Baron Wasteland

The Disappearance of Baron Dixon, which is a local indie film -- or, more evocatively, a "mockumentary" -- has some fine moments. There's the scene in which a stripped-down Barbie and Ken, a distinctly lascivious cast to their fixed plastic smiles, are blasted with the pop-pop-pop of an urban redneck's rifle. There's some delightful commentary about dogs. And there are some excellent ragtime piano sequences.

But the best part about Baron Dixon is that it's good at all. If some of the best films being made are independents, well, so are some of the worst -- and a low-budget film set in Phoenix, about the alien abduction of a bearded, fortysomething social outcast, has the odds stacked against it. Yet the movie succeeds admirably.

"I think it's an overachieving film, yeah," says Ryan Ferguson, who composed the movie's surprisingly good soundtrack. "I think it probably exceeds its budget."

Baron Dixon was written and directed by Jeff Cochran, an artist who paints chimpanzees. (Really. His paintings are so good and widely known that you'd probably recognize them, if you saw them.)

Cochran, who moved to Taos two and a half years ago, got his artistic start in Phoenix, as well as his filmmaking one -- he had a public-access painting show here that garnered a small following. The show was in the same quirky vein as his movies; he says it was pulled after a handful of episodes amid charges of "illegal gambling" (a contest to win a painting prop) and "nudity" (a subliminal shot of bare ass).

Baron Dixon is Cochran's second feature-length effort, the first being Punk James, about an artist. He's contemplating a third film, about serial killers. That, he says, would be a significant departure from Baron Dixon, which, indeed, is ultimately quite sweet.

"I do like happy endings," says Cochran.