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Santa Fe 4th ready to kick off

The Santa Fe Film Festival launches its fourth, and largest, season.

Salutes to British director Stephen Frears, actor Peter Boyle and New Mexico novelist/screenwriter Max Evans anchor this year's Santa Fe Film Festival.

In addition, the festival expects more than 200 filmmakers and other special guest artists to attend. The roster includes actress Elisabeth Moss (seen on TV series "The West Wing"), "The Wild Bunch" screenwriter Walon Green, legendary casting director Lynn Stalmaster and the team of Stephen Simon, Neale Donald Walsch and James Twyman, who will world-premiere their new feature "Indigo" at the festival.

All told, the festival will screen 211 features, documentaries and shorts from around the world — the largest slate ever in the event's history. The opening gala attraction will be "House of Sand and Fog," starring Academy Award winners Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley, while the closing night feature will be "21 Grams," with Sean Penn and Benicio del Toro, shot largely in New Mexico.

The festival also offers two centerpiece attractions: Robert Altman's "The Company," providing an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at life in a major ballet company," and "Girl With a Pearl Earring," inspired by the life of the famous, yet enigmatic Dutch painter Jan Vermeer.

While global in its orientation, the festival mounts extensive sidebars showcasing films from the Greater Southwest, films that profile artists and celebrate the creative process, hard-hitting documentaries and American indie features produced outside of the studio system.

Panels will examine :
The emergence of high-definition TV;
The proliferation of new media (virtual reality games, for instance, or broadband Internet) extending the boundaries and range of film;
New Mexico's incentive packages and tax breaks to stimulate filmmaking;
And what trends are driving cable networks, theatrical releasing companies and other distribution outlets to seek out new or different titles.

The festival takes place durning five days, simultaneously occupying about a dozen venues, including Santa Fe's historic Lensic Performing Arts Center, the Santuario de Guadalupe and the newly opened National Dance Institute.

Organizers say they sold 15,000 tickets last season, and expect that number to exceed 20,000 this year. "We are one of the fastest growing film festivals in the United States and we expect that trend to continue," said SFFF Executive Director Jon Bowman. "Santa Fe is a picture-perfect backdrop for a film festival."


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