World renowned writer of the Game of Thrones series and Jean Cocteau Cinema owner, George RR Martin, leans against one of the rows of seats in his theater as a mob of actors, producers, critics, volunteers and fans funnel out into the lobby. “Film festivals are increasingly important, especially for independent film makers," Martin tells SFR after posing in a shot with a fan. " There’s more of them every year and they’re one of the few ways that a small budget film or an independent film can get out there and be seen.”
It’s Saturday and the Santa Fe Film Festival has been going strong since morning with showings at both the Jean Cocteau and the CCA Cinematheque.
The 1:15 matinee features The Pledge, a 2001 film directed by Sean Penn where an ex-cop (Jack Nicholson) uses his new girlfriend’s 8 year-old daughter as bait to catch a serial killer. Standing in the glow beneath a skylight, one of the film’s producers, Michael Fitzgerald, answers questions before the show as people snap photos with their smart phones.
“The idea of a festival is the idea of a celebration,” Fitzgerald tells SFR with a grin and a slight flick of his long, shaggy hair before reminding the group that the movie has started. Everyone sneaks into the darkened theater, stumbling around to find seats as the opening credits begin.
On screen, Jack Nicholson and Thank You For Smoking’s Aaron Eckhart deliver excellent performances, although the plot, while consistently building in the typical rhythm of any thriller, fizzles into a unexpected twist that is unique but unfulfilling. “It’s different,” Fitzgerald remarks to SFR in the hallway after the show, as the crowd for the next film pushes its way past. “The next one is different too,” he remarks, referring to his second movie that is to grace the big screen at Santa Fe Film Festival at 6 pm the same evening.
Among the crowd is Santa Fe Film Festival’s head programmer, Aaron Leventman.
“I love good stories," Leventman says. "Whether [they] were documentaries or narrative films, I looked for films that were engaging on a narrative level and that had interesting characters.”
At six, it’s time for Fitzgerald’s second movie, Closer to the Moon, which tells the true and quirky tale of a band of communist Jews who stage a bank robbery as a form of public protest against the over-bearing and comically self-important iron-curtain of Soviet Russia, where no crime is supposed to exist.
“Welcome to the Santa Fe Film Festival,” the Cocteau’s Stephen Rubin cries over the load speaker. The theater is packed and erupts into applause. Rubin eggs them on.
The movie is captivating to the core and very, very funny, with frequent bouts of laughter bursting from the audience as Ukrainian-American, Academy Award-nominated actress Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) and film star Harry Lloyd (a Game of Thrones alum and current cast member of the Santa Fe-shot Manhattan) deliver clever, sensual and quick-passed lines.
After the final credits, and an extended ovation from the crowd erupts and Fitzgerald and Lloyd man the microphone for a Q&A with the audience.
“I am enjoying Santa Fe more and more,” Lloyd says over the hum of the crowded lobby. “It’s a really artsy town, people are really interested in all kinds of art and movies and theater as well,” he continues, before getting ushered over to the red carpet area for a photo-op.
“I love the fact that they bring actors and directors and people actually involved in the film industry,” theater proprietor Martin tells SFR as he expresses his take on this year’s film festival: “We shoot films here all the time and some are good, some are not so good, but it’s always nice to talk to the people who involved in making them, to hear the behind the scenes stories; what worked and what didn’t work and what were the challenges.”
Haven't checked out the fest for yourself? Screenings and the ever-popular awards ceremony culminate tonight. Click here for more information.