Let’s be honest, there’s no shortage of documentaries in the film world that tell the stories of struggling artists. But in filmmaker Justine Harbonnier’s Caiti Blues, the chase for that good, old-fashioned American dream plays out through a New Mexico lens that’s unique enough to hold the attention of even the most documentary-fatigued.
Set in the tiny town of Madrid just outside Santa Fe, Caiti Blues follows the life of New York native Caiti Lord, an aspiring musician with a prestigious singing school and Broadway background, who now, at the age of 30, has to fight to keep her passion for music alive while she balances a challenging bartending job and a community radio show. While the documentary may stutter in a few rather drawn-out scenes, the incredible humanity seen in Lord’s day-to-day life and creativity make this one an overall shining success.
We all know that rags-to-riches Hollywood trope, but it’s increasingly rare to see a film have a different, yet arguably more satisfying outcome—a protagonist regaining their passion who doesn’t land in an unethical, sellout-type multi-millionaire nightmare that robs them of the very things that made them special or noteworthy in the first place. Most won’t get the millions of dollars, but can’t we just enjoy making art for the sake of making art in the meantime?
When it comes to Caiti Blues, it’s worth going for the stunning cinematography. But stay, then, for captivating music and, at times, heart-piercing thoughts of its subject. Power to independent artists!
+Great cinematography; cool original music
-Can drag on at points
Directed by Justine Harbonnier
Santa Fe International Film Festival, NR, 80 min.