citizens. By coincidence, on Dec. 27, 2007, in the middle of filming, popular politician Benazir Bhutto was murdered. As a result, the viewer is offered a front-row seat to the tragedy.

SFR SCREENED: Mythic Journeys
Featuring the vocal talents of Tim Curry and Mark Hamill, not to mention contributions from Deepak Chopra and Michael Beckwith, Mythic Journeys explores just how much the myths of the world affect our lives, whether we realize it or not. In an innovative and visually terrific blend of documentary and animation, myths from many cultures are brought to life and integrated into the everyday world. We find that although we created the myths, it wasn’t long before the myths expanded beyond our control and started to dictate how we live our lives.

Director Coury Deeb’s glimpse into southern Sudan starts out slow, with interviews from dignitaries and intellectuals who set the historical scene for the current situation in Sudan. The documentary goes from zero to 60 as soon as it introduces Sudanese people, including students, hospital patients and an HIV/AIDS positive family. Narrated by William Mapother (Lost), this one takes a little while to get to your heart but, once it’s there, it doesn’t leave.

Unconquered:Allan Houser and the Legacy of One Apache Family
Accompanied by the iconic sculptures of famous Santa Fe artist Allan Houser, Unconquered presents a multigenerational exploration of the Houser (Haozous) family of the Apache tribe. From genocide to reconciliation to ultimate vibrancy, the Houser family is history incarnate.

dramatic features
SFR SCREENED: Becoming Eduardo
Becoming Eduardo chronicles a few months in the life of Eddie Corazón, a high school student living in northern New Mexico among drug dealers from whom he tries, semi-successfully, to steer clear. When he falls for Lupe, the most eligible bachelorette at Bright Horizons High School, he learns how much it will take to win her heart. Filmed entirely in northern New Mexico with an in-state cast, the film is a dramatic and entertaining look into the lives of New Mexico’s youth.
SFR SCREENED: The Death of Alice Blue
Surviving the first rung on the corporate ladder is tough for anyone. For The Death of Alice Blue’s painfully shy titular lead, it’s also deadly. She is the youngest ad exec in a hellish office; disaffected Alice would step through the looking glass if only she could see her reflection. Unfortunately, the young vampire is left with no choice but to join forces alongside the research and development geeks determined to upset their vampiric employer’s nefarious schemes.

SFR SCREENED: Handsome Harry
Loner and blue-collar electrician Harry Sweeney’s (Jamey Sheridan) past begins to unravel when, on the cusp of imminent retirement, a dying wish from an old Navy buddy (Steve Buscemi) sends him on a quest for absolution. The pair’s complicity in a grisly hate crime spurs handsome Harry to seek out his old shipmates while he struggles to find the strength necessary to confront the crime’s victims.

Fish Tank
Fish Tank won the Jury Prize at Cannes and six other prizes at film festivals around the world, and now the acclaimed
Andrea Arnold film makes a stop in Santa Fe. Fifteen-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis) is what one might call “wayward”—she gets into fights, mouths off to her mum and, when mum brings home a new boyfriend (Michael Fassbender), Mia takes a liking to him, if you know what we mean.

SFR SCREENED: Kissed By Lightning
Mohawk painter Mavis Dogblood sets out from from the Ontario side of the Akwesasne Reservation during the dead of winter and heads for Manhattan. Dogblood struggles to process the tragic disappearance of her husband, lost amid a violent winter thunderstorm, through painting. Mavis’ even-keeled beau Bug accompanies her as she delivers her latest works to her art dealer, and they share a hilarious journey through the absurdities and imprudence of contemporary society.

Love Hurts’ drawing-room comedy chronicles the follies of recently separated suburban SoCal dentist Ben Bingham (Richard Grant). Fuddy-duddy Ben is not the idealistic young man his wife (Carrie-Anne Moss) married. With the help of their teenage son, Ben locks down his mojo and embraces his newfound desirability. Unfortunately, as he dates a hilarious slew of women, he loses sight of love’s real value.

SFR SCREENED: Son of the Sunshine
Freak-folk luminaries Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom and Iron & Wine, among others, score the soundtrack for Son of the Sunshine, a tumultuous coming-of-age fable set in Vancouver, British Columbia. After he witnesses a tragic and otherworldly incident at the age of 11, Sonny Johnns is burdened with a severe case of coprolalia Tourette’s syndrome and the miraculous ability to bring the dying back from the brink. The only people he can’t seem to save are his junkie mother and Arielle, the girl he loves. Sonny and Arielle’s relationship quickly crumbles and Sonny is forced to confront his mysterious past along with its divine implications.

Spoken Word’s first Santa Fe showing—a benefit cast and crew screening last February—sold out the Lensic Performing Arts Center. Since then, this local production from Luminaria Films has been chosen as an official selection in film festivals in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver. Directed by Victor Nunez (Uli’s Gold), Spoken Word tells the story of the struggles of West Coast poet Cruz Montoya (Kuno Becker) as he returns home to northern New Mexico to care for his dying father (Rubén Blades). Once home, Cruz confronts the drug abuse and poverty of his home, as well as his own demons. Based on the poetry of Santa Fe writer Joe Ray Sandoval, who co-wrote the script with William Conway, the film cinematically captures the beauty and poignancy of northern New Mexico, while it tells a universal story of identity and reckoning.

SFR SCREENED: Taylor’s Way
For Taylor, one night’s random romantic hookup develops into a revelatory adventure set in the lush natural beauty of British Columbia’s temperate rain forest. Taylor falls asleep in arborist apprentice Wyatt’s RV—only to wake up stranded in the middle of nowhere and at the mercy of this charming stranger. The heart-wrenching film’s first-time director and cinematographer René Brar chooses shots that deftly convey nature’s impressive and overpowering beauty.

SFR SCREENED: Expresión en Corto I
There are seven Expresión en Corto shorts samplers in all, but particularly notable is the first installment, which features A Voice in the Desert. The 18-minute documentary is from Santa Fe production company Cordillera Productions and explores the Tohono O’Odham indigenous communities along the border of the US and Mexico. Much of the epic cinematography features the dusty plains of Sonora, Mexico in sweeping vistas and intimate portraits of the land’s inhabitants.

parties and special events
Visit for more great events.

Opening night party with the Gordon Free Band
9 pm Wednesday, Dec. 2. $10; free with SFFF all-access pass or ticket stub. Cowgirl, 319 S. Guadalupe St., 982-2565

Dollie Gripp and the Best Boys
9 pm Wednesday, Dec. 2. $10; free with SFFF all-access pass or ticket stub. Corazón, 401 S. Guadalupe St., 983-4559

Awards Gala Party with CB McCarty
7-9 pm Saturday, Dec. 5. $10; free with SFFF all-access pass or ticket stub. Milagro 139, 139 E. San Francisco St., 995-0139

panels and workshops
All panels and workshops are held at Hotel Santa Fe (1501 Paseo de Peralta; admission is free, but is first-come, first-served). Visit for more panels.

Panel: Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad SAG?
1-2:30 pm Wednesday, Dec. 2

Panel: Non-profit Resources for the Indie Producer
10-11:30 am Thursday, Dec. 3

Panel: There’s More Than Just “Film” in NMFilm
10-11:30 am Friday, Dec. 4

The Actor’s Panel
10-11:30 am Saturday, Dec. 5

Workshop: The Synapse to Screen 1.0
This two-day workshop covers everything from brainstorming to character development to storyboarding to budgeting. Each day is divided into themed segments; for the schedule, visit
9:45 am-5 pm Thursday, Dec. 3
9:30 am-4:40 pm Friday, Dec. 4