Political lessons & life lessons from a weekend at the Santa Fe International Film Festival

Roxanne thought I was nuts, we hadn’t been inside a theater in 3 years, but I was thirsting to get out of my head and have a 4 day hiatus from writing blogs, recording radio shows, and organizing Zoominars and so i got tickets for 11 films, Roxanne got 5, a more sane commitment. The films were uniformly excellent with each one containing unique, non-commercial or Hollywood messages, powerful performances and socially relevent themes. I will share today my reactions to these films after presenting an important action related to Sen. Candelaria’s brazen effort to pick his replacement and a reminder about our Publc Banking Zoominar.

First: A Reminder About Wednesday’s Zoom

We have been advocating to create a public bank in NM since the efforts to establish a public bank in Santa Fe. It has been an especially challenging struggle to get city leadership and NM Legislators to grasp how a public bank differs from other investment instruments and the almost magical power a public bank has to generate investment capital and amplify the power of local, community bank and state investments. With a huge surplus coming, this is the time to make an investment in diversifying our economy, strengthening our rural economies, and repairing the damage resulting from this summer’s fire storms.–all goals which a state public bank could make far easier to achieve.

Join Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity (AFLEP) Executive Director Angela Merkert and AFLEP’s Public Bank Campaign Director and retired banker, Harold Dixon, who will outline precisely how a state public bank would collaboratewith not compete with community banks and how it can use state deposits to generate capital for investment in NM entrepreneurs, small business owners, farmers and ranchers who have good ideas for things that could happen with just a bit of capital. Things like expanded regenerative farming operations, and processing facilities to turn NM crops into sauces, salsas, and polenta. NM exports 90% of its farm and ranch products and imports 90% of the food we eat. There is an opportunity there. And there are dozens more opportunities missed for lack of capital.

Joining Angela and Harold, will be Helga Garcia, Chair of the NM Food & Agriculture Policy Council and a rancher who will describe how lack of access to capital impedes their business development in rural NM and how a state public bank its targeted investment could increase food security throughout NM. In the Zoominar, we also will explore how the public bank could serve as an important catalyst for recovery from the summer’s firestorms and the storms to come.

But these possibilities will only be realized if we can convince enough legislators to vote to create the state public bank. So, also joining the panel will be Rep. Christine Trujillo and Sen. Carrie Hamblin who will lay out what the legislative challenges will be and how you can help overcome them and get this done. Wall Street bankers have already begun their disinformation campaign, sowing seeds of fear and doubt among legislators and the public. Retake peeps must get fully informed and ready to counter their disinformation. Join us to find out more about how a public bank would benefit New Mexicans and what you can do to support the effort.

If we pass this legislation, every year thereafter, we will read reports of inspirations realized and NM communities strengthened. Please join us to explore all the things we could do…together.

Click here to register, you must register to attend.

Candelaria Resigns Early in a shameless Effort to Pick His Replacement


Senator Jacob Candelaria is quitting. He’s not finishing out the 4-year term he was elected to serve. He switched from a Democrat to an Independent because, in truth, his boorish behavior caused him to lose his committee memberships and any remaining power he had in the Roundhouse. His last known allies were the Senate Republicans, with whom he joined forces to sue Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

For months, Candelaria has said numerous times that he would resign his office on December 31. But all of a sudden last week, he announced he was quitting immediately, just days before the November 8 election. Why the change of plans, Jacob?

The only reason for this rush to resign is to allow disgraced Senator Jacob Candelaria to choose his hand-picked successor, Rep. Moe Maestas.

The Election

Jacob and Moe have become increasingly nervous that Democrat Eric Olivas will win District 5, a narrow swing seat now held by Charlene Pyskoty. If Olivas wins, they know Moe’s chances of being appointed drop considerably because Jacob and Moe are counting on Charlene Pyskoty’s vote for the appointment. Pyskoty received significant—and late—financial help in her failed primary against Olivas from Moe’s wife, well-known Santolina and corporate lobbyist Vanessa Alarid.But after the election, she loses her seat and if Olivas wins that seat, Moe loses a key vote. 

So instead of allowing the new County Commission—who will be elected in just two weeks—to make this appointment that will last for two years, Jacob and Moe are maneuvering to force a vote now.

Remember, there are no legal or practical reasons the County Commission needs to appoint anyone to the Senate now. It doesn’t meet until January. The only reason to do it now is to give the seat to Candelaria’s hand-picked successor, Moe Maestas. 

Action Needed

Bernalillo County Commission President Adriann Barboa sets the date for this decision. The right thing to do is to let the new County Commission make this appointment, as the new Commissioners are the ones who will have to work with the newly-appointed Senator for at least the next two years. The voters are about to choose the next County Commission. Let’s let the voters speak first, rather than have the appointment orchestrated by Jacob and Moe. 

You can write to the Commissioners at the email addresses below:

The message is simple:

Jacob Candelaria should not be able to apppoint his replacement. The newly elected Commission that will be working with the new Senator for the at least the next two years should appoint that person when the new Commission first convenes, after the election. Please schedule this important vote to occur after the new Commission is seated. It is the right thing to do.

