It was the biggest crowd the festival has ever seen. Movie fans in the region jammed the Allen theatres Cineport 10 for 7th annual Las Cruces international Film Festival March 2-6.
“Attendance has been through the roof,” said Ross Marks, LCIFF director and professor in New Mexico State University’s Creative Media Institute. “We had over 10,000 people this year. Our biggest and best year yet. It’s a tribute to the power of independent film, the students at NMSU’s Creative Media Institute and the community of Las Cruces. LCIFF 2022 exceeded my greatest expectations.”
The annual event, which is presented by NMSU and Visit Las Cruces, was forced to go online during the pandemic. Coming back in person this year, the movie list boasted something for everyone from feature-length films and documentaries to short films and animation and music videos. Middle school students from Las Cruces Public Schools made a field trip to the film festival.
Barry L. Fisher has been a supporter of LCIFF for the past six years and was eager to come back to the theatre. “I’ve been here since 10 a.m. every day and I love it,” Fisher said. “It seems like there are more quality documentaries this year, but I wanted to see more descriptions about the features.”
Of more than 100 films screened during the five-day festival, 24 were student films and eight of those were from NMSU’s CMI students. But students submitting their films weren’t the only ones getting an education at the festival. A total of 72 students worked with Marks to learn the nuts and bolts of putting together a professional film festival.
“I teach in the classroom, directing and screenwriting, and then put my students on an actual film set and let them see first-hand how I do it,” Ross said. “The festival is another hands-on opportunity to gain skills they can put on their resume.”
There was a home town welcome for Melissa Barrera, one of stars of “All the World is Sleeping,” the film that kicked off the festival, who was greeted with a hometown welcome for the film that was shot in Las Cruces.
Among the events, celebrities like William H. Macy drew a standing-room-only audience at the Medoff Theatre at the ASNMSU Center for the Arts where he talked to students about his acting career, signed autographs and took a massive selfie with the packed theatre.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham received the LCIFF “Hero” Award presented by NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu. The governor was also on hand with Macy for the special screening of his film “Fargo.” Macy also received the LCIFF “Outstanding Achievement in Entertainment” Award at a VIP event with Lujan Grisham after the screening.
The director of the top animated film of all time “The Lion King” was on hand for a special screening. Rob Minkoff and his wife Crystal, who stars in the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” were on hand to discuss the film with fans. Minkoff received the LCIFF “Outstanding Achievement in Directing” Award.
One of the most pressure-packed parts of the festival is the “48-Hour Film Challenge” where participants are asked to write, shoot and edit a film in just two days. The trick was they all had to include a key phrase and a particular prop. This year, it was the phrase “this worked last time” and the prop required was a broom. Ilana Lapid, CMI professor, has spearheaded the competition since it started and says it has grown bigger each year.
"We’re excited that it’s bigger than ever before with 102 filmmakers participating on 34 teams in this year’s “48-Hour-Film Challenge,” said Lapid. “We had filmmakers from El Paso, Las Cruces and Juarez coming together to transcend borders through this creators’ collaborative challenge.”
The winning team for the 48-Hour Challenge was called “Party of 5,” and their film was titled “Time Limit.”
NMSU journalism student Kaitlyn Garcia was on the winning team. “It feels so good, I am so happy to be here,” Garcia said. “I’m really excited to see other film makers and make more connections this year because that was something we couldn’t really do through Zoom.”
After the awards ceremony Saturday night, the winning films in each category were re-racked to be shown on Sunday. For a full list of the winning films, go to the LCIFF website.