From Man Camp to DeVotchka: Colorado represents in 42nd annual film fest
The 42nd Denver Film Festival opens Wednesday (October 30) with another star-studded lineup of national and international films on the schedule, but there once again will be plenty of Denver in the Denver Film Festival. The local film community is well-represented in the big-buzz, full-length comedy Man Camp, which was filmed in Nederland. And there will again be dozens of short films, documentaries, live performances, panel conversations that will not only include the local creative community, but spotlight it.
The 2019 Denver Film Festival has been dedicated to Artistic Director Brit Withey, who died March 31. A special salute is planned for Wednesday night at the Sie FilmCenter. “Brit’s vision, passion, and influence over his 20-plus years with the festival will never be forgotten,” said Festival Director Britta Erickson.
This year will feature more extra-cinematic activities than ever before, with an emphasis on virtual reality, live performance and immersive experiences – including Escape from Godot, an escape-room mashup with Samuel Beckett’s existential classic Waiting for Godot. “With the goal of showcasing new forms of storytelling along with this cutting edge technology, we hope our audience finds another unique way to engage with the festival,” said Interim Artistic Director Matthew Campbell.
One popular feature of the festival each year is the locally produced sponsor recognition film that airs before each screening. For the first time, this year’s sponsor film will be fully animated, rather than character-based short film. It is produced by a local film team including Mitch Dickman (Rolling Papers), Tim Kaminski and Laurie Polisky, who are currently finishing up a new documentary on chronic pain called Pain Brain, which uncovers just how wrong the American health-care system is on the subject. The Executive Producer is Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire.
Below is our complete annual list of homegrown films and activities in and around the 2019 Denver Film Festival, which runs October 30 through Nov. 10 at the Sie FilmCenter, Ellie Caulkins Opera House, United Artists’ Denver Pavilions and other venues. For the first time, the fest will host screenings in Fort Collins at partner venue The Lyric.
The Denver Film Festival offers 250 films and attracts about 40,000 audience members each year. The fest’s annual High School Day returns for the third year (actually on both Fridays, November 1 and 8). That is an opportunity for teenagers from across the Front Range take part in workshops, conversations with filmmakers, equipment demos, screenings, hands-on activities, and more.
Photos: 2019 Denver Film Festival
Here are selections from our photo coverage of the 2019 festival. All photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.
COLORADO-CONNECTED FEATURE-LENGTH FILMS:
- Directed by Rian Johnson
- 94 minutes
OK, so it’s a stretch to call this film local, but acclaimed writer and director Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) was raised in Highlands Ranch before moving to California in the sixth grade. Johnson pays tribute to mystery mastermind Agatha Christie in Knives Out, a modern-day murder mystery where everyone is a suspect. When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death. With an all-star ensemble cast that also includes Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford and Jaeden Martell. Rian Johnson will be in attendance to receive the 2019 John Cassavetes Award, with a post-film discussion moderated by John Wenzel from The Denver Post.
- Thursday, October 31, 8 p.m., Ellie Caulkins Opera House
- Directed by Nate James Bakke
- 94 minutes
Brothers Adam, Tim, and Kevin are the ultimate man-children, respectively bumbling through fatherhood, serving as a loutish fraternity president, and selling booze to minors. They’re getting ready to throw down in the annual tradition they call Man Camp — a weekend at the family cabin spent setting things on fire and getting trashed in honor of their revered father, who passed away more than a decade ago. But upon their arrival, they walk in on their mother canoodling with her hapless fiancé, Alan, and their sense of filial duty skyrockets. Driven by overdeveloped loyalty toward their dear dead dad and a disconcerting interest in their mom’s sex life, they’re determined to get rid of the interloper in this slapstick comedy from Colorado director Nate James Bakke. The screenwriter and star is Wyoming native and University of Colorado Denver graduate Daniel Cummings and the cast includes Anna Rubley of Colorado Springs. The film was otherwise cast in Los Angeles but was shot in Nederland.
- Wednesday November 6, 9 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
- Thursday, November 7, 1:30 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
- Directed by Maria Peters
- 137 minutes
Antonia Brico, a Dutch immigrant to the United States, went on to found what we know of today as the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra. (It was originally called the Denver Businessmen’s Symphony in 1948.) When Brico was 24, no one took her ambition to become a conductor seriously. So she went back to the motherland, where she famous conductor Willem Mengelberg sends her to Berlin for lessons. It was a circuitous route to success, but it worked: There she became the first woman ever to conduct a professional symphony orchestra. This film chronicles the struggles that led to this momentous achievement.
