Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Desert Light Film Festival honors New Mexican youth filmmakers

A young woman is walking around a neighborhood taking pictures. She stops at a culvert and sees what appears to be a body bag.

When she bends down to investigate, she is snatched away.

Thus begins the 2022 Best of Festival Desert Light Film Festival winner “Body Bag” by Jair Garcia of Organ Mountain High School in Las Cruces.

“I’ve had a mentality to win for a really long time,” Garcia said. “It’s finally come true, I can’t believe it. I saw people come up here and win these kinds of awards and I’m like, ‘One day. One day I’m going to be up there.’ And today’s that day.”

“Body Bag” is a short film about a serial killer. Garcia got the idea from watching suspense films, he said.

Winner of the 2022 Best of Festival award at the 2022 Desert Light Film Festival Jair Garcia, third from left, holds up a poster for his film

“I wanted to explore different genres and it’s something I haven’t done before was a suspense film and I love them,” Garcia said. “I love how they captivate the audience… I wanted to share that feeling with others through my film.”

The Desert Light Film Festival awards middle school and high school filmmakers in New Mexico for their work.

Garcia won the grand prize, a $1,000 scholarship to New Mexico State University or to any NMSU satellite campus.

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There were more than 140 entries in the 2022 Desert Light Film Festival and a total of 23 awards including Best of Festival.

Awards were given out for animation, tourism advertisement, music video, drama/comedy, documentary, experimental and best of festival.

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Awards were also presented for honorable mention and first place in the middle school and high school divisions.

The top nominees were screened prior to an awards ceremony at the Flickinger Center for Performing Arts in Alamogordo.

“(The festival) is designed just for New Mexico students and so any student in middle school or high school is encouraged to be part of this,” Desert Light Film Festival Director Joan Griggs said.

Entries were mostly from Alamogordo and Las Cruces. These included middle school experimental films from Vanessa Dabovich’s class.

Dabovich teaches eighth grade at the Sierra Middle School Film and Broadcast Magnet in Las Cruces.

Her student’s films ranged from explorations of mental illness in surrealistic short films in the experimental category, documentaries about a local restaurant to a music video about an LGBTQ+ youth’s personal journey.

The audience reacts to a film during the Desert Light Film Festival April 29, 2022. The 2022 Desert Light Film Festival is a student film festival that was held April 29, 2022 in Alamogordo.

Since the films were made during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of them dealt with sensitive subjects and were, as Dabovich put it, “darker” than previously year’s entries.

“We really get into the surrealism with the experimental film, and I find that, for some reason, this age group, in middle school, they really tap into that without a lot of hesitancy,” Dabovich said. “It was really interesting to see this year, post-pandemic how a lot of those things are little bit darker than usual. Not quite as light and airy. They were a bit more serious. It was interesting to see that.”

Student filmmakers enjoying an afternoon at White Sands National Park following the screening and awards ceremony at the 2022 Desert Light Film Festival April 29, 2022 in Alamogordo.  The Desert Light Film Festival honors New Mexican middle school and high school films.

The festival included seminars and a keynote speaker in Kevin Bar of the Netflix hub in Albuquerque. Bar told the students about his journey as a filmmaker.

The seminars and keynote were done at New Mexico State University-Alamogordo.

After the screening and awards ceremony, student filmmakers went to White Sands National Park for an on-location film shoot.

This year’s film festival finalists can be seen on the Desert Light Film Festival YouTube channel.

The Desert Light Film Festival was sponsored by the City of Alamogordo, the Flickinger Center for Performing Arts, New Mexico State University-Alamogordo, Optimist International, TDS Telecom and Otero County.

Nicole Maxwell can be contacted by email at [email protected], by phone at 575-415-6605 or on Twitter at @nicmaxreporter. If you have questions about your subscription, please contact Customer Service at [email protected] or call 1-877-301-0013.

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