SELECT title FROM cont_articles WHERE id='' LIMIT 1 Santa Fe Reporter

Read the Annual Manual

Annual ManualWednesday, May 4, 2016 by Julie Ann Grimm

Dear Reader,

If you’re reading this magazine, you already know that Santa Fe’s place in the rugged culture of the West is undeniable. People here don’t do things the way they’re done back East, or even in our neighboring megapolis cities along the interstate corridor. Living life your own way matters here—where the moniker “the City Different” has been around since the early 1900s.

We like hole-in-the-wall shopping stops, self-motivated local businesses, unique regional foods and hidden pocket parks. We don’t always build things from the ground up, preferring instead to reimagine and repurpose. That’s why our favorite community theater is in an old mechanic’s garage and why a former military armory is a successful contemporary art spot. It’s why this year’s commissioned Annual Manual tin cover art is a unique blend of traditional and modern styles.

Going DIY isn’t for the faint of heart. Santa Fe Reporter’s 40- plus-year history as the alt-weekly in New Mexico’s capital city is the very definition of the idea. We present this guide to our city for locals and visitors with a challenge for 2016: Soak in the history and culture, and make it your own.

We’re so glad you’ll join us.

Julie Ann Grimm


Pop Quiz

District Attorney

Local NewsWednesday, May 4, 2016 by SFR

Meet the prosecutors. This week, we quizzed the three Democrats vying for the party nomination for 1st Judicial District attorney, serving Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties. Marco Serna and Maria Sanchez-Gagne are both running to unseat Jennifer Padgett, the incumbent, when voters hit the polls June 7. The winner faces an unopposed Republican in the general election in November. The rules of Pop Quiz are simple: We record the entire conversation and report the answers verbatim. No research allowed, and if candidates call back later with the right answer, too bad. Listen to recordings of these and previous quizzes at

The Questions

  1. What is the most commonly charged misdemeanor in the 1st Judicial District?
  2. How many inmates are on death row in New Mexico? What are their names?
  3. Describe LEAD.
  4. How many problem-solving courts are there in the district, and what types are there? Where are they located?
  5. What are the potential punishments for a fifth-time DWI offender?

MARIA SANCHEZ-GAGNE is former director of the Border Violence Division of the attorney general’s office.

1. I haven’t worked in the misdemeanor level for some time. I’m going to guess that it could be possibly batteries?

2. I think there’s two, and I know one is Robert Fry.

3. The Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program? That is a program which is designed for treatment. It’s a diversion program, rather than prosecution, and it is for nonviolent offenders. And they must be charged or be involved with opiates. And they are given treatment and no prosecution for nonviolent felonies. Nonviolent crimes. And that is sponsored by the Santa Fe Police Department.

4. Okay, you’re going to have to define for me what you describe as problem-solving courts. [SFR: “It is a term that courts use to describe a certain type of court.”] I’m not absolutely clear on the term, but I’m assuming it’s drug courts. There’s drug court and teen court. There are at least two to three drug courts, and two to three teen courts. They’re in Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba.

5. Are you saying potential or mandatory? Are you saying a range? [SFR: “Yes, a range.”] It’s for the fifth time, right? [SFR: “It’s for the fifth time, yes.”] I remember the second or third is going to be up to 364 days incarceration and a $500 fine, and let me see, the mandatory. There is mandatory time on this. I’m pretty sure. From what I can recall, it’s going to be 96 hours mandatory time and up to 364 days.

JENNIFER PADGETT, the current district attorney, is running for re-election.

1. Driving under the influence.

2. That’s a really hard question. I do not know the answer to that, except to say that they would all have had to been on death row prior to the repeal of the death penalty, and I don’t know their names.