- Saturday, November 2, 10:30 a.m., Sie FilmCenter
- Sunday, November 3, 3 p.m., Lyric (Fort Collins)
- Monday, November 4, 3:30 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
- Friday, November 8, 1:30 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
- Directed by Dziga Vertov of the Soviet Union in 1929
- 68 minutes
Offering a slice of Soviet life in 1929, Dziga Vertov’s silent documentary is considered a masterpiece of early cinema for its technical experimentation. Who better than Denver’s own musical trailblazers, DeVotchKa, to compose and perform a live score for this special screening? With a post-film discussion moderated by Senior Arts Journalist John Moore, founder of both the Underground Music Showcase (The UMS) and The Denver Actors Fund. Tom Hagerman of DeVotchKa is currently composing original music for the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (Noveber 15-December 22).
- Sunday, November 3, 8:30 p.m., Denver Museum of Nature and Science IMAX Theater
Join Lighthouse Writers Workshop faculty members Diane Bell and Steven Dunn for an hour-long discussion of the film adaptation of In the Time of the Butterflies. Lighthouse is a support community for writers and readers in the Rocky Mountain Region. The panel will examine the experience of adapting novels into screenplays and the varied approaches writers take to this process.
- Saturday, November 2, 11 a.m., Festival Annex
In the modern technological world, are we losing our connection to our traditions and to nature? Join the Colorado Dragon Film Festival and guest panelists for this creative conversation about what is valuable in our lives, our relationships, and the world around us. Panelists also will touch on sustainability and ensuring that what is beautiful today can be enjoyed by the generations of tomorrow.
- Wednesday, November 6, 7 p.m., Festival Annex
LIVE AND IMMERSIVE PERFORMANCES
- At the Festival Annex
- McNichols Civic Center Building, 144 W. Colfax Ave.
The Cinematic Shakespeare Company is back to put its comedic stamp on the last installment of the original Star Wars trilogy: The Jedi Doth Return! Join live, local Shakespearean actors as they bring to life the epic conclusion to the story you know and love. The cast includes Dan O’Neill, Neil Truglio, Daevon Robinson, Parker Jenkins, Andy Ray, Derek Nason and Andrew Horn.
- Friday, November 8, 8 p.m.
Fresh from its run at the Tribeca Film Festival, this award-winning Virtual Reality experience places participants in a rich, narrative landscape as they sift through memories to unravel a mystery. Facing challenges and experiencing loss as they go, participants move from danger to safety; along the way, hidden truths are uncovered and new beauty revealed. For this 15-minute experience, one person goes at a time. Local actors leading you through the experience will include Nicole Page, Jacqueline Garcia, Jessie Blake, Miranda Ford and Cynthia Valenzuela.
Escape-room antics meet iconic existentialism in this absurd, theatrical, interactive play puzzle. The show brings audiences into the middle of a production of Waiting for Godot – you know, the important one about our meaningless trudge from cradle and to grave. And everything is going wrong. You have 60 minutes unravel the clues and set the play straight again. This fun group activity allows for eight people at a time.
- Wednesday, November 6, 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
- Thursday, November 7, 5:30 and 7 p.m.
- Friday, November 8, 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, November 9, 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m.
- Sunday, November 10, 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.
- Directed by John Breen
- 80 minutes
Mark and Andy Godfrey were just 11 and 8 years old, respectively, when the plane ferrying them from their home in Houston to an Aspen ski vacation in March 1974 plummeted to the ground. Their parents and older siblings as well as the pilot died at the site, and Mark and Andy spent three days in the mountains before they were rescued. For the next four decades, neither man discussed the tragedy or the impact it had on their lives. That is, until Andy broke his silence to pen a story for the Aspen Times Weekly about the crash, spurring the brothers to embark on a road trip and retrace the path of that prop plane. In this documentary, they find much more than they expected.
