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First CMI feature film accepted at Santa Fe Film Festival

The first feature film from the Creative Media Institute at New Mexico State University, "Becoming Eduardo," will be shown at the Santa Fe Film Festival Dec. 2-6.

"Becoming Eduardo" is the first feature film from the NMSU Creative Media Institute. It will be screened at the Santa Fe Film Festival in December. (Courtesy Rod McCall)

NMSU Instructor Rod McCall directed, co-produced and wrote the film, based on the novella Alternative Ed by LouAnne Johnson. Johnson wrote the best-selling book on which the film "Dangerous Minds" was based. "Becoming Eduardo" was shot completely in Southern New Mexico and served as a real-world work experience for several CMI students.

"We had eight CMI students who worked as productions assistants. They were amazing," McCall said, adding that the students also received course credit for their efforts last summer. "Many in our faculty and staff contributed to the film. Mark Medoff, the artistic director of CMI, 'poked' at the early stages of the script, and advised on the editing. I could not have done the film without CMI."

McCall said his films have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival twice in the past, but having this film shown at the festival in the state's capital is particularly appropriate and exciting because "Eduardo" is truly a "home-grown" New Mexico film project.

The movie is about a young Latino, Eddie, who struggles to find his place in the world as either an intellectual or a delinquent. He attends an alternative high school in fictional Rosablanca, N.M., but then moves to Truth or Consequences after making some questionable choices. Eddie decides he must and can make his own conclusions about the world and himself despite being pulled in opposite directions.

Julian Alcaraz, who plays the title character, is currently filming the remake of "Red Dawn."

Although McCall cast professional actors (film and TV stalwarts-Elizabeth Pena, A Martinez, Josh Cruze, Gary Perez, Mike Dunay and Holly Riddle) for the lead roles, some students from Alma D'Arte Charter High School in Las Cruces made an appearance in the film including its founder, Irene Oliver-Lewis.

"There's a warmth, a sense of life and living in New Mexico," McCall said noting that the landscape of New Mexico is a character in the movie. He said part of the decision to film in the state was the correlation between the romance in the culture and the landscape and the romance in Eduardo's story.

McCall, a former television commercial director and screenwriter, walked away at the height of his career path to find his way into independent film directing. He moved from the chaos of California to the solitude of a 19th century restored hacienda in Hillsboro, N.M. and found his niche.

"I found a place and a culture to write movies about," McCall said. "'Becoming Eduardo' is my valentine of sorts to New Mexico. The Latino culture is very close to my heart for a lot of reasons."

"Becoming Eduardo" was filmed during the summer of 2008 and spent nine months in post-production. At a screening earlier this year at the Rio Grande Theatre in Las Cruces, 500 attendees gave the film a standing ovation.

McCall said after returning from the Santa Fe Film Festival, he will set up another screening at the CMI Theater on the NMSU campus. He is still negotiating with distributors and hoping to have a decision by early next year.

For more information on the film or to view the trailer, visit http://www.becomingeduardomovie.com. For more information on the Santa Fe Film Festival, visit http://www.santafefilmfestival.com.