3. The LEAD Program, it stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion. And it is a complete diversionary program that originates and starts with law enforcement. Law enforcement finds appropriate candidates that have underlying issues that involve substance abuse that may be involved in low-level felony crimes. They actually ask these candidates if they will voluntarily participate in the LEAD Program. … The acceptance protocol runs through my office to ensure that, in fact, they are appropriate candidates. They don’t have any other pending cases in our jurisdiction or others. And if we approve of their participation, they voluntarily enter the program. The program is centered around case coordination. If housing is appropriate, obviously outpatient treatment. Sometimes inpatient treatment. And they continue in the LEAD program throughout their recovery. Something unique about the LEAD program is that it is not abstinence based. It recognizes that participants will have ups and downs. And it is also a complete diversion away from the criminal justice system, so the charge does not hang over their head. It actually disappears to allow the person to fully participate and engage in the program.

4. In the district, in terms of problem-solving courts? I’m assuming that that is, generally, the treatment courts. We have drug courts for both adults and juveniles. This drug court is in the 1st Judicial District in Santa Fe. I do not believe there is a drug court in Rio Arriba at this point. There are a number of treatment courts in Los Alamos that are run through their municipal courts that are centered around juveniles. There’s a teen court there. Um, there’s also an active teen court in Rio Arriba and an active teen court in Santa Fe.

5. Well, it’s a felony level at that point, and there is mandatory jail time that my position should be generally served in the Department of Corrections. However, of course, electronic monitoring gives them the credit towards that sentence as well. Their licenses are revoked for life, which generally ensures—well, would be hopeful that they don’t drive anymore. There’s some nuances. Because if they do drive, they don’t have the ignition interlock mandated because of course their license is revoked. They have to engage in treatment and other court-mandated conditions of probation and parole.

MARCO SERNA most recently worked in the attorney general’s office.

1. My understanding, the most commonly charged misdemeanor is probably DWI.

2. You know, I wasn’t aware there were any more inmates on death row, specifically because we no longer have the death penalty.

3. LEAD actually stands for Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, and what the program is, it’s a great program. Only Santa Fe and Seattle have these programs, but what it is, law enforcement, specifically SFPD identify individuals who are habitual drug offenders, and when they identify these individuals, they refer them to a review board who will then decide if they are appropriate for the program, and once placed in the program, they receive some assistance with housing and some assistance with getting a job, but also they are mandated to be in drug treatment programs, and they also will receive certain things like suboxone or methadone to help wean them off whatever drug—and in the majority of the cases it’s going to be an opiate, and heroin, specifically—and what’s great about the program is it’s a long-term program. I was fortunate enough to go to one of the trainings provided by the Santa Fe Police Department. And it has a great, within the last three years, they had a really good retention rate. Of the 70 individuals that have been placed in the program, 60 are still involved and receiving treatment. Also, what I love about the program is it thinks outside the box because, unfortunately, other programs have much lower success rates. What I’ve seen is there is an 8 percent success rate for 30-day programs. So these long-term programs are so successful and very beneficial. [SFR: “I’m going to cut you off there because I feel like you answered the question, and we have limited space in our paper.”] Okay, sorry about that. I really like the program.

4. So my understanding, in Santa Fe, there is the drug court. It is in Santa Fe, and that is the only problem-solving court that I can think of at the moment in the 1st Judicial District.

5. A fifth-time DWI offender, I believe that becomes felony level. Fourth-degree. And that is potentially 18 months of incarceration and up to a $5,000 fine.

Capital Counts

Students organize an event asking the city to reconsider perceptions of the Southside high school

Local NewsWednesday, May 4, 2016 by Elizabeth Miller

Before ever walking through the doors at Capital High School, incoming freshmen hear a lot of things about the school—that it’s rough, that it’s a bad school, that it’s a ghetto school, that there’s a lot of violence and gangs. But Capital High students say that’s not what their experience has shown.

“You could go anywhere and see the complete opposite,” says Kevin Martinez, a Capital High senior. “People here want to go to school. They want to graduate.”

So students and their mentors from Littleglobe’s Youth Media Project have organized “City of Dreamers,” an event at the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Sunday, May 8—an effort to change the community’s perceptions using short videos, live radio productions, music and on-stage conversations that show what students from Capital can do and have done.