- Saturday, November 2, 4:30 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
- Monday, November 4, 1 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
- Wednesday. November 6, 1:45 p.m., UA Pavilions
- Directed by Sarah Megyesy and Guillermo Roqués
- 103 minutes
A booming population and soaring housing prices means that the number of people sleeping rough in Denver has burgeoned in the past few years. The rights of the homeless have become an ever-more urgent issue since the City Council implemented its urban-camping ban in 2012 — which remains intact following a failed initiative to repeal it in 2019’s municipal elections. The Right to Rest examines the growing homeless-rights movement through the lens of two local advocacy groups. The film’s overriding question: How do governmental policies designed to turn Denver into a “world-class city” impact its most vulnerable citizens?
- Sunday, November 3, 7:30 p.m., UA Pavilions
- Wednesday, November 6, 3:45 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
- Directed by Alana DeJoseph
- 105 min
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy gave young Americans the opportunity to serve their country in a new way by forming the Peace Corps. Since then, more than 200,000 of them have traveled to more than 60 countries to carry out the organization’s mission of international cooperation. Nearly 60 years later, Americans young and old alike still want to serve their country and understand their place in the world; current volunteers work at the forefront of some of the most pressing issues facing the global community. Yet the agency has struggled to remain relevant amid sociopolitical change. Narrated by former DCPA Theatre Company actor Annette Bening, A Towering Task is the first feature documentary to chronicle the history of the Peace Corps while considering its future at a critical juncture.
- Saturday, November 9, 3:30 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
- Sunday, November 10, 11:15 a.m., UA Pavilions
- Directed by Tim Kaminski
- 80 minutes
For a century, the townspeople of Nenana, Alaska, have celebrated the Ice Classic, an annual contest in which participants place bets on the arrival of spring. Wagers come in from around the world to make for prizes of up to $350,000. Started in 1917 by railroad surveyors, the Ice Classic is a source of pride and much-needed employment for this often forgotten community. Nenana’s 450 residents take great care to uphold their tradition. Ice Classic staff and volunteers use outdated filing systems and antiquated computers to tabulate the results. As the weather warms, the anticipation builds and fierce competitors come to Nenana to wait for the ice to melt. Produced by Mitch Dickman of Denver’s Listen Productions.
- Friday, November 1, 11:45 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
- Saturday, November 2, 1 p.m., Lyric (Fort Collins)
- Wednesday, November 6, 4 p.m., UA Pavilions
- Thursday, November 7, 9:30 p.m., UA Pavilions
COLORADO NARRATIVE SHORT FILMS
The following short films showcase Colorado’s homegrown talent and all screen together at these times, with a total run time of 97 minutes:
- Wednesday, November 6, 7 p.m., UA Pavilions
- Thursday, November 7, 9:15 p.m., UA Pavilions
A promising date hits an impasse when a young couple discovers an inconvenient truth.
- Directed by Travis Lindner
- 7 minutes
A dark comedy about a man who receives a mysterious proposition from his childhood crush.
- Directed by Adam Rosenberg
- 11 minutes
- Cast: Luke Krogmeier, Haleigh Burckley, Ty Sells and Juan Mendoza
Dwelling in a mausoleum of heartache, Kim has little left to do but celebrate Danny’s birthday one last time. But in the deep shadows of night, something that looks like Danny watches her every move.
- Directed by Ben Rand
- 13 minutes
Two young dancers seek the truth after the mysterious disappearance of their mother.
- Directed by Bruce Tetsuya
- 14 minutes
- Cast: Alaina Christine Tennison, Macy Friday and Luke Sassu
Thirty years ago, Beatrix Callow photographed Amanda Bleu, imbuing the image with feelings she dared not speak aloud. Now, Beatrix is older, but Amanda appears unchanged in this terrifying update of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”
- Directed by Adam Lipsius
- 10 minutes
- Cast: Lindsey Shaw and Emily Marie Palmer
This tale of a dying relationship between a man and woman is an allegory of mankind’s relationship with the earth.
- Directed by Daniel Fickle
- 6 minutes
- Cast: Dava Lee and Milo Lee
Gripped by fear yet led by the whisper of his muse, a young Cuban musician discovers the power of forgiveness as the key to his creative freedom.
- Directed by Jacob L Brooks
- 16 minutes
- Cast: Robert Morales, Hector David Oropesa, Misnelys Meteors Hernandez, David Dufeal, Sammy and Wendoline Omana
When a father meets his son’s girlfriend, he realizes she may be his illegitimate daughter.
- Directed by Marcus Scott Jr.
- 7 minutes
- Cast: JT Richardson and Alex Sayer
Following a masked man as he battles to regain his identity, this film is the first installment in a three-part anthology exploring a specific theme within a supernatural landscape.