The Santa Fe International Film Festival: A Tour de Force of Life Lessons and Inspiration.

As noted in the blog intro, I viewed 11 films in four days, thinking a few days at the movies would be a great respite from from advocacy and thinking about politics and legislation. It didn’t quite turn out that way, as most all of the films turned out to be socially and/or politically relevent and deeply human and personal, affording a kind of learning or understanding that reached you in the gut more than the head. I share my reaction to five brilliant films as there are lessons in each.

A true story, CALL JANE follows Joy, a suburban ‘60s housewife. When Joy’s pregnancy leads to a life-threatening heart condition, she must navigate an all-male medical establishment unwilling to terminate her pregnancy in order to save her life. Her journey for a solution leads her to join forces with an independent visionary and a women’s activist, putting every aspect of her life on the line. Putting every aspect of her life on the line is literally true, as Joy and a dozen mostly white suburuban housewives, risk life in prison and murder charges to organize a safe, but highly illegal abortion clinic. The film captured rich discussions among the women fleshing out how the clinic can continue to operate, how funds will be generated and how potential patients were prioritized. To say this was a moving film is a gross understatement. Seeing vividly what women seeking abortions face in a state where abortions are illegal was so much more powerful than any essay or assembly of statistics. And seeing the heroism of the women operating the clinic was inspiring. It shows what humans can do if they get out of their comfort zones and let their commitment to justice guide them to do what needs to be done, not what they are more comfortable doing. Great, harrowing film that will be available to stream beginning Oct. 27. It is almost impossible to believe that this is a true story, but it certainly is. Remarkable and worth seeking out streaming options. Click here to locate the platform offering the stream.

Women Talking. Based on the best-selling novel by Miriam Toews, Women Talking follows a group of women in an isolated religious colony as they struggle to reconcile their faith with a pattern of ongoing sexual assaults and physical violence committed by the colony’s men. Most of the film is comprised of conversations among women who are not given voice in their community and who are routinely subject to sexual abuse, rape and assault. What can they do? Stay and fight, just stay and adapt, or leave. Women Talking is full of rich, painful, very sad discussions as the women described their situation and weighed their extremely limited options. The community is a fundamentalist religious colony ruled by the men with iron fists, most of whom are away from the colony where they are jailed for rape at the colony. Yet the absent men find their way into the story from the conversations held by the women trying to decide their options. Ironically, the only man who has a speaking role in the film is Augustine, who the women ask to take notes on their discussion, as none of the women can read or write. Ironically, Augustine is a model of self-effacing sympathy, who understands he is not there to offer opinions, just to record theirs. He offers an image of what men could be, but too rarely are.

The women have no money, do not know how to read a map or a word of English, and live in a community without electricity, phones, and only horse drawn wagons to travel. Nonetheless, they decide almost unanimously to leave after first conducting a heart-wrenching disussion of which children would remain behind (mostly all the teen boys). And the movie ends with a long trail of women and their children walking or riding along a long dusty road, with no notion of a destination, no money, no relations awaiting them and extremely limited employment skills. All they had was the realization that to stay was intolerable.

Throughout the film, one woman after another told their own story of being oppressed, abused, and raped and utterly lacking agency, unable to protect their kids or themselves. It made very personal and immediate, how women enmeshed in domestic violence have so few options and resources. It was inspiring to see the women come together to make the decision to leave, but without resources or job skills it was hard to imagine their march ending well, The story forced you to see the striking parallel to individual women in every city in America who struggle with the reality of having to protect themselves and their children and if that protection requires leaving, facing a long dusty trail with few options. As the son of an abused wife who did leave, it generated a ton of respect and gratitude for my late mother.

That was day 1. Not exactly the escape I was expecting.

Day 2

The Holly. [If you think that you might be able to see this film soon, skip to the next film, as there are serious spoilers throughout this summary]

THE HOLLY is a documentary that was filmed over eight years and follows Terrance Roberts, an anti-gang activist who is facing life in prison for a shooting incident that shocked the city of Denver and made national news. The filmmaker was in attendance, and (spoiler alert), so was Terrance Roberts.

I’ve seen many films depicting life in ghettoes lived in by mostly poor black and Latino families, the challenges they face raising children, and how extreme poverty and gangs can transform sweet little kids into ruthless killers, drug adicts or prostitutes before they are old enough to vote. But no film I’ve seen has coneyed this reality as intimately and powerfully as The Holly, . Plus it was an absolutely gripping movie.