“It’ll open doors for future generations,” says Nathalie Beltran, a Capital senior who this fall heads to St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. “They won’t see you with pity or shame.”

“It’s always assumed that they’re not worthy,” says Toby Wright, who teaches students in the AVID college-readiness program and has been at Capital for four years. “That affects them. For some of them it means, ‘I’m just going to work harder and do better. I’m just going to be a superhero, because that’s what it takes to get over this.’”

There’s no denying that at one point, the school had problems. Channell Wilson-Segura, who was a student and a teacher there before becoming its directing principal, says a zero-tolerance policy and work with the gang task force cleaned things up, beginning about eight years ago. But the students still face a fair share of issues. Every student is provided with free lunches, because so many families have incomes that fall below the poverty line. At home, Wilson-Segura says, substance abuse may be an issue, and quiet space to study is often not available. Sometimes, she says, people come forward wanting to help, and she has to explain that at times, what the students most need is something basic like deodorant to use while they’re living in a car, or business clothes to wear to an interview.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the kids at our school— they come from severe poverty or they’re not in a place, they’re homeless, or they’re undocumented, so therefore they don’t feel encouraged or excited to graduate and go on to college and get a degree, and therefore they can’t get a job,” says Heather Sellers, coordinator with the student-support organization Communities in Schools at Capital. “There are a lot of factors that are affecting these kids, and I think the more adults they have, the more things that they’re connected to, and the more people that believe in them, then they’ll be able to believe in themselves.”

Sellers brought Littleglobe, a nonprofit that coordinates community art projects with an eye on social change, to the school last year to support kids and provide some extra motivation to stay in school. Students learned how to shoot video, record audio and conduct interviews.

“All of my current students who have been involved, it really has just changed them,” Sellers says. “It really helped them feel like they were a part of something that grew into this big project. They’re super proud. … And these were some students who weren’t coming to school—ever, and now they are, and they’re totally and completely being successful.”

Both she and Littleglobe’s Chris Jonas recall hearing a story of a time students ran a carwash fundraiser and discussed not putting “Capital High” on the sign, fearing that if they did, no one would stop.

The films, radio features, music and speakers such as Estevan Rael-Galvez of Culture Connects, the city’s cultural planning effort, are intended to work together to spark conversations about immigration and equity issues in Santa Fe, using Capital as a framework.

“We talk about equity, but the language we use doesn’t demonstrate equity within our own town,” Jonas says. “For those of us who do seriously believe in social equity, we need to be conscious how we speak about Santa Fe’s Southside. We’re reiterating the same negative predisposition that our values seem to indicate is not the case.”

Opened in 1988 as Santa Fe’s second public high school, Capital has long struggled in the shadow of Santa Fe High.

A wall near Wright’s AVID classroom is hung with photos of seniors and copies of their acceptance letters, many including significant scholarship offers, and some have secured competitive national scholarships, but still, when presenters from those programs visit Santa Fe, they only stop at Santa Fe High.

“Sometimes it’s sad, because they don’t realize how much potential we could have,” says Brenda Zamarron Acosta, a senior who plans to start her higher education at Santa Fe Community College before transferring to a four-year university.

"People are going to have to actually take note of what happens here, and not just assume what happens here."

“You’re the underdog. They don’t expect you to do anything. We were overlooked, but we always found a way to get there,” says Martinez, who has secured a place in UNM’s medical school and a full-ride scholarship. “It’s kind of been motivating to me. People don’t believe you’re going to succeed. They’re like, ‘You went to Capital and you did all this?’ … People are going to have to actually take note of what happens here, and not just assume what happens here.”

Part of the success Wilson-Segura attributes to an individual case-management approach—that the specialized programs they run, like a medical careers track and AVID, allow teachers to build relationships with students over four years. If word comes through the social media grapevine that a student is struggling, even if they’ve graduated and moved on to college, Wilson-Segura will get in touch personally to ask what’s going on and how she can help.

