After a successful decade of bringing world-class short films and filmmakers to Taos, Taos Shortz Film Festival is going out in style this weekend with its 10th – and, alas, final — edition. The “Fare-Thee-Well” edition of the festival opens today (March 30) and runs through Sunday (April 2) with films, discussions and gala events scheduled at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, and venues around town.
“It was time for a change,” said the festival’s executive director, Anna Cosentine, who co-founded Taos Shortz in 2007 with Program Director Duprelon “Tizz” Tizdale. “We’ve gone through 10 years of bringing our community the best short films from around the world. It’s been a lot of work, and we’re leaving on a high note. When we first had the idea, we never expected it to grow and snowball and be as lovely and amazing as it’s become. We’ve had amazing supporters throughout the years locally, and we’ve loved putting on this festival and sharing these great stories.”
Cosentine spoke about the final festival’s slate of offerings. “They’re all amazing films. The first program is international, with a lot of work from the Middle East. Then the Native American showcase on Saturday is going to be spectacular. We felt it was really important to support this compelling work.”
The Native American showcase will include “Ode to Standing Rock,” a collaboration between Peter Walker, University of New Mexico-Taos media arts instructor, and Native activist Lyla June Johnston.
Walker has shown work in Taos Shortz in the past and spoke appreciatively of the festival. “Each year, I am amazed at the artistry that goes into selecting the diverse films. We walk into the theater with a lot of trust for the programmers. Sometimes we walk out disturbed, other times happy, sometimes confused and often inspired to take action.”
Much of Walker’s own inspiration to action came from the Water Protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline site — including Johnston, whose live video updates from Standing Rock gave heartfelt insight and valuable information on the ongoing struggle. “An epic battle of our times is underway,” Walker said. “This film is my way of showing solidarity with our indigenous brothers and sisters who continue to fight for their sovereign rights, justice and clean water.”
Johnny Long has been Taos Shortz’s production manager since its inception and previously worked with Cosentine and Tizdale on the now-defunct Taos Mountain Film Festival. “It’s been an amazing ride,” he said. “We’ve brought some of the most amazing and inspiring filmmakers in the world to Taos, and it’s been thrilling to see the films and meet the people who make them. It’s been an honor being a part of it. Tizz and Anna and I have been working on film festivals together for 20 years, and they’re two of the best people I know.”
Long said that the festival’s ending is bittersweet, but that he will be continuing to support the growth of the Taos film community. An industry veteran with credits on numerous feature films, he most recently produced the Taos-filmed “Cortez,” which screened at the Taos Community Auditorium last year, and he is currently touring festivals with the film.
According to Long, he is looking forward to the retrospectives of films from the past 10 years. “Some of my favorites are in there, and some of those filmmakers have gone on to make features and win awards. It’s amazing to look back over it all. We’ve had a blast, we’ve laughed a lot and had a great time with each other and everyone in the community.”
The 2017 festival will have two retrospective programs: “Diez Años,” showing 10 years of the best global short films, and the playfully named “T&A Round-Up — Tizz and Anna’s Favorites.”
“We feel we have so many amazing films in our archives that some may have missed, while others will enjoy revisiting them,” Cosentine said. “It’s so interesting to see how the technology has developed — you can see in the films over the years how it’s evolved.”
Short films are curated into two-hour programs of 10 to 12 films each. Films from 22 countries are represented in this year’s festival. Many of the overseas films are making their North American debuts, and some will be premiered here for the first time anywhere. Those having world premieres in Taos include “Salifornia” by Italian filmmaker Andrea Beluto and “Kabul” by Brooklyn, New York-based Lauren Fritz. Beluto and Fritz are both making the journey to Taos to present their films, as are dozens of the other artists.
“I hear filmmakers at festivals around the country talking about Taos Shortz, and they all say they’re treated better here than anywhere else,” Long said.
“They’ve loved coming here,” agreed Cosentine. “It becomes such an intimate festival because we all make friends really fast. There have been friendships formed here that carry on way beyond the festivals. One filmmaker even met her husband here. We have a great cinematic audience in Taos, and the Q&A sessions are very lively. Seeing a film with an audience and the filmmakers present is a much richer experience than just watching it online.”
Parties and mixers play a part in the festival’s convivial atmosphere. Thursday’s “Opening Night Pint” at Eske’s Brew Pub, 106 Des Georges Lane, has been a Taos Shortz tradition since the first year. Friday night ends with a “Fare-Thee-Well Extravaganza” at Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west, with fire dancers and music by Wagogo. The Alley Cantina, 121 Teresina Lane, hosts Saturday’s late-night party, where hosts and filmmakers can cut loose together on the dance floor. Sunday afternoon, Aerocus Aerials invites all to come mingle with New Mexico film industry professionals at Salon X, 226 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.
On Sunday at 6:22 p.m., Taos Shortz concludes with “Best of the Fest,” its final awards ceremony and screening of the winning films. Awards will be given in seven categories: “OOTO” (”Out of the Ordinary”), “Animation,” “Documentary,” “Dramatic Fiction,” “Comedy Fiction,” “People’s Choice” and “Director’s Choice.”
After devoting the better part of every year to organizing the festival, spending hours at the computer vetting thousands of films, Cosentine is looking forward to having time for other creative adventures. “I used to travel a lot and explore the world. I love watching all the films, but it’s sort of tied me down. I want to travel, relearn how to play the piano, do some painting. I still have a lot to learn. But right now, I’m focused on this last Taos Shortz. It’s been a wonderful 10 years. I hope everyone will come out and celebrate with us.”
The “All-Access Taos Hmmmm Pass” costs $97. Individual programs and parties are priced separately, $5 to $15. Mature audiences suggested for all programs. For more information and a detailed schedule, visit http://www.taosshortz.com/2016/