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by Wolf Schneider (Inside Film Online)

La Ciudad, a black-and-white docudrama comprised of four fictional vignettes centering on Latino immigrants struggling to establish themselves in New York City, won the Land Grant Award at the Taos Talking Picture Festival after a heated jury debate. The movie, which took filmmaker David Riker six years to make, is tentatively slated for autumn release by New York-based Zeitgeist. Shot in a neo-realistic style reminiscent of the Great Depression era photography, it raised comparisons to that seminal Latino American film Salt of the Earth.

This festival, which gives away one of the best prizes on the film fest circuit--five acres of land atop Taos Mesa--is a curious mixture of cinema and commerce. A low-key event that draws mainly indie art films and regional press, it's become one of the most surprising launch successes of the Nineties. Attendance at this year's April 15-18, 1999 gathering was estimated at 10,000, up nearly 15 percent from 1998, with 120 films and videos screened, including 18 premieres.

As a senior editor at Movieline magazine, I was on the five-person jury for the Land Grant Award, along with Smoke Signals director Chris Eyre (who won the Land Grant last year, and just signed to direct Winona Ryder in the circus-life drama Roustabout for New Line), former Monkee and current film/TV producer Michael Nesmith, filmmaker Jeff Jackson of the Taos Land and Film Co., and filmmaker/programmer Ellen Osborne.

Other films with good audience buzz included the Silence of the Lambs-like thriller Oxygen, with a noteworthy performance by Adrien Brody as a psycho; the upbeat musical Swing; the sweeping through-the-ages art film The Red Violin; and On The Ropes, a Hoop Dreams-wannabe documentary for the boxing crowd. Gil Cope's pain angel won an award for best cinematography for a short film.

Acquisitions folks from Lion's Gate, Cinevision, and Atom Films showed up, so did Taos-based novelist John Nichols (The Milagro Beanfield War), and actress Maura Tierney (Primary Colors).


Five acres of land and $17,000 in production services at stake

The Taos Talking Picture Festival has announced the finalists for its two 1999 awards: the Land Grant Award, for feature-length films, and the Georges Melies Award, for short films. The Land Grant Award, one of the best-known prizes in the film world, comes with more than a trophy or certificate: the winner of this prize will become the owner of five acres of land on Taos Cerro Montoso (Mountain). A jury led by 1998 Land Grant winner Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) will choose from among the finalists, who are as follows:

  • David Riker for La Ciudad, four interwoven tales set in New York's Latin American community;
  • Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen for On the Ropes, a boxing documentary setin a rough neighborhood of Brooklyn;
  • Chuck Workman for The Source, a definitive history of the Beat movement;
  • Richard Shepard for Oxygen, a stylized thriller.

The Taos Land Grant Award is given each year to a singular filmmaker, one who demonstrates passion and inventiveness in using the moving image to tell our stories. Three filmmakers already have won land on Taos Mesa: Gary Walkow, for Notes From Underground; Constance Marks, for Green Chimneys; and Chris Eyre, for Smoke Signals. We hope to plant a total of 10 filmmakers in Taos' rich artistic soil, creating a community that supports and engenders high-quality cinema.

The George Melies Award is given to a production team in recognition of outstanding cinematography in short and medium-length works. The prize comes with a production package worth $17,000, with donations from Allied's New Independent Labs, Hollywood Rentals, Kodak and UltraSonic Digital. The winner will be chosen by a jury of film professionals.

The finalists include the following films:

My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples of in New York (director: Barbara Schock), a comedy about a highly imaginative Midwestern housewife and her East Village daughter;

The Water Ghost (director: Elizabeth Sung) depicts the mystical experience of a 14-year-old Chinese-American girl mourning the loss of her mother;

Herd (director: Mike Mitchell) demonstrates how the lonely life of a fry-cook is changed forever when he is visited by an almond-eyed visitor from another world. pain angel (director: Gil Cope) is the story of a young woman who is troubled by the memory of her mother;

The Offering (director: Paul Lee) centers on the evolution of love and friendship between a Japanese monk and the young novice who has come into his life.