“It’s working with every child, period,” she says. “How do we encourage them to stay in school, to like school, to like learning?”

In the current class of seniors, 55 percent applied to a four-year college and 45 percent now plan to attend.

“Our kids do have dreams, just like anybody else,” Wilson-Segura says. “Our goal is to help support that.”

City of Dreamers
7 pm Sunday, May 8
The Lensic Performing Arts Center
211 W San Francisco St., $5

7 Days


7 DaysWednesday, May 4, 2016 by SFR


But only if it’s served in tiny cardboard boxes with straws.



At least one thing got built there.



Keep America great with student loan debt.



Anyone else have whiplash? Last week, the city was still broke.



You can get in line right after those Intel people.



When losing the funk is a bad thing.



Now he’s really burning bridges.


MetroGlyphsWednesday, May 4, 2016 by SFR
Russ Thornton is a Santa Fe local who has replaced his first passion, cooking, with a new love interest, the weekly SFR comic he's created called MetroGlyphs. Reach him at


Lifesongs helps and heals across generations

Music FeaturesWednesday, May 4, 2016 by Alex De Vore

We are conditioned to fear the concept and ramifications of aging. The ancient Egyptians would surely find this ridiculous, but it’s true: Aging and dying are mostly terrifying, and we spend the vast majority of our time attempting to either ward these things off or forget about them as best we can. As such, we tend to neglect the elders in our lives and communities, due to our own complicated feelings. All too often, these people are forgotten, shoved into nursing homes or hospice situations and then trotted out to sit in the corner during holidays or family gatherings. This could almost allow us to feel like we’re good people, but at the end of the day, we sweep them back under the rug until the next time we’re forced to interact. Granted, the societal fear of aging plays a much larger role than we might like to admit, but the point remains the same.

Enter Lifesongs, a program from the Academy for the Love of Learning. We’ve talked about them before in brief; Lifesongs’ most basic premise is that composers, singers and musicians work with elders to create original songs based upon their lives and experiences. It’s really only a small amount of what they do, but it is honestly enough.

“It’s connecting to something greater than myself, and it’s such an honor every day I get to do this work,” 35-year-old volunteer Vanessa Torres tells SFR. Torres, a counselor and lifelong musician who has been involved with the program for the last 18 months, echoes a story similar to others who work with Lifesongs, like singer Alysha Shaw or composer Grisha Krivchenia. They each went into the program with the assumption they were the ones doing good but say they wound up feeling fulfilled in unimagined ways.

“This isn’t just a program, it’s a movement,” Torres says. “We are bridging the gap in this conversation about aging and dying. … I was kind of scared of death, but I’ve become more comfortable and aware that it’s no t a bad thing to get older.”

Eighteen-year-old Elle Knowlton learned similar lessons after writing a song titled “Tears for Santo Domingo” with a local woman named Rita Pacheco, 72. “She had this whirlwind of a life, as the only girl in a family of brothers, and her mother, who was her idol, died when she was young; she actually has dementia now,” Knowlton says. “Being able to share her pain has been hard, but this is such soulful work to be doing.”

Knowlton, a member of the Santa Fe Opera’s Young Voices, is just one of many teens who work with the elders and an excellent example of the multigenerational possibilities of the program. The high school senior is also the perfect candidate to illustrate an important side effect of Lifesongs: Teens, like elders, are often written off as incapable or unimportant, and their experiences in going through life are not entirely dissimilar. This allows for an easier connection. “I hadn’t thought of that,” Knowlton says. “But it’s totally true.”

As for the elders themselves, they tend to blossom when they get involved. According to Catherine Sandoval, senior activities director for Santa Fe Care Center, “Lifesongs is a meaningful thing for us because [the seniors] are getting out of the building and going to a safe space, where they’re looked at like human beings, and that changes the culture of how we think about aging.”

“I was relieved of my anger,” 79-year-old Nancy Fresquez, a resident of Santa Fe Care Center, tells SFR of her own experience with the program. “I’m a new person now.” As for her fellow resident Herman Sandoval, 87, he jokingly states that he’s happy to “be spending my time with young people instead of just old people.”

