The virtual nature of this year’s Las Cruces International Film Festival is broadening the film experience, not only by increasing the number of films and access to movie-goers around the world, but also by adding partnerships with local businesses.
The sixth annual Las Cruces International Film Festival, presented by New Mexico State University and Visit Las Cruces, will run from March 3 to 7. The festival will show more than 100 films and honor director Peter Bogdanovich, among other film notables who will participate in online question-and-answer sessions. The festival also has added a Native Cinema program this year to honor Native American films and filmmakers. Max Gail, an Emmy Award-winning actor, will be honored for his work.
The 2021 festival will screen 102 films instead of the usual 80 shown at previous festivals.
“The tradeoff is that people can see all the movies they want to see. In the past, often there would be two or three films playing at the same time,” said Ross Marks, festival director and NMSU professor in the Creative Media Institute. “Being virtual, they can see any movie they want any time in the comfort of their own home.”
This year, Marks also is working with Las Cruces restaurants to add local flavor to the festival.
“We’ve had so much community support, we want to highlight our restaurants. Each evening, a local restaurant will sponsor a film screening and make a signature dish, offering it at a special discount,” he said.
Another Las Cruces business, Sports Accessories, Inc., will operate an online store offering 2021 merchandise for the Las Cruces International Film Festival starting in February.
“We’ll have a fully outfitted store with a unique logo for 2021 festival merchandising,” Marks said. “We’ll have shirts, keychains and other items for sale, and it will remain up year-round.”
The films in the 2021 festival represent 36 different countries and will be screened through a partnership with Film Festival Flix. The Las Cruces International Film Festival Channel will provide film lovers the option to purchase an $8 ticket to see an individual film or buy a $25 day-pass to screen as many films as they want in a 24-hour period. For $75, an all-access pass allows pass-holders to spread their film festival viewing over five days.
For more information about the film schedule or to purchase tickets, visit lascrucesfilmfest.com.
As many as 50- to 60-thousand views are expected during the course of the festival. If there is enough demand, the films might be held over for an additional week. As pandemic restrictions ease up, future Las Cruces Independent Film Festivals may follow the hybrid model that a number of other film festivals are using now, which allows limited in-person screenings coupled with online film access.
Marks’ commitment to the festival for the last six years brings him a sense of satisfaction in putting the festival spotlight on the city and NMSU. It’s his way of giving back.
“NMSU and Las Cruces have been good to the Marks/Medoff family,” said Marks, son-in-law of the late Mark Medoff, Tony Award-winning playwright and NMSU professor for more than 50 years. “One of the things the festival does well is market the city and the university. During the virtual festival, promotional videos about NMSU and the city of Las Cruces will air prior to each film screening.”
From its inception, the film festival has been an educational vehicle, with Marks training students to produce the festival through a course he teaches at NMSU. The festival is an investment in education and the community on behalf of his filmmaking family.
“By fully immersing students in the organization and running of the film festival, allowing them to decide the programming and choosing the panelists, we’re championing the best parts of experiential learning, and helping them learn dozens of transferrable skills while also providing this incredible entertainment and outreach event for our community,” said Amy Lanasa, CMI department head.
“Mark (Medoff) was an amazing teacher and gave so much to his students, not only while they studied at NMSU but after they graduated,” Marks said. “Everyone is amazed that he never turned anyone away. As busy as he was, he always found time to help others.
“I feel a huge responsibility to maintain his legacy. At Mark’s memorial, I talked about his legacy being ‘just say yes.’ Since his passing I find myself a much better teacher in giving to students because I know Mark isn’t here to do it and I have to do it now.”
“I think LCIFF is a tradition that’s rooted in an early philosophy Mark Medoff (founder of the Creative Media Institute) embedded here at CMI,” Lanasa said. “He said, ‘We can sit around and talk about how we’re going to teach people to make movies, or we can just make movies.’ We chose the latter, and haven’t looked back.”