Here are the films that put the Denver in the 2017 Denver Film Festival

The trailer for Andrew Novick’s now full-length film, JonBenét’s Tricycle.

The films that put the Denver in the Denver Film Fest span the globe from Boulder to Swaziland to Trinidad and Tobago

By John Moore
Senior Arts Journalist

The 40th Denver Film Festival opened Wednesday with a star-studded lineup of major films on the schedule, including Peter Fonda and Bill Pullman in The Ballad of Lefty Brown; Frances McDormand in bad-boy Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Stanley Tucci and Kyra Sedgwick in Submission, and Tony winner Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird.

But there are also many films with local ties generating buzz at this year’s fest. Andrew Novick, the cereal-infused brains behind the city’s hipster Denver County Fair, will present an expanded version of his off-beat documentary JonBenét’s Tricycle, which was shown as a 20-minute short at last year’s fest and is now a full-length film.

DFF MollyAnd Colorado films are not without their own star power. Perhaps the biggest-buzz film of the entire festival is Molly’s Game, featuring Oscar winner Jessica Chastain (The Help) as Colorado skier Molly Bloom, who is also said to have run the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested. She is the sister of University of Colorado football star Jeremy Bloom, the only athlete in history to ever ski in the Winter Olympics and also be drafted into the National Football League. The film marks Aaron Sorkin‘s film directorial debut.

Walden: A Life in the Woods, filmed entirely in Colorado, is a series of three related stories inspired by Thoreau and featuring 2012 Oscar nominee Demian Bichir (A Better Life), Denver East graduate T.J. Miller (Deadpool, Cloverfield), former longtime DCPA actor Jamie Horton and more. The director is Alex Harvey, and one of the producers is Mitch Dickman (Hanna Ranch, Rolling Papers) of Listen Productions.

The featured short Mrs. Drake is nominated for the Denver Film Festival’s True Grit Award. Actors Rachel Fowler and Gabra Zackman cornered playwright Kyle Warren at Local Theatre Company‘s annual Local Lab Festival in 2015 and told him they really wanted to do a short film together, and Warren (who, ironically, is also the author of his own play called Thoreau, and Other Assholes), offered to write it for them. Mrs. Drake is about a mom struggling to raise a difficult son. The film has been making the rounds on the festival circuit and has won several awards. “We are working on a couple of feature scripts now, and hope to get more movies made in Colorado that focus on getting more women at the helm,” said Fowler, known at the DCPA for All My Sons and at Curious Theatre for Rabbit Hole

There is also one fun bit of theatre-themed programming. Shakespearean Star Wars will be a live performance of the original film as The Bard himself might have imagined it. Performs at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Nov. 11, at the McNichols Building in Denver Civic Center Park. It’s 60 minutes, and free. The cast includes Denver Film Society Education Director Neil Truglio and Denver Center master’s graduate Dan O’Neill, with Andrew Ray, Parker Jenkins, Derek Nason, Daevon Robinson and Coleman Sisk.

Here is a complete list of homegrown feature-length films and shorts being shown at the Denver Film Festival, which runs through Nov. 12 at the Sie FilmCenter, Ellie Caulkins Opera House and United Artists’ Denver Pavilions. 


DFF AmyAmy & Sophia
Directed by Denver resident Adam Lipsius
89 minutes
An unlikely friendship forms when two troubled girls haunted by their pasts forge a shared future by using art as an escape from the present in this magical-realist drama filmed in Cardiff and London. Cast: Julian Glover, Isla Blair, Denise van Outen, Joseph Millson, Ali Rodney and Emma Raine Walker

  • Friday, Nov. 10, 6:15 p.m., UA Pavilions
  • Sunday,  Nov. 12, 3:30 p.m., UA Pavilions

DFF GnawGnaw
Directed by Colorado filmmaker Haylar Garcia
88 minutes
Fleeing her past, small-town girl Jennifer is starting over in the big city. But becoming whole again is hard to do when something is eating at you while you sleep — literally. This horror flick delves with equal gusto into paranormal and psychological phenomena.

  • Monday, Nov. 6, 9:30 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
  • Wednesday, Nov. 8, 9 p.m., Sie FilmCenter

Home Truth

DFF Home TruthDirected by April Hayes and Katia Maguire
72 minutes
In 1999, Jessica Gonzales’ three young daughters were killed after being abducted by their father. Determined to make sure their deaths were not in vain, the Castle Rock mother sought justice and became an advocate for domestic-violence victims in the process. This is her story.

