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The sixth annual Santa Fe Film Festival’s bowed

The sixth annual Santa Fe Film Festival’s bowed this year with new partnerships, a new focus on international screenings with a decidedly American film as its centerpiece gala. 220 films screened out of 900 submissions from nearly 40 nations, including this years “Best of Fest” Award winner “The Syrian Bride,” by Eran Riklis.

The five-day festival ran from Dec. 7-11, presenting films in 11 different venues and attracting 6,000-plus patrons.
The festival partnered this year with the National Geographic “All Roads Film Project,” an initiative supporting films by and about indigenous and minority cultures around the world. Two films were showcased from the project; "The Hunter" by Kazakhstan filmmaker Serik Aprymov; and "5th World" by Blackhorse Lowe, a Navajo filmmaker from Arizona. Previous cities for the project were Los Angeles and Washington D.C., Canada and New Zealand. Plans call for a major expansion of All Roads' Santa Fe presence in 2006.
The Documentary Channel, a satellite network launching in January, will air doc’s drawn from the Santa Fe Film Festival program (as well as years past) slate as well as a documentary on the festival airing in 2006.
The Israeli-made feature “The Syrian Bride,” snagged the Best of the Fest Award. Directed by Eran Riklis, offers insights into the clash of cultures in the checkerboard Golan Heights bordering Israel and Syria . Clara Khoury plays a Druze woman from the disputed territory facing separation from her family if she agrees to an arranged marriage with a Syrian television star.
The festival also bestowed “Luminaria Awards” for lifetime achievement upon screenwriting collaborators Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry (“Brokeback Mountain”), Russian filmmaker Pavel Chukhraj (Oscar nominated in 1998 for “The Thief”), Mississippi-based music documentarian Robert Mugge, and L.M. Kit Carson, producer of “Bottle Rocket,” and screenwriter of “Paris, Texas.”
The Milagro for Independent Spirit went to Arthur Allan Seidelman's “The Sisters,” a contemporary adaptation of Anton Chekhov's “Three Sisters” starring Maria Bello, Mary Stuart Masterson, Chris O'Donnell and Rip Torn.
Mich è le Oyahon's “Cowboy Del Amor” took home the Milagro for Best Documentary.
Writer-director Dylan McCormick collected Santa Fe 's Audience Award for “Four Lane Highway.”
Serik Aprymov, a towering figure in the Kazakh New Wave, received a cash prize of $5,000 along with the Milagro for Best Indigenous Film for “The Hunter.” It's the story of a hunter on the vast steppes of Asia who becomes mentor to a young boy as a debt of gratitude owed to the boy's mother. National Geographic’s All Roads Film Project and the Santa Fe Film Festival jointly sponsored the prize.
Other Milagro award winners:
• Youssef Delara's “English as a Second Language,” for Best Latino Film.
• Monty Lapica's “Self Medicated,” for Best of the Southwest.
• Laura Richard's “Breached,” for Best Short.
• A.G. Vermouth's “Balloonhat,” for Best Creative Spirit.
• Stephen Rose's “Souvenir,” for Best Animation.
Organizers anchored the festival with Ang Lee's “Brokeback Mountain,” as the centerpiece gala, opening with Stephen Frears' “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” closing with Tommy Lee Jones' “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” and reserving keynote slots for Roger Donaldson's “The World’s Fastest Indian,” and Steven Soderbergh's “Bubble.”
Special guests included character actor Ernie Hudson, seizing upon a rare opportunity to assay a lead role in “Halfway Decent,” and Mark and Michael Polish, the indie wunderkinds behind “Twin Falls, Idaho/” Ali MacGraw, Wes Studi and Valentin DeVargas served as celebrity presenters for the awards ceremony, sharing the spotlight with screenwriters Danny Rubin and Kirk Ellis.
Gene Grant

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