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Film center offers off-beat movies

What many may not know about are the films offered by the Southwest Film Center, an agency of the Associated Students of UNM which brings relevant and diverse films, both old and new, to UNM for students to experience.

Luis Gómez, executive director of the SWFC, said the theater offers less mainstream films for the less mainstream movie enthusiast.

“We have a really diverse campus, so not everyone is going to go for the traditional types of entertainment,” Gómez said. “The SWFC offers that to the alternative crowd — people who are seeking something a little bit different, and want to experience something that isn’t ordinarily shown all over town.”

Not wanting to settle for simple screenings, the SWFC strives to make movie showings interactive events that are educational, entertaining and oftentimes both.

Gómez said that in the past, the SWFC has teamed up with the Anime Club for a cosplay contest during a screening of the Miazaki film “Howl’s Moving Castle”, in which 90 cosplayers participated. For “Up Heartbreak Hill”, which was filmed in New Mexico, the center invited the filmmaker to speak about the challenges of being a Navajo in today’s world.

This semester, Gómez said that the SWFC is partnering with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance to bring a large and highly regarded event to UNM — the Telluride Mountain Film Festival.

“It’s a really big film festival that travels all around the world, including Antarctica,” Gómez said. “We’re going to be only one of two venues in New Mexico to show that.”

According to the SWFC’s webpage, the Telluride Mountain Film Festival is “America’s premier festival celebrating achievement in adventure and activism, culture and environment.” The festival will be at UNM on Feb. 13-14.

“We tend to think of different issues that are going on and what are the most pertinent issues at UNM,” Gómez said, “so that we can pick a few movies that land in that category.”

Gómez explained that after staff members pick what movies they’d like to show, the next step is to go online and find who the distributor is for each individual movie. They then contact that distributor to decide on a price for showing the movie, as well as in what format.

“A lot of them, when they find out we’re a university and that we’re student-run, they’ll give us a good deal right away,” he said. “Some of them take a little more convincing, but I’ve never run into any issues.”

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Renee Rivera, the assistant director at the SWFC, said that the center works with various student organizations on campus to promote certain films.

She said that she would like to team up with the LGBTQ Resource Center for the Feb. 5 through 8 screening of “Milk.” The film stars Sean Penn and is “the story of Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California’s first openly gay elected official,” according the SWFC’s webpage.

In addition, Rivera said the center would like to partner with UNMfood when the organization brings “Fed Up” to UNM on April 9 through 12. “Fed Up,” according the SWFC’s webpage, “uncovers America’s obesity epidemic and the food industry’s role in aggravating it.”

For the Telluride Mountain Film Festival, Gómez said the staff plans on going even bigger.

“We’re going to have a total of 16 different organizations throughout the weekend at UNM,” he said, “to speak about environmental issues and awareness.”

Other events for the semester include a silent film double-feature weekend, a screening of “Toy Story” for patients of the UNM Children’s Hospital, and a showing of “Jurassic Park”on Johnson Field to end the semester.

Gómez was hired as executive director of SWFC over the summer after being interviewed by ASUNM President Rachel Williams. He then chose and hired the rest of his staff, which includes Assistant Director Rivera, a marketing director, a theater manager, a concession worker, and two projectionists.

He said that while a passion for movies was important in choosing his staff, a dedication to serve the student body played an even bigger part.

“That’s the main thing we’re here to do,” Gómez said. “Yes, we run like a business and yes, we’re here for the movies, but it’s mostly for the students. Everything we do here should stem from the need of the student body.”

Gómez said that while newer and more popular movies might take priority to the types of films the SWFC screens, students shouldn’t hesitate to try watching a movie that they don’t know very much about.

“I think it’s good to expose themselves to this kind of stuff,” Gómez said. “They’d be surprised at what they can find here, there is something for everyone. Every movie showcases something different.”

Ticket prices for the SWFC are $3 for students, $4 for faculty and staff and $5 for the general public, according to their webpage. Students can also buy semester passes for $15, and the general public can get one for $20.

David Lynch is a staff reporter at The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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