By Jonathan Baca, Copy Editor | Photos by Jonathan Baca
Fans of Film Café is a unique blend of good coffee, home cooked food, community spirit and a love of independent film, and it just happens to be right in CNM’s backyard, said owner and manager Michael Palombo.
Located a stone’s throw from Main campus at 504 Yale Blvd. SE, Fans of Film has a distinctive mission: to spread and support the local independent film scene, and to bring high quality coffee and food to the south Yale neighborhood, an area with a lack of local food options within walking distance, Palombo said.
“I think Fans of Film can not only add to the coffee culture, but it can hopefully add to the film culture as well. We need more small media spaces for filmmakers and artists to express themselves,” Palombo said. Fans of Film serves an original blend of coffee sourced from local roaster Michael Thomas Coffee Roasters, and their grab-and-go breakfast burritos available at their drive-up window have become very popular among students who are in a rush in the morning and prefer homemade food to the cafeteria fare available on campus, he said.
“The repeat clientele has been really good, and we continue to build on that customer base. Each month has gotten a little better,” Palombo said.
As part of their larger mission, Fans of Film caters to the local film scene, spreading awareness and support of small filmmakers with their website and popular Twitter account, Twitter.com/ fansoffilm, which is approaching 40,000 followers, he said.
The café also has a six foot projection screen, where Palombo said he screens indie films, documentaries and videos related to social change and activism throughout the day.
“This environment allows us to distribute and share content. We’re very much activists around here,” Palombo said.
M o n i c a Palombo, Michael’s wife and the café’s barista, said that they take pride in offering a cozy place where customers can feel at home.
“We’re like a big family. It’s very comfortable here, we’re not stuffy. It’s a place you can come and do your homework or hang out with your friends, come to watch a movie. You don’t feel an obligation to just get in and out, you can hang out here,” she said.
Palombo said the idea to combine coffee and film in a local café was inspired in part by the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a chain of movie theaters that started in Austin, Texas, and serve beer and dinner along with their films.
The idea of mixing movies and beer has caught on across the country, but Palombo said he wanted to mix it up a little with his café.
A lot of people don’t like alcohol, and coffee and film go well together. No question about that,” Palombo said.
Local filmmakers are always welcome at Fans of Film, and Palombo said he encourages them to hold production meetings, screenings and even casting calls at his café.
The café can also be rented out after hours by film crews to hold special events and premieres for the low price of $10 an hour, with full catering and bar service available, he said.
Other groups are welcome too, no matter what the cause or event; Palombo said he is happy to host art shows, lectures, concerts or private parties.
“We are set up to do PowerPoint presentations, video demonstrations, anything you need,” Palombo said.
It is all about supporting and being a part of a community of like-minded individuals, he said.
Fans of Film was a regular meeting spot for the Albuquerque Occupy Wall Street movement, and no matter what the cause, Palombo said he loves to support groups who are working for positive social and political change.
“Everything I do is toward social change and social awareness. I feel like what I am doing here can really be a part of real change,” Palombo said.
In that spirit, Palombo said that starting in May, Fans of Film, in partnership with the New Mexico Farmers Association, will be hosting a farmer’s market every Sunday, with bands, poetry readings, and local artisans and vendors set up in the parking lot.
The farmer’s market is part of a larger effort by a group that Palombo created, A South Yale Business and Community Development Project, which aims to foster and support economic and community development in a neighborhood that was once plagued by crime and decay, he said.
“There was such a dark cloud over this neighborhood. It was a rough, rough corner. I believe the community has come a long way in the last year,” Palombo said.
In addition to coffee and food, Fans of Film has a used book store, PeaceWise Book Stall, in the front of the café, specializing in books about film, progressive causes, and spirituality, he said.
Palombo is also a painter and glass blower, and he sells his paintings, pipes and art glass out of the café.
Part of the appeal of Fans of Film is the cozy, laid back atmosphere that Palombo has created. He said he is not interested in spending lots of money on fancy furniture and decorations, and he has been able to pass the savings on to his customers.
“It’s obvious I haven’t put a ton of money into it, but it’s clean, it’s homey, it’s eclectic. It doesn’t have to be perfect for us to make quality coffee and quality food at a decent price,” Palombo said.
In the future, Palombo said he hopes to eventually begin roasting his own coffee on site, and hopes to brand it and sell it to retailers, film production companies and studios, carrying the Fans of Film brand to the masses.