  • Saturday, Nov. 4, 1:45 p.m., UA Pavilions
  • Sunday, Nov. 5, 4:30 p.m., UA Pavilions
  • Wednesday, Nov. 11, 4 p.m., UA Pavilions

A DFF HondrosHondros
Directed by Fort Collins journalist Greg Campbell
93 minutes
War photographer Chris Hondros spent a decade documenting conflict around the globe — until he was killed while on assignment in 2011. Directed by his friend and colleague Greg Campbell, this eloquent documentary pays tribute to the late photojournalist’s courage and compassion. The editor is Denver’s Davis Coombe.

  • Friday, Nov. 10, 4:15 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
  • Saturday, Nov. 11, 11:30 a.m., Sie FilmCenter
  • Sunday, Nov. 12, 4:30 p.m., Sie FilmCenter

DFF JonBenetJonBenét’s Tricycle

Directed by Andrew Novick
88 minutes
Obsessive collector and Mile High City cultural icon Andrew Novick (Denver County Fair) forges deep emotional connections to the objects he acquires, many of which represent the darker side of humanity. He was living in Boulder 20 years ago when JonBenet Ramsey‘s tricycle fell into his hands after her notorious murder took place. Recently compelled to tackle the unsolved mystery in his own way, Novick took the tricycle on a journey into the realm of psychic phenomena — or did it take him? This quirky autobiographical documentary is also an investigation into the impact pop culture and the media have on our experience of tragedy. The original soundtrack was created by Denver’s Adam Stone, best known for creating some seriously freaky stage stuff for a company called Screw Tooth, as well his one-man performance-art band The Indestructible North. The producer is Theresa Mercado.

  • Saturday, Nov. 11, 4 p.m., UA Pavilions (post-screening discussion)
  • Sunday, Nov. 12, 2 p.m., UA Pavilions (post-screening discussion)

A DFF LiyanaLiyana
Directed by Amanda and Aaron Koop
77 minutes
Meet Liyana, a brave girl who embarks on a dangerous quest to rescue her young twin brothers — and who happens to be the invention of five orphaned children in Swaziland. Drawn from their darkest memories and brightest dreams, the narrative these kids create in a storytelling workshop is an account as much of their own perseverance as of their heroine’s journey. By the same token, Liyana alternates between an animated version of Liyana’s tale and footage of the young artists coming to terms with their traumatic pasts as they embrace daily life in the orphanage. This enchanting documentary comes from Colorado filmmakers Aaron and Amanda Kopp and is produced by yet another local, Oscar winner Daniel Junge (Saving Face). The executive producer is TV and film star Thandie Newton. READ OUR FULL STORY ON LIYANA

  • Friday, Nov. 10, 6 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
  • Saturday, Nov. 11, 4 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
  • Sunday, Nov. 12, 11 a.m., Sie FilmCenter  

Molly’s Game

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin
140 minutes
This drama is based on the true story of Molly Bloom, a Colorado-bred Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents. Jessica Chastain stars as Bloom, whose dreams of an athletic career were cut short by a back injury. So she took another route to glory, albeit clandestine, as a gambling impresario, catering to Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknownst to her, members of the Russian mob. When glory turned to ignominy, she found an ally in criminal-defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey — played by Idris Elba. Supporting players Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Chris O’Dowd and others are supporting players in Sorkin’s debut as a feature director.

  • Thursday, Nov. 9, 7 p.m., Ellie Caulkins Opera House

(Note: Tickets are $40. This screening is a benefit for Wish of a Lifetime)

Moving Parts

DFF Moving PartsWritten and directed by Boulder native Emilie Upczak
77 minutes
In this unique personal drama of human trafficking, Zhenzhen follows her brother to Trinidad and Tobago with the help of a smuggler. When her new restaurant job proves dangerous, a local art-gallery owner helps her fight to secure her future.

  • Friday, Nov. 3, 6:45 p.m., UA Pavilions
  • Sunday, Nov. 5, 4:15 p.m., UA Pavilions

DFF BrakhageUnder Childhood: The Films of Stan Brakhage and Jane Wodening
120 minutes
Writer Jane Wodening’s 30-year marriage to, and creative collaboration with, the late filmmaker Stan Brakhage produced some of the most beautiful and poetic “home movies” ever made. Wodening will present three of these films and discuss her recent book, Brakhage’s Childhood.