For more information, contact Dancer Dearing, press officer, at 505-751-0637.

indieWIRE.COM DIGEST / FILM FESTIVAL / April 23, 1998

Taos Fest Fetes "Smoke Signals"

by Mark Rabinowitz

The Native American film community is going to take back America "five acres at a time," said actor Gary Farmer, as the film in which he starred, "Smoke Signals," won the Taos Land Grant Award at the conclusion of the 1998 Taos Talking Pictures Festival (TTPF). The award, consisting of five acres of land on the top of a mesa with a view of the Rio Grande Gorge, is to "recognize a talented, passionate and innovative filmmaker who uses his or her talents to tell powerful, socially relevant stories," according to a statement from the festival. "Smoke Signals" was directed by Chris Eyre, and written by Sherman Alexie from his book "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven." "Signals" also starred Tantoo Cardinale and Adam Beach.

indieWIRE spoke to TTPF Director of Programming Kelly Clement who indicated that he was "extremely happy with the way (the festival) went." He continued, adding, "We had a great group of films and the festival ran as smoothly as it has ever gone." While this is only the fourth year of the festival, Clement indicated that it was "getting easier" to put the event on.

The second award of the festival was the George Melies Cinematography Award for the film "Nude Decending, My House is on Fire," given to Riad Galayini. The award recognizes excellence in cinematography in shorts, and includes $10,000 worth of goods and services from Kodak, Allied's New Independent Labs and Hollywood Rentals.

The five acres of land is part of a large tract of land being bought by private individuals, and while the plots are rustic, to say the least, there are plans to develop the area. Besides "Smoke Signals," the other two finalists for the Land Grant Award were Clement Virgo for "The Planet of Junior Brown" and Juliane Glantz for "Wilbur Falls." <

Copyright 1996-8, iLINE Ltd./ Some portions copyright 1997-8, GlobalMedia Design. All Rights Reserved Trademark, Copyright and Disclaimer.

Taos Land & Film Company
Venice, California-based filmmaker Jeff Jackson has a very unusual way of financing his films-he buys and sells land in Taos, New Mexico, and uses the profits to fund his work. "Basically, I give investors an opportunity to be part of one of my films, but the security of the land serves as protection against the investment," he says. Jackson began with a square mile lot in the Rio Grande Gorge which he divvied up into lots and sold. "I loved the Gorge and figured people would want to buy lots," he says, and they did. Wlth the funds, Jackson made Death and Taxes, a featurelength documentary. Lest anyone think Jackson is an odious developer, it's important to note that he has a vision of making Taos a home for filmmakers. With this in mind, Jackson donated five acres as a prize to the Taos Talking Pictures Festival. The prize, which he plans to continue giving, recognizes innovation and was awarded at this year's festival to Gary Walkow for Notes From Underground. "I visualize planting the filmmaker in the soil of Taos," claims Jackson, who is currently raising funds for his next feature. Page 74


The Taos Talking Picture Festival HAS MADE an effort in its second year to literally build an independent filmmakers' community in New Mexico. The festival's top prize is five acres of land on the Taos Mesa. Gary Alan Walkow (Notes from Underground), won the award during the festival, which occurred on April 18-21. The prize, the first of 10 five-acre plots to be awarded over the next 10 years of the festival, was donated by independent filmmaker Jeff Jackson. The two other finalists were Bruce Sweeney for Live Bait, and Mark Rappaport for From the Journals of Jean Seberg.

The idea for the Land Grant came during one of Jackson's getaway trips to Taos, after he used profits from selling land in Taos to fund his feature-length documentary Death & Taxes.. After conferring with Josh Bryant, one of the producers of the festival, Jackson decided to award the yearly grant in order to "create a little filmmakers' colony." Jackson says the "long tradition of artists in Taos" make it a great place to get away and write, or a great place to shoot. Jackson also wanted to help the new fest, now in its second year, "to grow and give it stature internationally." Jackson hopes the land will also help the town economically.

The land is estimated at $25,000, says Jackson, but the festival will ask the winner to not sell the land for at least five years, in order to give Taos a try as a place to live. Page 15 THE INDEPENDENT / June 1996

The New York Times Magazine

SUNDAY February 25, 1996
The Taos Land Grab

Every town worth its picture postcard seems to be promoting a film festival, but the Taos Talking Picture Festival in April has come up with a lure that separates it from the scenic crowd: first prize is five acres of New Mexico real estate.

The land is being supplied by Jeffrey Jackson, a festival sponsor, film maker and, not incidentally, land developer who dreams of creating a studio in Taos surrounded by "radical, risk-taking and innovative" movie folks. To help that neighborhood along, he plans on bestowing sites annually, all of them sitting on a 3,200-acre plot that he owns.

