Two years ago, Taos Shortz Film Festival co-founders Duprelon "Tizzz" Tizdale and Anna Cosentine thought that the festival's 2017 edition would be its grand finale. Thanks to overwhelming community support, the celebration of short films returned to Taos in 2018, and is now heading into its 12th year with more vibrancy, diversity and industry prestige than ever.
The 2019 Taos Shortz Film Festival will unspool Friday through Sunday (March 22-24), with screenings throughout each day and evening at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Beginning at 11 a.m. Friday morning, 55 selections will be shown in programs of 8-10 short films each. (The average length of each is about 12 minutes.) Five of the programs will be shown twice in their entirety, while a sixth program will be shown exclusively on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday evening at 7 p.m., the festival will present its awards and screen the winning films.
Tizdale spoke gratefully of the widespread support that has inspired him to continue the festival despite many other work commitments. "The encouragement and enthusiasm from the community has been amazing. Anna has quietly snuck back into New Mexico to help out, and we'll be honoring her during the weekend. I'm so glad it didn't die out. The films are serious, funny, pertinent, and the overall quality is outstanding.
"There are quite a few North American and world premieres, and many of the filmmakers are coming to town and will be present for Q&A sessions after their films. We have 18 different countries represented this year. There's outstanding work from Lebanon, from Iran, from Tanzania and Gambia, some really beautiful films from Quebec. One of those, 'Fauve,' was nominated for an Academy Award. Last year, our Director's Choice Award winner, 'Madre,' went on to become Academy Award nominated."
We asked Tizdale to name some of the films he personally considered highlights of the festival.
Here's what came to mind:
• "The Cheech" is a world premiere about actor-comedian Cheech Marin's extraordinary collection of Chicano artwork.
• "Evie," another world premiere, is about child marriage.
• "Tshweesh," a day in the life of Beirut, Lebanon.
• "Tabu" is a world premiere about a young woman's life in a Tanzanian school.
• "Golden Girl" is from Switzerland. "That's a North American premiere that really stuck with me," Tizdale said, "about a young woman who is tired of the artificial world of modeling and tries to find her true self through dance."
• "Bye Bye Virgins" is a French film about youth ready to leap into adulthood.
• "Last Taxi Dance" makes its North American premiere with Taos Shortz. It is about the early days of statehood in Hawaii.
• "Mni Wiconi" is a hand-drawn animation dedicated to the water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota.
• "Alice and Lewis" imagines a fictional encounter between "Alice in Wonderland" author Lewis Carroll and his real-life muse, Alice Liddell.
• "Deep Dive" is from Iran. It centers around the Persian New Year, which is actually being celebrated during the weekend of the festival.
Saturday afternoon's Program 6 is devoted to New Mexican films. Taos music fans may be especially interested in director Bunee Tomlinson's "New Mexico Rain: The Story of Bill and Bonnie Hearne," a documentary about the beloved musical couple.
Two films by Taos-based filmmakers are included in the program: Amon Barker's "A Grand Journey," a documentary presenting the heroic efforts of Kira Brazinski to climb Grand Teton despite her disability, and Kiki Shakti's "Palaio Faliro." Shakti's film had its inception in an around-the-world trip she undertook after her father's sudden passing in 2015. "It was a journey both inward and outward, honoring my father while on my way to visit my mother in India," she said. "I started in Australia, where I cast my dad's ashes into the sea. And then, after India, I went to Greece where I stayed with a filmmaker buddy of mine, Clees [Themistocles Lambridis, whose film 'Redneck' premiered at Taos Shortz in 2013].
"He said, 'Hey Kiki, while you're here, why don't we make a short film?' He went to work, and I went to the beach. The sound of the rocks under my feet as I walked along the beach in Palaio Faliro inspired this film, along with the experience I'd had in Sydney after throwing my dad's ashes there. This film is dedicated to my late father. The words that The Father speaks to The Daughter in the film are, primarily, the same words that my father spoke to me in one of our last conversations."
Shakti is working in Europe and will not be able to attend the festival, but expressed the hope that her Taos friends and family will come to the screening, take photos and tag her on Instagram @KikiLoveProductions.
"We're excited for audiences to show up," Tizdale said. "These are the best films we've ever shown. The films are phenomenal. We're the only place in the country to show these things. The films are geared for adults, but people can be assured they're not going to be seeing any extreme violence or sexuality. The energy is about the true essence of films. Not that we were ever glitz or glam, but we're really going back to our roots this year. The filmmakers are coming out here from all over the globe, and they're doing it at their own expense, paying for their own accommodations, because they're excited to be here. Just to be in Taos is a super honor."
For full schedule and advance ticket purchase, visit taosshortz.com.
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