  • Sunday, Nov. 12, 2 p.m., Sie FilmCenter (post-screening discussion with Brock DeShane)

Walden: Life in the Woods

DFF WaldenDirected by Alex Harvey
104 minutes
Shot on location in Colorado, this radical Western re-imagining of Thoreau’s eponymous classic interlaces three narratives that take place over 24 hours to consider the trappings of modern life and the unlikely heroes who dream of escape. Cast: Demian Bichir, Lynn Cohen, Anthony LoVerde, Erik Hellman, Chris Sullivan, TJ Miller and Jamie Horton

  • Saturday, Nov. 4, 6:15 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
  • Saturday, Nov. 4, 6:45 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
  • Monday, Nov. 6, 1:45 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
  • Friday, Nov. 10, 1 p.m., Sie FilmCenter


The following films all screen together at these times:

  • Sunday, Nov. 5, 11:30 a.m., UA Pavilions
  • Tuesday, Nov. 7, 7:15 p.m., UA Pavilions
  • Wednesday, Nov. 8, 9:30 p.m., UA Pavilions

Chocolate Spokes
Directed by Brendan Leonard
5 minutes
Gregory Crichlow left his architecture job in 2011 to start a bicycle shop in Five Points, a traditionally African-American and Latino neighborhood in Denver. Servicing residents’ bikes keeps the doors open, but hand-building steel frames is what inspires him.


Directed by Travis Lindner and Justin Tyrrell
12 minutes
Before opening his new restaurant, a desperate chef seeks constructive feedback from his friends. Cast: Nathan Lund, Timmi Lasley, Natalie Kilkenny, Nate Gust and Evan Sheppard

The Day Before
Directed by Geoff Marslett
14 minutes
In this outlandish romantic tragicomedy, the losses are literal when a pre-wedding hunting trip in the Colorado mountains spins out of control. Now the happy couple must struggle to make everything right again. Cast: Jennifer Prediger, Frank Mosley, Kira Pearson, Paul Gordon, Jesse Wardak, Geoff Marslett

Fed to Fire
Directed by Joseph Dasteel
5 minutes
This visually stimulating profile of Colorado sculptor Jordan Wilbanks explores his relationship to the medium and material of metal sculpture.

Final Four
Directed by Dario Ortega
20 minutes
An assassin with a near-perfect NCAA basketball-playoffs bracket deals with the burdens of her job and the distractions of being a sports fanatic. Cast: Maya Ortega, Nick Holland, Shayn Herndon, James Benton and Geoff Marslett.

Mrs. Drake
Directed by Caitlin FitzGerald
15 minutes
Laura is a single mother struggling to maintain her own equilibrium while raising her frequently difficult son Jack. When Jack comes home from school one day with a story of his teacher, Mrs. Drake, locking him in a closet, Laura is thrown into a spiral of confusion and guilt. Cast: Rachel Fowler and Gabra Zackman.

Oh, Ophelia
Directed by Dakota Nanton
4 minutes
In his dreams, Hamlet is visited by the ghosts of the dead in this beautiful piece of hand-painted and digital animation.

The Outsider
Directed by Scott Takeda
18 minutes
As the black sheep in her own family, a young woman hopes meeting her boyfriend’s family will fill her need to belong. Then she learns about his 100-plus relatives and their confusing cultural traditions. Cast: Kate Cook, Scott Takeda, Mike Ostroski, Kristen Rakes, Tomiko Takeda, Catherine McGuire, Yoshimi Watada, Alley Watada, Alan Shackelford, Bill Watada, Kathy Watada, Sherry Watada and Justin Watada.

The Romantic Method

Directed by Maggie Hart
5 nibutes
After a breakup, a young woman decides to take the emotional stress out of dating and find her soulmate using nothing but science, logic and The Romantic Method. Cast: Lauren Yormack, Anthony Cubba and Ryan Gunnarson.

Kaleb Kohart
6 minutes
Forced into a situation beyond his control, Truman must let go of his convictions and open his eyes to the truth. Cast: Jason Knauf, Kellie Fox, Steve Agyei and Meredith Winfield.


Diving Monkeys

Directed by Elizabeth Henry
4 minutes
Decaying 16mm footage of monkeys in a zoo provides a poetic meditation on our relationship to caged animals — at once voyeuristic and compassionate.
Playing with … The Last Animals:

  • Friday, Nov. 3, 6:45 p.m., UA Pavilions
  • Saturday, Nov. 4, 11:30 a.m., UA Pavilions
  • Monday, Nov. 6, 4:30 p.m., UA Pavilions

Dreamspook – Fear in Love
Directed by Joseph Kolean
4 minutes
Two women carry out a bizarre relationship in a suburban setting. Cast: Steph Holmbo and McKenna Skroggs.
Playing with … Music Video Mixtape

  • Thursday, Nov. 9, 6:45 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
  • Friday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m., UA Pavilions

Check out our Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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