Film Paradox, Green Chiles & Mile-High Desert: The 2011 Albuquerque Film Festival – Feature

The paradox of Albuquerque resides in the structure of its possibilities to provide a sense of fun revolved within the richness of an arts cultured interacted with a work ethic.

With the progression of the Albuquerque Film Festival, the films and ideas that perpetrate the necessities of its arena fall into the different outreach and personalities portrayed in the stories being shown.

In terms of Opening Night, the John Sayles-directed “Amigo” reflects off the beaten path within different ideals. It approaches the colonization of parts of the Phillipines as the US forces in the early 20th Century attempted to “protect” the local population from invaders. While this does provide an interesting dynamic to the recent forays into Iraq and Afghanistan to protect the “people” of those countries, what Sayles does here is show the inner structure of one particular village and his leader who in bowing to Western practices eventually pays the price for letting both the Americans and the missionary who watches over the village. Everyone has a price but the tendency here moves toward over-dramatic monotony. The bright light within the structure of the picture which was shot in the actual area (but easily could have been re-established someplace else) is the casting of Sayles’ favorite Chris Cooper as the crusty colonel who governs from afar but takes matters into his own hands when the natives become too restless for their own good.

La Hora Cero” provided the most adrenaline for the festival in the guise of an action picture where gang-bangers in a Guatemalan city take over a hospital when the childhood friend of their leader turns out pregnant which no one to take her to the hospital. The narrative is nowhere as simple as that but predicates with a sense of brutality and turns into a hostage situation where the notion of loyalties balance back and forth. The director, who lives in Los Angeles, is part of a growing subsection of filmmakers who are making films in their own orginal country which by extension become indicative of the greater global marketplace where American films, especially the independents, are not the be-all and end-all, simply a means to an end. The climax, especially plays inherently cinematic without seeming too overdone, though the violence at times plays gratuitous but is seemingly a reflection on the current setting where actions must be played severely to have an type of impact.

“White Knight” moves to the complete other end of the spectrum, set in the 1960s with the imprisonment of a Klu Klux Klan Grand Dragon. While this sounds like a drama, it is most definitely a comedy through an through owing more to “Raising Arizona” and “O’ Brother, Where Art Thou”. Casting Tom Sizemore as the Dragon in question is inspired though the actual subject matter might be a little charged for some people. While in jail, after his cellmate (played by a quickly funny Kevin Farley, brother of Chris) dies eating the wrong thing, the warden (a magnificently overwrought Stacy Keach) decides to make his new buddy, a Mexican (the always uproarious Hector Jiminez) from which comedy ensues. Sizemore as the straight man against Jiminez (best know from “Nacho Grande”) is just pure fun because any time Hector opens his mouth with his hair standing straight up (even as he tries to comb it) is a study in hilarity. The eventual resolution obviously speaks to an overall message but it is this odd couple pairing that fuels the film to interesting avail.

In terms of shorts, Colin Cunningham from “Breaking Bad” crafted an exceptional story in “Centigrade” about a man trapped inside an Airstream, locked with no way out. It starts off with comedic overtones but then turns quickly to horror and an ending payoff with a sense of overriding foreboding. “Delia” about a girl stuck in a dead end town is told almost silently with a sense of sound design both compelling and unnerving.

In addition to several panels, one of the big events of the festival was a 100 Harley ride-along down Main Street to pay homage to Dennis Hopper whose festival namesake award which was given to Dean Stockwell for his movement and challenge of the system while still maintaining a sense of dignity.

At the Closing Night Awards Ceremony, Stockwell spoke of Hopper with genuine tears calling him “my best friend” fueled by an exceptional edit of his different films which included their legendary pairing in “Blue Velvet” in 1986.

The Hotel Andaluz, centrally located within the corridor between the main drag which houses the central Ritz Movie Theater and the Hyatt, which served as the gala point, revered in its old school Spanish atrium while still creating a real sense of lushness with its sleek comfortable rooms and raised baths.

Within its walls, Lucia serves as its central restaurant where stars such as Samuel L. Jackson have eaten while in towns shooting films. With some many productions have filed through ABQ in the past couple years, the Andaluz is the spot of choice for many companies.

Settling in for lunch at Lucia, the Meze Platter starts off the process combining an exceptional hummus with Israeli couscous for a subtle yet not overwhelming beginning using a variety of different sauces to pop the different intensities.

The main course provided in an Atlantic sea scallop ranged a little bit away from the normality of New Mexican cuisine but intergrated greens and luscious heirlooms tomatoes that made the difference. The more down home pretzel burger, overtly wrapped in nacho cheese with a inherently salacious bun, brought the idea home.

El Pinto, removed away from Downtown near the far edge of the Indian Reservation, is more old school. Laid on a large space of land, it is one of those places that elevates the sense in your mind over large elegant parties under the stars with a sense of family and fun.

Meeting the two owners, Jim and John, who also are key and hands on with their increasingly successful salsa business which has been growing by leaps and bounds around the country, understand that people want the genuine article.

Watching the grilling of green chiles table-side, one becomes acutely aware of the smell and the after effect of the process on the taste of the dishes. One minutely specific point is that if you find small bits of ash in your salsa, that doesn’t mean it is faulty…it means it was properly made.

While their famous green chile enchiladas were astoundingly fresh along with the smoothness of the Twins’ Favorite Margarita (blending in some Cointreau), it was the starter platter highlighted with its red chile topped short ribs that absolutely melted in the mouth with utter contentment.

Switching to ideas of breakfast, The Flying Star Cafe, just off the Main Street, offers full day breakfast dining with a sense of New Mexican traditional while using fusion approaches mirroring different steps of the process.

The Southwest Bennie, a twist on the biscuits and gravy mentality, envisions two medium eggs over an English Muffin with green chiles, cheese, tomatoes and gravy intermingled for an overwhelming sense of home.

Other cool spots directly around the festival dot the landscape for easy access and in-between bites.

Inside the Hyatt, Torque offers sit-down elegance with a diverse menu and quick understanding, highlighted by their tasty Short Rib Wrap that was brief yet satisfying.

Across from the theater, the Downtown Distillery might look a little dark from outside but inside it is the perfect hole-in-the-wall with outspoken bartenders, pool tables and, on Thursday, $2.75 for anything in the house, including Newcastle while Waco’s Tacos, directly catecorner offers great burritos quick and late.

Albuquerque enjoys a texture of life both high in desert but quick in possibility. Add to the fact that the city is a mile high (much like Denver) where art and sense of belonging runs very high even for those transplanted to its desert shores. Buoyed also by its film business evolution over the past couple years, the Albuquerque Film Festival continues to growth with a sense of countenance and a steady hand.

Posted on October 3, 2011, in Arts Travel & Culture Features, Film Festival Coverage and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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