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With everything going virtual starting off 2021, the Las Cruces International Film Festival can brag that going virtual will be good for it this year.
“Doing it virtual this year, we feel like we can reach a bigger audience,” said executive director Ross Marks. “We are going with the Film Festival Flix, and they’re estimating we may get 50-60,000 viewers.”
While the festival has been growing yearly, it can’t match the attendance this screening platform provides, he said. The festival is in its sixth year and historically has been a regional event. The 2020 festival was attended by about 20,000 people.
“Now, because of this virtual platform, we have 38 countries participating, and the friends and families associated with all those films can watch,” Marks said.
One of the biggest complaints from past festivals is people can’t watch all the films they want to, he said. They have to make decisions and choices. The films get grouped in blocks, and the audience members must choose what they want to see. This year, those blocks will be broken separately and be “a lot more user friendly.”
While audiences will indeed be losing the communal experience and in person theater experience, there will be no viewing conflicts, he said.
"Last year we had half the films with cast and director Q and A,” Marks said. “This year, filmmakers will be active on social media and checking for communication. You don’t get direct interaction, but every filmmaker is going to be doing a Q and A this year.”
Awards, workshops and panels remain part of the event. This year, the Outstanding Entertainment Award will go to Peter Bogdonovich who Marks said is one of the pioneers of independent filmmaking in America. Marks will be hosting a Q and A session with Bogdonovich.
Judge Rheinold is receiving the Mark Medoff Legacy Award. He will be asked about his career, his films and much more.
In addition to the film screenings, there will be a virtual screenwriting panel, film promotion and marketing workshop, and a panel focusing on raising funds for films with leading experts in IndieGoGo and Kickstarter.
Also, as usual, local restaurant sponsors are participating, Marks said. Every evening, a local restaurant is going to host a screening and highlight a special dish which will be available at a discount for those in town for the events.
“We are lining up more [restaurants] every day,” Marks said. “This is a great way to showcase our local restaurants and showcase Las Cruces. The restaurants will have signature cocktails, including Salud, Amador, Andele’s, the Game, Lorenzo’s and La Posta. It’s a great way to make it interactive.”
As usual, the folks at the New Mexico State University Creative Media Institute, are organizing the festival.
“We had a class in the fall,” Marks, who is a professor for the program, said. “In film festival prep, students reviewed, selected and curated the films. In the spring, students and staff will put it all together.”
Jen Garcia serves as artistic director for the fourth year, Alfonso Moya is technical director and Matteo Isquierdo is operations manager.
“So, we have a small staff,” Marks said. “And to my knowledge, this is the biggest film festival put out by a university.”
While there is no specifically designed poster for the festival this year, Marks said they are setting up an online film festival store. Partnering with the Sports Festival Store, the 2021 logo design will be available on several different items, ranging from shirts to mugs.
“The nice thing about being online is people can watch the movies and browse a film-festival store,” he said.
As usual, there will be an opening feature for the event, this year it is “The Devil Has a Name” with Edward James Olmos, who also will do a Q and A with Marks following the movie.
The festival takes place March 3-7. Ticket prices are $8 for one film, $25 for one whole day and $75 for all days. So far, Marks said, there are 102 films on the list.