Series organizers considering changes to times, frequency of offerings

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FARMINGTON — A film that weaves the story of a family mystery around the history of the music that helped unite Native American communities will be featured this weekend as the Farmington Cinematheque Series continues at San Juan College.

The 2014 documentary “This May Be the Last Time” chronicles Seminole/Creek director and Oklahoma native Sterlin Harjo’s exploration of his grandfather’s disappearance and death in 1962, and how the traditional music of his people helped sustain his family. The director then takes the project a step further and investigates the stories behind those songs, a journey that covers the South and Southwest, as well as the Scottish Highlands.

The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and drew critical acclaim. Christopher Schipper, director of library services at the college and one of the organizers of the Cinematheque series, said the film was chosen because of its likely appeal to the local Native community and because Native American Heritage Month begins on Nov. 1.

The screening will help kick off a new season of Cinematheque films, the art-house film series organized by Schipper and Linann Easley, director of Henderson Fine Arts and public events at SJC. Several more films are scheduled for this fall, each of them an independent documentary or feature film that few local residents have had the opportunity to see.

Next up is “What We Do in the Shadows,” a 2014 American-New Zealand mockumentary that will be shown on Halloween. Schipper described it as “a marvelous bit of Kiwi humor” and said it chronicles how a group of vampires living together in a house in New Zealand adapt to the difficulties of modern life.

“For fans of British humor, I think they’ll appreciate this film,” he said. “It’s absolutely hilarious.”

Schipper said he was lucky enough to catch a screening of the film last winter at an art house theater in Santa Fe.

“I was determined to host a screening of it here,” he said, describing his reaction when he saw it.

The series usually presents only one film a month, but the chance to show “What We Do in the Shadows” on Halloween, two weeks after “This May Be the Last Time,” was too good to pass up, Schipper said.

If all goes well, those more-frequent screenings could become institutionalized, he said.

“Something we’re looking at is the possibility of screening more than one film a month,” he said. “We’re still wrapping our heads around (that idea).”

That possibility has led Schipper and Easley to examine all aspects of the series, including the start times and days for the films, as well as who actually attends the screenings and what kinds of films they seem drawn to.

“Documentaries are easily the most popular with our crowds,” he said.

Schipper said the possibility exists that the starting times for the films will be moved up in an attempt to accommodate the series’ on-campus fans.

“Because we’re a commuter campus, we’re not certain if a lot of people want to come back to campus” in the evening to watch a film, he said, explaining that if people are already on campus all day, the idea of making a trip back after they leave and have dinner can be unappealing.

Schipper said it’s also difficult to make the series’ selections timely when they’re only being shown once a month.

“It’s difficult to build a calendar as far out as we did a year ago when we’re striving to bring films that are fresh and new,” he said. “Scheduling 12 or 13 months ahead makes that process a little more challenging.”

Schipper said he and Easley would love to have the flexibility to slot in a new film that seems interesting and viable.

The series will continue on Saturday, Nov. 21 with a showing of “An Honest Liar.” The documentary focuses on James “The Amazing” Randi, a magician and escape artist who is dedicated to exposing fraudulent psychics, faith healers and con artists. Ultimately, Schipper said, Randi becomes embroiled in a controversy of his own, raising the question of whether he is the deceiver or the deceived.

Because of the holidays, no film is scheduled for December, but in January, “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter” will be shown. The 2014 American feature film focuses on a Tokyo office worker who becomes obsessed with the Coen brothers film “Fargo,” particularly a scene about a satchel full of cash that is buried in the snow somewhere in North Dakota or Minnesota. Convinced that the money really exists, she heads off in search of it.

“If you’ve seen the film ‘Fargo,’ it adds yet another layer of fun and enjoyment to it,” Schipper said.

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If You Go

What: The Farmington Cinematheque Series screening of “This May Be the Last Time”

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17

Where: The Little Theatre on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington

Admission: $5

For more information: Call 505-566-3430

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