"Land development is often thought of as controversial," says Jackson, who lives in Los Angeles when he's not in Taos, "so I wanted to set up a company that brings in a new, healthy industry."

The Hollywood Reporter

Thursday December 20, 1996

Sans mule: Five acres of land in Taos, N.M. is the prize being of offered by the Third Taos Talking Picture Festival, April 1013. The festival, which showcases American independent and international film fare, bestows the acreage on the winner of its Innovation Award, which goes to the most impressive film "outside the boundaries of traditional moviemaking." Last year's land grant given by the Taos Land and Film Co. and situated near the Grande Gorge-went to Gary Walkow, who directed "Notes From Underground," an adaptation of Dostoevski's novella. Entries must be submitted by Jan. 30.

Details: Taos Talking Picture Festival


Writer-director Gary Walkow's "Notes From Underground" won him one of the film fest circuit's most unique prizes in recent years: five acres of land in New Mexico.

Now the winner of the Taos Talking Pictures Festival is wondering what to do with the property.

"It's interesting how the jokes have changed," Walkow says. "I say that I want to start a film commune, but instead people are saying I can start my own militia."

Walkow does plan to build a house on the property, located on the Taos Mesa near the Rio Grande Gorge.

"Now I am motivated," he says. "I can build a Kaczynski cabin. It shouldn't take much."

Seriously, he may wait to break ground until he sees a few projects further along. He's writing, along with Steve and Cindy Vance, the script to a new movie for Twentierth Television called "Recall." The telepic is about a man whose life begins to fall apart, and he blames it on aliens. Walkow also is working on "Snake Eyes," and indie feature-videogame produced by American Zoetrope and Electronic Arts. -Ted Johnson

TUESDAY April 15, 1997

3rd Taos fest wraps; Marks wins acreage

TAOS, N.M. -- The third edition of the Taos Talking Picture Festival unspooled April 10-13 in this rustic Western town, with increased international and industry presence giving an added dimension to an already well-run and audience-friendly event.

Although not a competitive fest per se, it does present several prizes, most notably the Innovation Award, aptly named in that the winner receives five acres of land on the nearby Taos Mesa. Taking the award was producer-director Constance Marks' docu "Green Chimneys," about an adventurous program for treating abandoned and abused children by creating bonds for them with animals.

The MovieMaker Breakthrough Award went to Charles Weinstein for his study of a Brooklynorphan boy in "Under The Bridge." The Howard Hawks Storytelling Award was given to director Philip Kaufman, whose 1974 adventure drama "The White Dawn" was shown in a newly struck print. Brazilian helmer Carlos Diegues was unable to attend to receive the Cineaste Award, which was accepted for him by Edward James Olmos. Canadian Filmmaker Alanis Obomsowin was honore with the Taos Mountain Award for her docu "Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance."

Among the notable premieres wer John Hyams' debut feature, the quirky, vibrant, black-and-white New York indie "One Dog Day." Fest presented a media forum, numerous Native American programs, programs devoted to the 50th anni of the Hollywood Blacklist and a seminar on independent cinema that included reps from most of the significant indies distribs.

Sheila Benson was a judge on the jury for the 1997 Innovation Award (Land Grant Prize).


"Constance Marks' GREEN CHIMNEYS follows four youngsters from abusive or neglectful families, rescued (although not, alas, all of them) through the tireless and impassioned staff of the Green Chimneys farm/rehabilitation facility in Brewster, New York, where the kids work one on one with animals.
Unsentimental, deeply affecting, masterfully shot - much of it from a slightly low
angle, which reinforces its intimacy with the kids - this was the winner of the
coveted 5 acres in Taos, the "innovation" award.
The land donor, maverick filmmaker/land developer Jeff Jackson, said as he
presented the stunned Marks her award that "innovation can also mean
something simpler and more profound than technical experimentation or artistry.
It can also be film that has the potential to affect and change our society, by
illuminating important issues to the public."
Accepting nearly tearfully, Marks brought her cameraman, James Miller, onstage, saying that there were days, among the 200 hours of shooting, as Miller worked in small cramped spaces, when he had to come out for her to wipe away his tears so that he could continue. And - she announced that the two of them are now engaged. One can only hope that GREEN CHIMNEYS, which got ecstatic reviews during its debut at Sundance also finds its way - like NOBODY'S BUSINESS -- to the largest audience possible."

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