The 2005 Santa Fe Film Festival opened this week with Stephen Frears' "Mrs. Henderson Presents" with Judi Dench, ushering in the event which is screening 200 films from nearly 40 countries. Dench plays a plucky British widow in the feature who keeps alive a legendary London music hall during the height of the World War II blitzkrieg.
Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain," starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal will screen as the fest's centerpiece gala. Set in Wyoming, the film is the story of two ranch hands who meet by chance and, to their chagrin, fall in love. The film's screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana will be recipients of the festival's Luminaria awards. Also receiving honors at SFFF this year is Russian filmmaker Pavel Chukhray, whose 1997 drama "The Thief" received an Oscar nomination as best foreign-language picture. Producer/director/actor L.M. Kit Carson ("The American Dreamer") will also take a Luminaria in honor of his work.
Other guests include Kazakh filmmaker Sergei Aprymov who will introduce his film "The Hunter," in a program organized with National Geographic's "All Roads Film Project," recognizing indigenous filmmakers from across the world. Special gala presentations are also slated for Steven Soderbergh's high-definition thriller "Bubble," as well as Roger Donaldson's biopic "The World's Fastest Indian" starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Alan Berger's gritty Los Angeles cop saga "Halfway Decent" with actor Ernie Hudson in attendance. Also screening are international titles being showcased in cooperation with Spain's Instituto Cervantes.
The five-day festival closes Sunday, December 11 with Tommy Lee Jones' borderland tale of justice and revenge, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," which received accolades earlier this year for both Jones and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga at the Cannes Film Festival.
"The quality of submissions was very high this year," commented Santa Fe Film Festival executive deputy director Stephen Rubin in a statement. "Considerably stronger than in past years. We had a terrific challenge deciding which films to turn down and which films to program in order to create the strongest slate."
[For more information please visit the festival website.]