Both Fresquez and Sandoval will appear onstage alongside Torres, Knowlton and myriad others.

“It’s not about just documenting or extracting stories, it’s actually a celebration of what it is to be human,” director and co-founder Acushla Bastible says. “We’re all seeking connection; that’s missing from so many people’s lives, and with Lifesongs, there are these moments of real, meaningful connection.”

I Saw the Mystery: Lifesongs in Concert 2016
7 pm Saturday, May 7. $10.
Lensic Performing Arts Center,
211 W San Francisco St.

The Frugal Carnivore

Sharpen your knife and fill your freezer with filet mignon

Food WritingWednesday, May 4, 2016 by Gwyneth Doland

Last week in reviewing a new steakhouse, The Bourbon Grill at El Gancho, I mentioned that I like to buy nice cuts of beef and cook steaks at home. I do this because a) it’s cheaper and b) I think it’s fun, plus c) I get to drink as much wine as I want while I’m cooking and d) I don’t have to put on real pants to do any of it. Win.

As I said, this doesn’t really work for things like prime rib because a) it requires a Flintstone-sized roast, which b) is quite expensive and c) is just too much effort for a Tuesday night.

Filet mignon is another story. Yes, it’s expensive if you buy two prepackaged steaks in the meat section at the grocery store. But here’s a great secret: You can save a lot by buying a whole tenderloin and trimming it yourself. Last week at Costco, I bought a 7-pound tenderloin (USDA Choice, because Prime wasn’t available) for $82 and turned it into 11 smallish filets, half a pound of what I called stir-fry slices and a pound of cubed meat, perfect for beef stroganoff or bourguignon or whatever you want to do with super tender little beef chunks.

That’s less than $7 for a filet mignon. Not bad, eh?

If Costco doesn’t work for you, ask the meat counter attendant at your favorite grocery store if they’ll sell you a whole tenderloin.

When you get it home, make a little bed of paper towels on the kitchen counter, near the sink. Then, holding the meat over the sink, cut open the plastic and allow the liquid to drain. Set the meat on the paper towels and pat it dry. Move it to the cutting board.

The best bargain in tenderloin isn’t very pretty; it’s a lumpy shape, all covered with weird chunks of fat and silverskin. This is why you paid less than $12 per pound for tenderloin. But believe me, it’s worth it.

Now get familiar with your tenderloin. Notice there’s a flat, skinny end to the meat and a wide, fat end. There’s also a long piece of meat kind of stuck all along one side. We’re going to separate this into three pieces.

First, use your fingers to peel off all the sheathing of fat and connective tissue that envelops the meat.

Pretty quickly, you see the three parts emerge. Pull the membrane away from the central part of the meat and use your knife to gently separate the chain (that long, skinny strip) from the tenderloin.

Put the chain on a plate or a piece of foil; we’ll deal with it later.

Now, remove the other piece—the miniature roast that makes up half of the fat end of the tenderloin— and put it with the chain.

Next, we need to remove the silverskin, that long, shiny piece of tissue that runs the length of the tenderloin. Start at the bottom, and get the tip of your knife under the silverskin. If you’ve successfully removed the skin from a piece of salmon, use that same technique here. Lift and wiggle the silverskin as you gently work your knife underneath it, trying to take off as little meat as possible. It’s not easy to do this well, so you may have some cleanup to do.

Now, you should have a pretty tenderloin.

Lay out another plate or piece of foil for the trimmings you want to keep for another purpose.

I like a little steak (4-6 ounces), and my dude likes a big one (6-8 ounces), plus I’m kind of fussy, so I use my kitchen scale to weigh out the pieces.

I cut the steaks and then weigh each one, wrap it in plastic and then in foil, and use a Sharpie to write the weight and the date on it.

I used trim and portion tenderloins all the time back when I worked in restaurants, and it was important to get them as uniform as possible, so that every customer’s steak weighed as much as you promised, and they all looked equal when they came to the table.

