3 Questions

3 Questions with CCA Cinema Director Justin Clifford Rhody

Calling all Santa Fe film buffs

Following near-closure and the subsequent borderline-frantic community actions and fundraising that kept it alive last April, Santa Fe’s Center for Contemporary Arts continues to forge a path forward. Part of the new world order includes nonprofits like Albuquerque-based contemporary chamber music outfit CHATTER and experiential theater company Exodus staking claims in the Tank Garage gallery space; part of it has been the onboarding of General Manager Paul Barnes, a filmmaker whose ongoing work comes on a voluntary basis. Last week, the CCA also announced that Justin Clifford Rhody, anti-profit DIY theater No Name Cinema co-founder, will take the helm as cinema director. We spoke with Rhody as he settles into his new role. This interview has been edited for length and concision. (Alex De Vore)

Let’s start with the question I think everyone has about CCA just now. What’s your take on its current shape and are things looking up after last year’s challenges?

The incredible outpouring of support from the local community last spring really showcased how important CCA is to so many people, and what a significant loss would be suffered without its continued contributions to Santa Fe’s stratosphere of film exhibition.

Since that time, we’ve all been working hard behind the scenes to redesign and restructure the administration into a sustainable model that’s able to accomplish more using less while also providing a truly ‘livable wage’ for all of its employees. We’re now in a position of absolute financial stability and have more than doubled ticket sales compared to the year prior.

It’s gratifying to experience such a positive response to our attempts at thoughtful programming and highly curated film series, but it can’t be stressed enough that we would not even be in a position to offer such things if it were not for the generous donations we regularly receive from the community. As a nonprofit arthouse cinema, CCA is uniquely poised to present works of diverse perspectives from unique voices, and the membership fees and donations...make that possible. Likewise, I’m fortunate to be working with a team of committed and community-minded cinephiles who are all passionate about what we do. Every contribution made—from the guest speaker of an event to the part-time employee who handles invoices—is absolutely crucial to working successfully on a large scale in a sustainable manner.

The CCA cinema has always engaged in partnerships; programming with special guests; and collaborations. What are your thoughts about potential collaborations moving forward?

I’m very excited…to expand the organization’s support for local emerging artists. In addition to establishing a new quarterly exhibition series in the Cinema Gallery, I also look forward to organizing film screening panel discussions involving members of Santa Fe’s diverse population. As many of these plans are still in the early stages...I encourage everyone to keep their eyes peeled and sign up for the weekly CCA newsletter. Very exciting things are on the horizon!

No Name Cinema is known for experimental experiences, lesser-seen films, oddities, forgotten works and so on. Do you hope to bring any of those ethos to CCA?

We started No Name Cinema with a mission to exclusively showcase experimental and personal artist’s films, and after three years of programming it’s undoubtedly but surprisingly a success. But as with most things in life, the context that a work of art is seen within deeply informs its reading.

No Name Cinema existing in a DIY warehouse space with limited seating and sliding-scale admission are all very intentional choices that we made and they’re not the result of us simply not being able to figure out how to operate like a ‘normal’ business. I personally really enjoy the different personalities and offerings that each of the theaters in town contribute to the overall cultural landscape. And I don’t see any reason that those offerings need to become more homogenized.

The programming of international, independent and repertory films that CCA has historically offered will still remain the same. The reason I’m so pleased to work with CCA is that it has consistently offered space for uncompromising filmmakers like Guy Maddin; presented overlooked masterpieces like The Exiles; and allowed visionary artists like Deborah Stratman to exist alongside titles that receive festival acclaim and rave reviews from the mainstream press.

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