After serving ten years in prison, Terrance is released and decides the gang violence and drugs need to stop and kids in the Holly need other options than gangs. The film describes how he raises the funds and creates a youth center and basketball courts in the Holly, a tiny, impoverished neighborhood in northeast Denver. But his efforts are noticed by the crips and bloods who feel threatened by Terrance and by developers who see profits to be made by gentriying the community. Terrance is trying to hold on to the center and stages a peace rally to organize support. Just before the rally is to begin security footage shows that red-shirted Bloods are running to the center under orders to take out Terrance. Seeing that he is being targetted, Terrance gets his gun, and when the first of the attackers comes at him, he shoots him, paralyzing him in the process. The security footage woven into the fillm shows the police leading Terrance away, handcuffed. The remainder of the film presents the time leading up to the trial with his public defender attorney and Terrance’s preacher father encouraging him to plead out for a 10-20 year sentence. Copping a plea makes some sense, as the DA, intent on removing a powerful activist from action, adds special circumstances to the charges, requiring a 100 year minimum sentence, if convicted. But Terrance refuses, insisting he wants a jury to decide. A guilty verdict and life sentence seems inevitable, so when the jury announces it has reached a verdict, the tension in the theater was palpable–recall none of us knew Terrance was sitting directly in front of me in the theater. I and i suspect the audience expected a guilty verdict. But as the jury’s verdict on both counts were read, those in the courtroom and in the theater erupted in applause. Not Guilty, unanimous verdicts on both counts. if it weren’t a true story, I’d have thought the ending far fetched, almost ludicrous. .

Terrance Roberts speaking at a rally in the Holly

The joy of realizing that Terrance was freed was significantly miitigated by the knowledge that the developers were hard at work gentrifying the neighborhood, demolishing the basketball courts and the youth center, in a community deprived of its inspiring leader, as a lawsuit against Terrance prohibits him from coming anywhere near the Holly.

So what does Terrance do? Announce that he is running for Mayor of Denver. If you’d like to learn more about TerranceRobertsformayor.com, . I will be doing a radio interview with him, hopefully this week, to air Saturday. I spoke with him for about 20 minutes after the screening and can’t wait to do the inteview and to see what this remarkable activist can accomplish. Stay tuned.

Powerlands. A young Navajo filmmaker investigates displacement of Indigenous people and devastation of the environment caused by the same chemical companies that have exploited the land where she was born (Black Mesa). On this personal and political journey she shares the stories of Indigenous activists across three continents, with a significant focus on Standing Rock,Four Corners and the southwest.

The film describes capitalist extraction and destruction of indigenous lands in NM, Montana, the Phillipines, Mexico, and Columbia and the inspiring resistance of indigenous peoples to the desolation of their communities. In one community in Mexico, indigenous peoples were forced to move from their lands to make room for massive wind farms, with surrounding indigenous communities living without one KW of power from the wind farm. That community is in the process of creating community owned wind farm. The filmmaker, Ivy Camille Manybeads Tso, was in attendance and during the post film Q&A, I asked how things were going on the community wind project and she ended her answer with a comment, I’ve made many times in this blog, “We won’t get anything good done until we end capitalism,” a point illustrated vividly throughout the movie as the quest for profit led inevitably to plunder, extraction, exploitation and displacement.

As with the other films, seeing the indigenous people living lives in humility with nature, seeing the pain etched in their faces as they saw their beloved land plundered and their families displaced was ever so much more powerful than any article penned by the most powerful activist.

BODY PARTS traces the evolution of sex on-screen from a woman’s perspective, uncovering the uncomfortable realities behind some of the most iconic scenes in cinema history and celebrating the bold creators leading the way for change. The film is an interweaving of great vérité, archive, and interviews with amazing contributors such as Jane Fonda, Rosanna Arquette, and Rose McGowan amongst others.

Body Parts outlined how Hollywood greed, allowed and even encouraged almost exclusively white male producers to ignore, condone or promote gross exploitation of female actors and their bodies. In many exmples cited, women lost their jobs and/or careers for resisting or refusing to be exploited. Even modest expressions of concerns or requests for slight changes would result in termination. As with three of the films above, it was courageous women who risked their careers to force change in studio operations.

Not every film at the festival was focused on justice issues, we enjoyed If These Walls Could Sing, a light hearted reflection on thedecades of remarkable music made at Abbey Road studio. I saw several films depicting dysfunctional families and couples making terrible decisions. And while painful to watch, you couldn’t help make connections to relationships you’ve had, and choices you’ve made or known others to make. And then there was Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game, a refreshing, romantic comedy that wove in serious themes about connecting choices we all must make in an unpredictable, chaotic world and connectintg that metaphorically to making quick decisions in a frivolous chaotic game of pinball.

So, my plan was to escape the realities of politics and activism confronting exploitation and seeking justice. But instead of an escape, it turned into four days of immersing myself in the intimate human realities of politics, economics, race, poverty gender and relationships. I think Roxanne I will make the Santa Fe Intenational Film Festival a can’t miss event for years to come. You can “get” injustice in the head from articles, blogs, books, and data. But in films of this quality, you “get” injustice in the gut, where it gnaws away at you, refusing to let go of its grip. I can’t stop thinking about the little kids growing up in the Holly, the women facing the kinds of choices faced by the women in Women Talking or the millions of women with an unplanned, unwanted or unsafe pregnancy and no options, no Call Jane women ready to offer an option.

The weekend has led me to the conclusion that it is up to those of us with some agency and some relationships to those in power, to use them to advance justice for those with little or no agency who are desperate for policies that afford them options to pursue lives of safety, security and meaning. .

Hope to see you at the festival next year.

in solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Social & Racial Justice & Immigration Reform

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