But at home, this is probably not as important, so just cut steaks that look good to you. It’s nice to have a variety of weights and thicknesses to reach for in the freezer.

A good piece of tenderloin is delicious when seasoned with salt and pepper, cooked in a hot cast iron pan. A little olive oil in the pan is good. Cooking the steak in beef fat is great.

If you want to dress it up a little, make a little sour cherry sauce while the cooked steaks are resting. Add some olive oil or beef fat to the pan if it’s dry. Sauté a minced shallot or ¼ cup minced onion over medium heat, just until they’re translucent. Add ¼ cup of port, cognac, madeira, sherry or whatever, and let it simmer until it’s almost gone. Throw in a handful of dried tart cherries and ½ cup low-sodium beef. Simmer for a few minutes while the cherries plump and the sauce thickens. If you have demi-glace in the fridge, drop in a couple tablespoons of that. Otherwise, you can do butter. Or you can leave it. Either way, season the sauce with salt and pepper and pour it over your steaks.

Small Bites

Eat at Luminaria and #SFRFoodies

Small BitesWednesday, May 4, 2016 by SFR


Joy Godfrey
The goods at the Inn and Spa at Loretto are the very definition of scrumptious. Think red chile braised short rib egg rolls ($10), a Maryland jumbo lump crab cake ($10) accompanied by Granny Smith apple slaw and saffron aioli and a signature tortilla soup that’s picture-perfect for a Santa Fe fall. Thanks to South Bronx-born chef Marc Quiñones, you’ll be asking for a late checkout, or at least meander on at your table, making an experience out of every bite. “What matters to me, is that I want to embrace the locals,” Quiñones told me, as my Dirty BLT, which includes a fried egg, got delivered. “It was all about figuring out what the locals here in Santa Fe find enjoyable, and how do I give that to them in a way that’s exciting and relevant, but still something that’s close to home from a comfort standpoint,” he continued. Mission accomplished. Now, someone please hand me a napkin.

-Enrique Limón

211 Old Santa Fe Trail, 984-7915 Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; brunch on Sunday


Are you a fan of flan? Share it on Instagram using #SFRfoodies.

Game Over

'Ratchet & Clank' is, itself, ratchet

MehWednesday, May 4, 2016 by Alex De Vore

In the early 2000s, the fine folks at Insomniac Games brought a spirited young Lombax (yeah, it’s a fake species that’s sort of like a cat) named Ratchet and an adorable defective robot named Clank together, and the gaming landscape was forever blown away. Equal parts creative sci-fi absurdity, platforming/shooter brilliance and slapstick gold, the series has run for over a decade, spanned three console generations and generated nearly a dozen games before hitting the big screen last week in one of the most disappointing uses of a gaming license since that unbelievably terrible Super Mario Bros. movie with Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo. And that’s saying something, as we’re pretty sure there’s never been a good game-to-movie adaptation, anyway.

In the animated Ratchet & Clank film, we learn that the evil Chairman Drek (a painfully over-the-top Paul Giamatti) is systematically destroying various planets throughout the universe to farm their most iconic landmasses in an effort to create his own utopic world. When the galaxy is threatened thusly, a superhero cadre known as the Galactic Rangers are called to save the day. These superheroes are led by the ridiculous Captain Qwark (Jim Ward, also from the game series), a complete idiot who is more interested in fame and accolades than the actual well-being of the universe. Usually, this squad could handle anything, but given the especially horrendous situation, they actually host open tryouts for additional members, and this is where our hero, Ratchet (voiced by the games’ James Arnold Taylor), comes in.

Through a series of goofy misadventures, we learn that the little Lombax is a great mechanic, with a big heart and no shortage of good intentions. Despite this, no one really gets him, including his boss, Grimroth (a pointlessly minor role for John Goodman) and the Galactic Rangers themselves, who give Ratchet the same old “You’ll never amount to anything!” spiel that every kids movie apparently now utilizes.

