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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Recapturing the nightmare: Film director exposes an unsolved tragedy

    Sam Shumaker / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Charlie Minn is the director and producer of A Nightmare in Las Cruces, a non-fiction drama about a massacre in a bowling alley of Las Cruces, New Mexico, that led to no arrests.
    Sam Shumaker
    Sam Shumaker / Arizona Daily Wildcat Charlie Minn is the director and producer of “A Nightmare in Las Cruces,” a non-fiction drama about a massacre in a bowling alley of Las Cruces, New Mexico, that led to no arrests.

    Tragedy struck the small New Mexico town of Las Cruces on Feb. 10, 1990. Money was stolen, children were murdered, and the innocent pastime of trying for strikes and spares at Las Cruces Bowl would not be viewed in the same light again.

    Charlie Minn saw the story of the Las Cruces bowling massacre on “”Unsolved Mysteries”” when he was a college student. “”I was just struck, watching that. Struck and angered,”” Minn said.

    Twenty years later, Minn has directed a documentary that recreates and examines the story of that fateful day at the lanes. “”A Nightmare in Las Cruces”” has been screened privately for victims’ families and shown locally in New Mexico. The film is now coming to Arizona and will open in Tucson on Friday at Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18, 5455 S. Calle Santa Cruz.

    Minn is passionate about the need to create awareness of this unsolved cold case, and knows that film is the way to do it. “”While making this film, I was surprised at how many people didn’t even know about it, even people who went bowling at that bowling alley.””

    Now, he says, people in the town and in the state of New Mexico are more aware of the tragedy, which he attributes to the power of the movie business. “”You can reach out to and affect a lot of people, you can provoke thought and emotion and feelings that weren’t there before,”” Minn said.

    Because Las Cruces is only four hours away from Tucson, Minn hopes that the film will have a positive reception here. He also states that some evidence points to the theory that the culprits, if they are still alive, could potentially be somewhere in the vicinity.

    “”I gotta believe that there’s someone walking around Tucson who knows what happened, and they’re not speaking up due to fear,”” he said.

    The process of producing “”A Nightmare in Las Cruces”” was also emotionally exhausting for everyone involved. “”There was not a dry eye on the set,”” Minn said.

    He was contacted frequently out of curiosity or compassion by friends and family members of the victims. The studio held a private screening for the victims’ families on Feb. 9 in honor of the 20th anniversary. “”I’d never been in a theater where there was continuous crying from the first minute to the two-hour mark,”” Minn said.

    It’s no surprise that Minn chose such a gut-wrenching, provocative story for his documentary. One of his biggest influences and inspirations in filmmaking is Oliver Stone, who is known for exceeding limits to get a reaction, though Stone trends toward fiction over documentary. “”I don’t think any filmmaker pushes the types of buttons that Oliver (Stone) pushes,”” Minn said.

    Whether that influence is visible in Minn’s treatment of the nightmare in Las Cruces remains to be seen. However, the film promises to be profoundly moving as a new addition to the relatively small genre of the true-crime documentary.

    “”It’s an emotional wallop,”” Minn said, “”but the story was ripe to be told.””

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