- Directed by Jeremiah Hutchens
- 7 minutes
- Cast: Mr. Coolness, Romelia Fox and John Lundy
The following Colorado film is playing as part of a separate package of narrative shorts showing at:
- Tuesday, November 5, 2 p.m., UA Pavilions
- Friday, November 8, 6:30 p.m., UA Pavilions
- Saturday, November 9, 10:30 a.m., UA Pavilions
Seven Minutes in Heaven is a game teenagers have been playing since the 1950s. The rules are simple: By spinning a bottle or drawing names, two people are picked at random to spend seven minutes in a closet doing whatever they want, so long as it’s consensual. When the bottle lands on Bree, the 12-year-old new girl who’s never been kissed, and 13-year-old cool kid Connor, they have mere moments to go from strangers to sharing an experience that will change them both forever.
- Written and directed by Kaily Smith Westbrook, a graduate of Cherry Creek High School and co-founder of SeriesFest
- 13 minutes
- Cast: Rebecca Valente
COLORADO SHORT DOCUMENTARIES
The following short documentaries showcase Colorado’s homegrown talent and all screen together at these times, with a total run time of 120 minutes:
- Tuesday, November 5, 6:45 p.m., UA Pavilions
- Saturday, November 9, 12:30 p.m., Lyric (Fort Collins)
- Sunday, November 10, 1:30 p.m.
Follow the daring few who are willing to risk everything for the perfect pint.
- Directed by Kaleb Kohart
- 25 minutes
- Producer: Jonel Beach, Charlie Papazian, Kaleb Kohart | Editor: David Kaufman | Cinematographer: David Kaufman, Kaleb Kohart
- Cast: Jim Koch, Ken Grossman, Kevin Blodger, Larry Bell and Kim Jordan
Over the course of 60 years, two married entomologists traveled to more than 67 countries and quietly amassed the world’s largest private collection of insects, with more than 1 million specimens. But as they grapple with Parkinson’s in their twilight years, these two soulmates have decided to give their collection away.
- Directed by Maria Clinton and Allison Otto
- 33 minutes
- Producer: Caryn Capotosto, Jane Julian, David Cornfield, Linda Cornfield | Editor: Chelsea Jackson | Cinematographer: Allison Otto, Maria Clinton and Chelsea Jackson
This short film explores end-of-life care with Dr. Nadia Tremonti, a pediatric palliative-care specialist.
- Directed by John Beder
- 37 minutes
- Producer: Donald Stader, Mark Brady, Rachel Donihoo | Editor: Katie DeRoche | Cinematographer: John Beder, Stephen Smith
- Cast: Dr. Nadia Tremonti and Dr. Jamie Bell
For thousands of years, outrigger canoes have connected diverse cultures around the world. Meet Rob Prechtl, a member of the U.S. Men’s Rafting team, as he embarks on a journey to learn the craft of outrigger paddling.
- Directed by Forest Woodward
- 23 minutes
- Producer: Gnarly Bay (Dan Riordan; Dana Saint; Kyle King; Aaron Schurman) | Editor: Jordan Ingram | Cinematographer: Shawn Tyler, Joe Foster, Chad Copeland
- Cast: Bobby Puakea and Robbie Prechtl
PLAYING AS PART OF MUSIC VIDEO MIXTAPE:
Click here for the complete list of the best videos from the past year, featuring international indie heavyweights and locals alike, that will screen together with other shorts at these times:
- Thursday, November 7, 9:30 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
- Saturday, November 9, 7 p.m., UA Pavilions
- Sunday, November 10, 4 p.m., Lyric (Fort Collins)
Additionally, 303 Magazine’s music desk will host a panel bringing together local and national filmmakers who specialize in music-video production for a night of conversation at 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 2, at the Festival Annex. They will touch on the collaborative and experiential nature of an often overlooked form of filmmaking; the burgeoning music scene in Denver; and the mainstream explosion of visual albums such as Thom Yorke’s “ANIMA,” Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” and locally, The Lumineers’ “III.”
Tap into the deep vein of local talent with this screening of selected works from the 2019 Supernova Digital Animation Festival, which shows that Coloradans are at the forefront of an international movement to merge technology and art. Learn more at supernovadenver.com.
- Thursday, November 7, 9 p.m., Festival Annex