Phoenix Film Festival

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Meet Chris Lamont, the founder and president of the Phoenix Film Festival, and learn about the festival that opens this week.

Jose Cardenas: Thank you for joining us. The 13th annual Phoenix festival has its opening this week. Thousands of film enthusiasts come out to see the different movies being shown. We'll talk to the founder of the Phoenix film festival, but first, here's a trailer of one of the films being shown called "Years Later." [speaking Spanish] Joining me now to talk about the Phoenix film festival is Chris Lamont, founder and president of the Phoenix film festival. Chris is also an independent writer and producer of short films. Chris, welcome to "Horizonte."

Chris Lamont: Thank you.

Jose Cardenas: I also understand you teach at ASU.

Chris Lamont: Yes, I do. Film production, films about Hitchcock, film production crew, all about trying to make film here in Arizona a better place.

Jose Cardenas: Let's talk first about the film festival, and we'll take later about "Years Later." The history of the festival, how long has it been going on?

Chris Lamont: This is the 13th year. It's pretty amazing how quickly it's gone past -- Back in 2000, there was -- There really was nothing here that celebrated film on a community level. As a filmmaker myself, I saw that there was an opportunity here to be able to give filmmakers a chance to show their films and especially for the audiences to have a chance to see independent film. It's not just all about Hollywood and seeing the latest transformers movie. So working with the city of Phoenix, and raised a number of exciting collaborators within the community, with incorporations, the first year we were hoping 500 people would show up and we had 3,000. And we were a fledgling nonprofit, we didn't lose money, which was a big deal. I still remember when someone asked. when is next year's date? And we're like, OK, I guess we'll have a second year. 13 years later, last year we had 20,000 people plus.

Jose Cardenas: Tell us about this year's festival.

Chris Lamont: It starts April 4th, and a big Thursday opening night event. We've got a film from Sundance. And -- Which is great, called "spectacular now." We're the Arizona premier. Every film that shows is a world premier, U.S. premier, Arizona premier or valley premier. They'll generally be shown in theaters. And we have about 140 films we're showing. Short sometimes, feature films, narrative, animation, documentaries, foreign language films, like "Years Later."

Jose Cardenas: Where would people see them?

Chris Lamont: Everything takes place at the Harkins Scottsdale theater. We Daniel Ortega take over -- We take over six screens and we're running from in the morning until midnight, running film after film after film. It's a true cinema immersion experience. You can start in the morning and leave at midnight, and you've -- You truly are enjoying film. Everyone around you also is enjoying film. The people you're talking to in line, and eating, everyone there is just excited about independent cinema and making movies being made, and that's the great thing about the festival. If you've ever been to the festival, it's not just watching movies, we have the filmmakers coming, talking about their movies, doing question and answer sessions after the films are screened, and we have a big party pavilion A. couple storefronts down from the Harkins Scottsdale 101 theater and we've set up a big party. We've got stage, and lights, and acts, and it's another opportunity for people to come together in a big community and we call it the biggest film party in Arizona.

Jose Cardenas: One of the film producers you're going to have is the producer of "Years Later," it's a Mexican film. Tell us about it.

Chris Lamont: The director is coming out from Mexico, it's great, because the film has been provided to us by the Mexican consulate. They feel it's very important to have as many Mexican films as we can have here, especially because we're very close proximity to Mexico here in Arizona. So every year we have film that comes from Mexico. And so this year, "Years Later" is a very acclaimed film. Andres is a happy young man, he and his mother lived in Mexico for a long time, he never thought he had any other family, discovers he has a grandfather in Spain. And decides he must meet his grandfather and find out the heritage behind his family. So he abandons everything, including his girlfriend, and goes to Spain to find out what his life and his family is all about.

Jose Cardenas: This film is airing as I understand it, 4th and 5th?

Chris Lamont: It's 5th and 6th, Friday night and Saturday, Laura will come on Friday.

Jose Cardenas: You talked about the importance of the collaboration with Mexico, the Mexican consulate. The Mexican film industry there, which back in the 's, was one of the world's top film industries, which in the 40s and 50s was at the top and kind of went into decline, seems to be reemerging with some of the top producers in the world coming from Mexico.

Chris Lamont: Yeah. Guillermo del toro is probably the biggest example of filmmaker that is making Hollywood films. Started as a small independent horror film maker in Mexico and a number of Latino and Mexican filmmakers are making strides in our -- In the studio system, which is in the past has been unheard of. It's important to have all kinds of diversity in cinema, and it's great that Mexico really is taking advantage of what I call the former digital divide. When you made film, you had to buy film and expose it and 35 and 60 millimeter, and the cost was ridiculous. Not everyone could tell a story with a camera. And times have changed. That's one of the reasons why you're seeing everyone has the opportunity to tell a story, because the cameras are next to nothing, you can edit on your laptop, and the films that we're showing at the film festival, that's what a lot of people have done. Kick starter campaigns, where they've gone out and tried to get crowd funding to make their movies. And really independent cinema, film itself is such a cultural touch stone, it's so important to our lives today. Media is everywhere. When you can watch YouTube on your cell phone. We're hoping that the YouTube filmmakers of today are actual filmmakers of tomorrow. It's not just cats playing pianos.

Jose Cardenas: We talked about this film from Mexico, as I understand it you've got another film that might be of particular interest to the Latino community.

Chris Lamont: This is fun, it's called Los Wild Ones, it's about an Irish record producer in Los Angeles, but his stable is Latino rock and rollers. All they do is perform songs from the 50's. Like Ritchie VALENS. He's still kind of stuck in that 50s mentality, so he's got all of his Latino acts, and they're starting to lose traction in this world of iTunes, and music videos and so the whole story is about him trying to figure out that he needs to change with the times, or else he and everyone else are not going to be able to survive. So it's fun, there's great music as well, so I think a lot of people will enjoy as well.

Jose Cardenas: In terms of outreach to the Latino community, I know the Mexican consulate was helping you promote the movies that come from Mexico, any other things you're doing to spread the word?

Chris Lamont: We have tremendous outreach to a number of different places. Every year they come out and look at what we're doing, they always are excited about the kind of films, because Frankly there isn't that many opportunities for these kind of films to be shown here in Arizona. Especially in the valley. The opportunities to be able to see small films like this, personal films, from Mexico and other countries, just -- You've got the Harkins theaters, the film bar, but they don't -- They can't make a significant impact like this festival can, which 300 people will come and see this film every time it shows for the two times it shows. That's 600 people who will walk away and say, we saw this great film that hopefully will show up in Phoenix at some point in the future. Maybe on DVD or on video on demand or something like that, but that's the neat thing, that it's sort of this -- Everyone takes ownership. Everybody wants to see these voices, these stories being told, and it's great that from all different areas of the valley, everyone wants to say, how artistic people can be and how as a community we can grow artistically. That's what film is about. I always say there's a difference between film and movies. Movies are "The Dark Knight." The film tells stories, and engages people. And that's what we celebrate at the Phoenix Film Festival.

Jose Cardenas: It sounds like it's going to be a great event. Chris Lamont, thank you for joining on us "Horizonte" to talk about it.

Chris Lamont: Thank you.

Chris Lamont:Founder and President, Phoenix Film Festival;

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