Erin Hudson says that as a Colorado College women's studies major, attending the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival pushed her toward a life of making documentaries. The 31-year-old remembers sitting through fest films years ago, laughing some, crying some, and coming away "having this sense of, 'Gosh, that is tremendous power, to be able to tell stories about real people and real situations.'"
Just five years after her CC graduation, the festival featured two of her films: Long Haul, Hudson's Stanford University graduate school thesis project about women truckers, and Unhitched, a 12-minute short about a California community that turned travel trailers into permanent homes.
This year, moviegoers will see Hudson's In Place Out of Time, a film that spotlights Embree Hale, a 73-year-old fourth-generation New Mexican who discovered a late-life labor of love. Hale's past eight years have been consumed with hiking through scrub brush and sand, finding and photographing — and thereby preserving — every petroglyph and pictograph in the state. For seven months, Hudson followed him from his Hillsboro trailer home under the stars into dusty, deserted hills and valleys as he searches for signs of his ancient forbears.
People have questioned her choice of topic, but as Hudson says, the 45-minute film "seems to have a subtle power." Hale's story feels like a juicy secret whispered in your ear, with Hudson switching seamlessly from sweeping and powerful landscapes to the deep crevices of Hale's face.
While the tale is all Hale's — Hudson neither appears nor speaks in the film — she admits that it's always important for her to earn her subject's respect, and even friendship, before she lifts the camera. The magic of this particular relationship is obvious still by still; Hale's enthusiastic laughter is as sincere as the tears he sheds when financial troubles get in the way of his passion.
It's obvious in the film that Hillsboro (pop. 200 or so) thinks Hale's pretty special, and so does Hudson. Since Hale's daughter lives in Albuquerque, Hudson's current hometown, she's been able to easily keep in touch with him. Says the filmmaker: "I call him my soul grandpa."