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NMSU's "Ancient Roots, Modern Medicine" Featured at Santa Fe Film Festival

LAS CRUCES - New Mexico State University's award-winning documentary about international efforts to save plants with healing properties will be featured Dec. 2 at the Santa Fe Film Festival.

Healer Dinah Veeris examines cactus on the island of Curacao during the taping of "Ancient Roots, Modern Medicine," a New Mexico State University documentary that will be featured Dec. 2 at the Santa Fe Film Festival. Veeris is on a one-woman crusade to preserve threatened medicinal plants and the wisdom of a vanishing generation of healers. (11/17/2004) (NMSU Agricultural Communications photo)

"Ancient Roots, Modern Medicine," produced by NMSU's agricultural communications department, will be shown at 11 a.m. in El Museo Cultural's theater at 1615 Paseo de Peralta.

"NMSU agricultural communications crews have filmed in every New Mexico county, 35 states and a dozen foreign countries, so it's fitting to be featured in the festival's 'Eye on the World' category," said Terry Canup, head of agricultural communications. "We're delighted the jurors selected 'Ancient Roots' from the record 900 films submitted this year."

The featured episode of "Ancient Roots" was shot in Curaçao, a tropical island in the Dutch Antilles, just off the coast of Venezuela. NMSU filmmakers Jeanne Gleason and Patrick Holian followed scientists and healers trying to unlock the disease-fighting power of local plants such as the divi divi tree, which has staph-fighting properties, and a blue-green algae called mermaid's hair that shows promise against cancer.

NMSU filmmakers shot two other segments of "Ancient Roots" in Jordan and along the U.S./Mexico border. The documentary was partially funded with a grant from the International Arid Lands Consortium. Pulitzer prize-winning author N. Scott Momaday narrates the series.

The Curaçao episode features Dinah Veeris, a healer on a one-woman crusade to preserve threatened medicinal plants and the wisdom of healers steeped in African and Native American tradition. The episode also features an American partnership to save mermaid's hair algae, which contains a compound with potential for treating diseases such as cancer. Oregon State University researcher Bill Gerwin named the compound Curacin A in honor of Curaçao.

This year, "Ancient Roots" has won the Silver Award from the Houston International Film Festival WorldFest, the Video REMI Award for Science and Research, and a Gold Award and Outstanding Professional Skill Award from the Association for Communication Excellence.
For more information about the documentary, visit http://www.rootsandmedicine.com.

Other films from NMSU agricultural communications have aired on American PBS stations, the Australian Broadcasting Company and Israeli Discovery Channel.

They include "Survivors in the Sand," a documentary about desert dwellers filmed on three continents; "The Seamless Society," which examines technology's influence on Americans' lives; and "Green Gold: From the Maya to the Moon," the quest for wild and weedy ancestors of chile peppers and other food crops, which was shown as part of the Smithsonian's national Seeds of Change exhibit. Agricultural communications also produced "Southwest Yard and Garden," a series aired on 16 public television stations throughout the region.

The festival, which runs from Dec. 1-5, features premieres, tributes and screenings at locations around Santa Fe. A new attraction this year will be winning entries from the Governor's Cup, a statewide competition for short films by New Mexico filmmakers.

In 2003, some 200 filmmakers visited the city to promote their work during the festival, which is timed to attract Oscar voters living in the area. An estimated 7,000 people bought 20,000 tickets last year.

Tickets range from $9 for individual screenings to $450 for an all-events VIP pass. To order tickets by phone, call (505) 989-1495. The box office is at 905 W. Alameda in Santa Fe. The festival schedule is online at http://www.santafefilmfestival.com/