Fiery Festival celebrates sixth year

By Gabriel Monte: Freedom New Mexico

Cedrick Rael stood outside the Lyceum Theater Saturday and watched independent filmmakers and enthusiasts sharing ideas about movies.

This is the best part of a film festival for him, said Rael, who founded the Fiery Film Festival six years ago.

More than 100 people filed into the Lyceum Saturday for this year’s Fiery Film Fest, which screened about 30 domestic and international independent films.

This year’s attendance doubles last year’s figures, Rael said. Last year’s Fest ran into competition for audiences against other events and bad weather as well, he said.

A five-person panel, including actor Keith Hamilton Cobbs, who played Damon Porter on “The Young and the Restless,” judged the films. The best overall film received a $500 prize.

The Fest started Friday with a showcase of 10 films, two of which were entries in Saturday’s competition.

Rael said the Fest’s popularity has garnered more entries from abroad this year. About nine films came from France, Spain, Brazil and Germany.

Rael attributes the film festival’s recognition to vigorous campaigning on Internet forums and in film magazines.

“Sticking around for six years makes them think you’re legit,” he said.

Rael said he hopes the Fest will feature more local entries. He taught a seminar Saturday morning about making and distributing independent films.

“There’s a lot of talent in this town that hasn’t been tapped yet,” he said. “I’m all about promoting local talent.”

Approximately five short films came from New Mexico, including Rael’s own film, “His Eyes, My Eyes,” which was shot in Clovis and stars Clovis natives Ashley Southard, a Clovis High School senior, and Caleb Brandon.

Clovis filmmaker Payton Ware has competed in the Fest since 2003. His second entry in this year’s Fest titled, “Lit Up,” was shot in Clovis.

“I think it’s neat to have something here that showcases independent films,” said Ware, who has entered the Flatlands Film Festival in Lubbock, the Santa Monica Film Festival and online film festivals. “But I’d really like to see more support … It’s definitely something that can grow into a major event.”

Jared Lamp, an aspiring filmmaker, said he would definitely enter the film fest next year. He said he will be making a short film in November.

“For being in the region we are, it’s a great effort, it’s had a great range of films,” he said. “It’s been very eclectic with the international and local films.”