But of course, he does, thanks in no small part to his tiny robot pal Clank (the always fantastic David Kaye), who is all about being good and who basically gives Ratchet a reason to care about things, outside of him being the good guy. If it sounds underdeveloped, that’s because it absolutely is, which is especially criminal given the wildly enjoyable storylines of the game series. Drek is evil because he is, Ratchet is good because he is, anyone who dreams big can make anything happen and blah blah blah. Even for a kids’ movie, Ratchet & Clank is so bareboned and paint-by-numbers that by the time we learn there’s actually another villain behind everything, we mostly just wish the thing would end.

Subtle nods to the Playstation universe and precious winks to fans of the game series are cute and all, and Sylvester Stallone does provide an enjoyable turn as Drek’s enforcer, Victor, but the overall value of the film falls someplace between your kids made you do it and the rainiest of rainy day nap movies. You’d have to be a fan of the series beforehand to even want to give this flick a shot, and even then it mostly just hurts your feelings they’d do you like this. The animation is subpar, the jokes are so boring it hurts and even a super-cool montage of the property’s signature goofy weaponry (one gun turns people into sheep) isn’t enough to redeem Ratchet & Clank by the end of its (thankfully) short running time. Insomniac Games should be pissed their characters have been used this way, and the rest of us should probably save the price of admission and use it toward one of the vastly superior games.

Ratchet & Clank
Directed by Kevin Munroe and Jericca Cleland
With Taylor, Kaye, Ward, Stallone, Giamatti and Goodman
Violet Crown, Regal 14 PG, 94 min.

What is this movie about?

Art-Doc run amok

BarfWednesday, May 4, 2016 by Ben Kendall

Aleksandr Sokurov’s newest film, Francofonia, is a schizophrenic misadventure in filmmaking. The lackluster attempt at weaving its several elements into a cohesive union is a failed effort, marked by poorly mixed sound, inexplicable cameos by historical figures, poor costume design, unusually bad editing choices/camera work and a muddled narrative arc that makes less sense at the end than it does at the beginning.

The film’s focus is on the Louvre (and “focus” is a term used loosely here) and the lives of two men, one a French civil servant and the other a German military officer during the nascent World War II, and their efforts, amid the conflict, to preserve the works of art that resided in the museum. In the scenes set in the past, there are blatant anachronisms, such as a WWII-era German soldier chasing down a WWII-era French civilian in a park in modern-day France, or French school children dressed in period clothing except for 21st-century tennis shoes, or grand vistas of what we can only assume is supposed to be 1940s France during the occupation, complete with Luftwaffe warplanes flying in the foreground … but in the background haze, you can see modern skyscrapers. Whether this is meant as an artistic juxtaposition or not is unclear, and it doesn’t matter. On the one hand, it’s a terrible error; on the other hand, it’s a ham-handed venture in the realm of artful criticism. In either case, it doesn’t work.

There are moments when the director speaks to a random sea captain transporting precious art objects in a storm, but their communiqués are often cut off by the weather. Why we’re being shown this is never explained, nor is the relationship between the two. The director speaks to Napoleon or other historical figures, breaking the fourth wall constantly. However, there’s never a reason that’s satisfying enough to explain why Sokurov is doing this, other than to offer some sort of commentary on imperialism and its relationship to art that gets lost in translation. At times, the narration goes something like, “The Louvre, the Louvre …” or, “France, France …,” as if the director were speaking stream of consciousness into a digital recorder, unsure as to what he’ll say next. While on the subject of sound, sometimes you can hear telephones ring in the background, or doors shut, or electric devices. It smacks of an amateurism that doesn’t belong in the film and seems more like a lazy mistake than a focused decision.

Overall, Francofonia is a pretentious and fractured conglomeration of a film that seems to take itself entirely too seriously and offers little in the way of historical enlightenment or worthwhile criticism.

88 min.

Read the Annual Manual

© 2016 Santa Fe Reporter. All Rights Reserved.
Powered by WEHAA.COM
Regular Site