The Chile Film: Red or Green?

“Chile is what brings our community together,” says Kelly Urig during a recent conversation. Her love of chiles and New Mexico culture is so important to her that when she was in graduate school for her masters degree in Television and Film at San Diego State, her adviser suggested a movie about chiles as her thesis project. “I was always talking about chiles,” she laughed as she recounted the story. The result, The Chile Film (La Sangre Roja y Verde de Nuevo Mexico), can be seen on KNME, the local PBS station, periodically over the next three years. It was submitted to the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Emmys) and this June won the award for the best TV the Pacific Southwest Chapter in the “Student Production Long Form (Fiction/Non-fiction)” category. Urig’s message is a simple one: you can’t tell the story of New Mexico without talking about chiles. We sat outside at a local coffee house and talked chile one recent Sunday afternoon.

Trailer for The Chile Film

Born and raised in Santa Fe, Urig is a descendant of early Spanish and Mexican settlers and German and English immigrants in who settled in southern New Mexico.  She comes by her love of chiles naturally. Her family’s grown them for generations. Each fall,they bring green chiles from the family farm, located in the Hatch Valley, to Santa Fe and roast them in the parking lot behind the Tecolote Café on Cerrillos Road.  She has fond memories of  summers spent on the farm while she was growing up complete with family chile cook-off contests.

New Mexico chile

Matt Romero roasting chiles at the Santa Fe Farmers Market photo/Steve Collins

Many of the people and places in the film will be familiar to New Mexicans.  People who shop at the Santa Fe Farmers Market will probably recognize Dixon  farmer Matt Romero, who roasts chiles at the market during the harvest each year. Dave DeWitt, who Urig calls the “pope of peppers”, may be familiar to people who attend his National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show in Albuquerque each March. In the film, DeWitt shares his perspective on the complexity of the issues of chile farming in New Mexico and some of the questions it raises. Many other folks from around Santa Fe and New Mexico who grow, cook, write about and eat the official New Mexico State Vegetable are featured in the half-hour film.

New Mexico chile

Kelly Urig filming,photo/courtesy Kelly Urig

If you love chiles and New Mexico, look for The Chile Film on New Mexico PBS’ station KNME. Urig has a contract that allows them to present it for three years. Santa Feans may have seen it when it was screened at Santa Fe’s Lensic Performing Arts Center last spring. Denise Mills, Program Schedule Coordinator at the station says that it will probably be shown in September, which she calls “a big chile time for the area”. Check the station’s website for dates and times.

New Mexico chile

A pensive Kelly Urig, photo/Steve Collins

What’s next for this young filmmaker? Although her first major effort is a documentary she said she also wants to make movies that tell stories. She is honing her craft as a PA on the set of the film Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman, currently filming in New Mexico. Whether she makes a documentary or fiction, you can bet she will tell the story skillfully and with passion.

Kelly Urig has had a taste of making a small budget film and is hooked. Keep your eye out for future ventures, Kelly Urig has plans.

Editors note: Talking to Kelly Urig and watching her film inspired a new series for Santa Fe Travelers. Look for upcoming posts in The Chile Project. If you know anyone you’d like to see spotlighted in this, let us know.




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