By Sarah Meyer, PNT Staff Writer
The inaugural High Plains Film Festival at Eastern New Mexico University focused on the power of film.
The first half of Sunday’s event featured a screening of “King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis.”
The 1970 black-and-white film showed its age with some grainy sections and some distorted sound, but Martin Luther King Jr.’s message came through loud and clear.
In his introduction of the film, Oscar Robinson, former human resources director at ENMU, said that he lived during King’s time and understood him clearly.
“Being a Christian myself, I began to put the puzzle together,” Robinson said. “All of (God’s) children needed to be treated fairly. He picked Martin to be another prophet.”
Jack Sholder, now a movie director, served as a judge for the film festival. He worked as an assistant editor on the King documentary. He described the making of the film, which traces King’s leadership from 1955 through his funeral following his assassination in 1968.
“What’s important are the incredible words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Sholder said. He described King as “the moral leader of our country,” and said, “That’s what America needs now.”
The clarity of King’s call for civil rights for black people and his message of non-violence come through loud and clear, as does the tumultuous and often violent time of the civil rights movement of the late 1950s through the 1960s.
“He was the greatest speaker I ever heard,” Sholder said following the film.
Introducing the contest portion of the festival, Sholder said a great documentary has to have a good story, has to be well told, make an emotional connection with the audience and reveal something about the human condition.
“When making a film, you have to be very, very tenacious,” he said. “You can never settle for good enough.”
The winning films showed those qualities.
Adam Hewett of Portales won first place for animation. “The Neutrals” featured a couple of personified cats, one of whom decides he has to have “Happy Cream.” He gets it, after a fight at the store, and when he puts it on, he melts. Then the film transitions to a Klonmachine creating mice who drive tanks.
Hewett said he was surprised to win. He said he’s done lots of comics but this was his first try at animation.
Hannah Sommer, 15, a home-schooled student from Portales, won first place in the pre-college category with “The Treasure Hunt.”
The film features her costumed siblings on a treasure hunt in a field.
She said she has been interested in film “since I was little.” Recently, she’s been able to start making films with the aid of a new computer.
“Brothers and sisters make good cast members,” said her mother, Janine Sommer.
Paul Hunton, an ENMU graduate with a degree in broadcast production, said he was inspired to make “The Fountain” after reading an article about Mother Teresa when she died. She said for the second half of her life, she felt absolute silence from God.
In Hunton’s film, a homeless boy enjoys having his father read him the story of “The Fountain,” which says that right next to heaven there’s a garden with the fountain of life. After the boy’s father abandons him, the boy finds a fountain.
“It’s about how hope and faith are met with silence,” said Hunton.
He’s been working in film for a few years, he said, but is employed at C&S.
“I can’t wait till next year,” he said.
He and Jarrod Doerr own Stupid Lefty Productions. Doerr worked as director of photography on the film.
Winners of the High Plains Film Festival each received a plaque and $500. Honorable mentions received a plaque and $100.
Honorable mention: “Simple” by Alex Kastelic and Tobias Archuleta of Bosque Farms
Honorable mention: “Someone Worth Killing” by Wesley Martin, Wade Martin and Sam Cantwell of Portales
Winner: “The Treasure Hunt” by Hannah Sommer of Portales
Honorable mention: “Loose Change” by Johnny Story of Canyon, Texas
Winner: “The Neutrals” by Adam Hewett of Portales
Honorable mention: “Black Skin, White Heart” by Jose Inclan of Springville, Utah
Winner: “88042” by Erin Hudson of Santa Fe
Winner: “The Fountain” by Paul Hunton of Portales (All judges ranked this film as number one in the category.)