Over the years, Colorado has developed some serious game when it comes to documentary filmmaking. In 1997, Donna Dewey took home an Oscar for her short, A Story of Healing, detailing the charitable efforts of American plastic surgeons helping Vietnamese children born with physical defects.
Then, in 2010, Louie Psihoyos’ The Cove captured the Academy Award for Best Documentary feature, a film that exposed the horrific mistreatment of dolphins off the coast of Japan. That same year, Daniel Junge’s short, The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner, about a governor’s support for an assisted suicide initiative, landed a nomination for Best Documentary Short.
And this year, another amazing crop of documentaries hits the 34th Annual Starz Denver Film Festival. Among them, Denver based director Brian Malone’s Patriocracy, which explores the polarization of American politics; Colorado filmmakers Nick Polizzi and Dan Bailey accompany eight people suffering from various illnesses on a trip to the Amazon for spiritual healing in The Sacred Science. And two childhood friends from Colorado explore the meaning of art by taking a cross-country trip via golf cart in the aptly titled, kART Across America.
Regardless of the subject, the goal remains the same – to present “life as is.” And along with the Colorado entrants this year is an amazing selection of unblemished, life stories, ready for a enthusiastic audience – from the battlegrounds of Afghanistan in Where Soldiers Come From to the anti-dictatorial movement in Iran as shown in The Green Wave.
There’s a raw, unforgiving portrait of a once prolific Korean filmmaker turned recluse in Arirang, the multi-layered adventures of a crime fighting, private investigator slash dancer from India (The Bengali Detective), the heroic efforts of Greenpeace co-founder, Paul Watson, and his 40 year mission to save ocean life in Eco-Pirate, and a very curious exploration of faith and morals in Holy Rollers, following a group of blackjack playing, card counting, money making Christians.
And we’re just scratching the surface.
Heading into the weekend are more memorable, documentary gems:
American Teacher – On the heels of Waiting for Superman comes this remarkable education based documentary, chronicling the lives of 4 different teachers across America. And their challenges, sacrifices, and milestones. Narrated by Matt Damon, the film uncovers many startling facts and details about the teaching profession – undoubtedly one of the most important, yet underappreciated occupations today.
The Green Wave – Director Ali Samadi documents the Iranian Green Revolution from 2009, a movement that symbolized peace, support, and unity. And an end to the dictatorship under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Using a variety of filmmaking techniques, from social media to blogs, animation sequences to YouTube videos, Samadi creates a highly compelling and fascinating look inside Iran today – the hopes, dreams, and challenges of a people and a nation.
Saturday, November 12, 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, November 13, 12:30 p.m. at the Starz FilmCenter. 80 minutes.
You’ve Been Trumped – Business tycoon Donald Trump attempts to strong arm the Scottish people by building a mega resort on precious wilderness in this eerie, reality-based rendition of Local Hero. Call it ‘Occupy Aberdeen’ as fisherman, farmers, politicians fight back against the corporate profiteer – and the resulting shenanigans borderline the outrageous. Power lines are cut, water wells are damaged, and ultimately, filmmaker Anthony Baxter is jailed.
Saturday, November 12, 4:45 p.m. at the Denver FilmCenter/Colfax. 95 minutes.
-Mark Sells, “The Reel Deal”
For tickets and more information on the 34th Annual Starz Denver Film Festival: www.denverfilm.org.
American Teacher – Trailer
The Green Wave – Trailer
You’ve Been Trumped – Trailer