Film and Filmmakers

Major Films and Filmmakers To Be Seen at the Taos Shortz Film Festival

If you saw The Revenant, the Oscar-winning movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, then you’ve seen one of the participants in the Taos Shortz Film Festival. That would be Forrest Goodluck, pictured at right.He’s the kid who played DiCaprio’s son. No small part. Goodluck also happened to premier his short film, Sun Kink, at the TSFF, way way back in 2014, when Goodluck was a grizzly 16-year-old.

Now in only its ninth year, the Taos Shortz Film Festival, April 7-10 at various venues throughout Taos, has had about as much early success as Goodluck and features just what you’d think it does: short films. Some as short as 94 seconds (Abbas Davoudi’s Ah Sobh), some as long as 31-plus minutes (Candice Carella’s Pony), most ranging between three and ten minutes. (The time limit is 32 minutes.) And they’re from all over the world (30 countries are represented), culled from over 1,000 submissions. It’s already been named by MovieMaker magazine as one of the world’s “50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.”

And unlike most other film festivals, especially those featuring feature-length films, the Taos Shortz remains accessible and down-to-earth. A reflection of its founder and executive director Anna Cosentine, and Taos, and the entire Enchanted Circle region (if not New Mexico overall).

Cosentine and her staff also thematize their festival. “Films are woven into two-hour programs (10-12 short films in each), which include genres of Documentary, Drama, Comedy, Animation, and ‘Out of the Ordinary,’” says Cosentine. “Each year, our programming grows organically.  This ‘art’ of programming is unique to our festival and takes the audience on a journey through time, cultures, and belief systems. Our unique style of programming has been buzzed as what Sundance used to be, only with more green chile involved.”
Part of that programmed journey includes an Iranian program—“We feel it’s important at this time to expose our audience to this country and culture,” says Cosentine. “They’re not so different from us, or maybe they are.” And in an effort to connect East and West, they’re having an interactive Skype Q+A between some of the filmmakers and the audience.
Other programs include a focus on drones (with a workshop sponsored by Aerocus Aerials, who shot the aerial at right at Taos Ski Valley, and representatives from some of the state’s UAV providers, discussing techniques in aerial cinematography), a Native American program curated by the Institute of American Indian Arts cinematic arts chair James Lujan and moderated by filmmaker Peter Kershaw, a New Mexico Filmmakers Showcase (with world premieres of Alejandro Montoya’s Monday, Brian Delate’s Leverage, and Joey Grossfield’s Lightning in Hand), and of course, the Taos Locals Night, “a blowout extravaganza celebrating our quirky, eclectic town,” gushes Cosentine. Emceed by local talent and actor Johnny Long, and titled “Far Away From Everyday”—because, says Cosentine, “that’s what Taos is”—people wearing masks at the door will be given a voucher for future program discounts.
Aside from Goodluck, the festival has seen others move forward. Luke Matheny, showed his Oscar short, God of Love, at the festival, and has since gone on to direct Lovesick, multiple episodes of Albuquerque comic Marc Maron’s IFC series, Maron, and the Amazon children’s series, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street. He’s also this year’s keynote speaker. The fest also picked films that later went on to garner Academy Award nominations: A Morning Stroll and Miracle Fish, plus one of this year’s Oscar selections, the Russian film We Can’t Live Without Cosmos.

But the festival thrives because of its relation to Taos and the EC. Using a sponsorship package, the festival raised over $65,000 in in-kind money last year: the social events and filmmakers’ lounges are held in intimate locations provided by galleries and local businesses who donate their venues; and lodging businesses provide in-kind rooms for visiting filmmakers and VIPs. This means that the public and the festival’s filmmakers really connect. And it’s a walking festival—all the events are in town, easy to access, and marked with banners. “In short, the film festival and the Town of Taos engage in a symbiotic relationship,” says Cosentine. “Aside from creating a festive film weekend, local businesses benefit from the influx of walking traffic, hotels fill up and the Taos Hum comes alive.”

Where to go before and after the Shortz festival—with suggestions from a couple of the filmmakers:

“I love how Red River revolves around having fun,” says Oliver Bell, a Taos native who’ll be bringing Three Short Art Films from 2015. “There’s nothing to do up there but have fun! I also love the nature of Eagle Nest and Angel fire. Hiking and fishing in the area is as good as it gets! And the beauty of the entire EC drive is unbelievable. You have to see it for yourself.”
For filmmaker Kathleen Brennan, who’ll be showing her film The Matter of Life and Death, “Here’s what I like to do in the Enchanted Circle:"
Eagle Nest/Angel Fire—"boating, fishing, photography, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial"
Red River—"hiking, photography, and lunch at the Texas  Reds & The Lost Love Saloon"
Taos Ski Valley—“I’m not a skier, but I like to take visitors up in the summer and ride the lift and enjoy lunch at Tim’s Stray Dog Cantina.”
Taos Pueblo—“I love to visit the shops and always take my visitors to see, photograph, and enjoy fry bread or a frito pie.”

Find help planning your trip when you come to the EC for Taos Shortz:
Auslander Condos in Red River
Resort Properties of Angel Fire
H2 Uptown restaurant in Angel Fire
BeyondTaos Community Calendar
Taos lodging: and Taos Chamber of Commerce members
Red River lodging
Angel Fire lodging: Visitor Center and The Lodge at AF
Eagle Nest lodging: Chamber of Commerce members
Lodging in Questa
Lodging in Taos Ski Valley: Chamber of Commerce members