New Mexico-made thriller Dead River is the directorial debut of Santa Fe filmmaker Jason DeBoer. College professor Grant Bingham (Morse Bicknell) is writing a biography about acclaimed crime novelist Luther Nash (Eb Lottimer) but soon finds something sinister written between the lines. The show runs from Friday, Feb. 5, through Thursday, Feb. 11, at the Jean Cocteau Cinema (418 Montezuma Ave., 466-5528). DeBoer will hold a Q&A after the opening weekend showings.

Dead River plays out like an exhilarating crime novella. How did you develop the narrative?
I wanted to create a film for readers. I tried to write characters and dialog that would ring true to that literary world. Since the film's famous writer happens to be a crime author, I tried to do something a bit different and explore the links between violence and literature, fictional crime and reality, and why we as cultural consumers (readers, filmgoers) often idolize violent work, even though there is clearly a real cost to its prevalence.

Despite the undercurrent of mystery, this film has a direct, almost masculine feel to it. How did your own personal story contribute to the one you're telling here?
A subplot of Dead River is how difficult it is for parents of young children to find energy to be creative and to pursue intellectual interests. I know this struggle well, although I can't say I have any answers to accomplishing it! My wonderful wife, Monica, was nine months pregnant while we shot Dead River, so parenting concerns on screen and off added plenty of intensity to our finishing the film.

There's a line in Dead River during an interview between professor Grant Bingham and author Luther Nash, where Nash says that in New Mexico, "words mean more here—because there're less of 'em." Could you elaborate on that idea?
I think the stark, beautiful landscape of New Mexico probably permeates much of the art produced here, either directly or indirectly. We often hear about the unique light here and its effect on painting. What if our open expanses have a similar effect on freeing the written word?