The Denver Film Festival kicks off its 39th year on Wednesday, November 2 and continues screening more than 250 films over the following 11 days. Denver is making a name for itself in the film community with the continuing success and acclaim of this festival and there will be numerous screenings where the filmmaker (or other people related to the film) will be there in person. You can see feature-length films, shorts, music videos, documentaries, a live-taping of a podcast, discussion panels and workshops as well as have an opportunity to try out HTC Vive and Oculus Rift virtual reality systems. Four venues will simultaneously screen films throughout the days of the festival: Sie FilmCenter on East Colfax, UA Denver Pavilions on 16th Street Mall, The Festival Annex on West Colfax and Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. For a full list of the movies, pick up a hard-copy of the guide or visit the Denver Film Festival website.
In order to prepare for the overwhelming amount of choices this festival offers, we’ve dissected some of the screenings into five genres that highlight the diversity and experimentalism that a film festival brings to its viewers. Check out a few from each genre or entrench yourself in just one. Whatever you do, make sure to see at least one film you might never hear of without this festival in your own town. Ultimately, that’s the beauty of this 12-day film-binge — a chance to have a meaningful movie-going experience. You will be challenged. You will be impressed. You will be sad and happy and grossed out. You might be confused. And you will surely remember those experiences more than your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy.
Try to purchase your tickets ahead of time, and be aware that many of these screenings will sell out—especially the Red Carpet Events. Ticket prices are as follows—
Denver Film Society (DFS) member— $12
Weekday Matinees (showtimes before 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday):
Red Carpet Screenings:
Opening Night/Centerpiece/Closing Night
DFS Member— $35
Red Carpet Events
Four critically-acclaimed films will be screening at this year’s Denver Film Festival, including an appearance by the star of La La Land, Emma Stone (see our announcement with details here) on opening night. Each of these movies will play at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and you only have one opportunity to see them. Get lost in the magic and music of La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle. Or have your heartstrings pulled with the “going home quest” of Lion, directed by Garth Davis. If you want something upbeat — but also really predictable — check out The Edge of Seventeen with Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson, directed by Kelly Fremon Craig. Finally, closing night brings us the beautiful Natalie Portman with her portrayal of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie, which has already gathered attention as a possible Oscar nomination.
Wednesday, November 2: La La Land—8 p.m.
Friday, November 4: Lion— 8 p.m.
Saturday, November 12: The Edge of Seventeen— 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 12: Jackie— 8 p.m.
With the expanding popularity of video streaming companies — like Netflix and HBO Now — documentaries have also grown in popularity and accessibility. That growth has led to documentaries becoming one of the mainstream ways to enjoy film and to an expansion of style. Documentaries are no longer the bores that most of us remember from high school, and some of the top movies we were able to pre-screen fell into this category. The festival will be screening 45 in total with topics that will uplift, inform, visually stun and (of course) make you question things you never thought to question.
Our top four picks for documentaries not to miss are: Off the Rails, which tells the story of Darius McCollum, a man with Asberger’s who memorized the public transportation system in NYC and has “hijacked” trains and buses, landing him in prison for a total of 23 years; SEED: The Untold Story, which mixes captivating screenshots with time-lapse videos and interviews to garner support and worry over our planet’s seed biodiversity; Do Not Resist, which examines our police forces in the wake of Ferguson and how it relates to the War on Terror;= and Mom and Me, which is a collection of interviews with manly men from Oklahoma who talk about their relationships with their mothers (bring some tissues for this one.)
Contemporary World Cinema
Whether you are a film buff or a complete novice, there are plenty of movies on the schedule to widen your notions and expand your horizons, especially in the Contemporary World Cinema category. Approach these 72 films with an open mind and you will find them humorous, thought-provoking, emotional and thoroughly entrenched with the unusual aspects of human nature. There is an admirable collection of countries represented at Denver Film Festival’s 39th year, and as per tradition, they will give the spotlight to one country in particular. This year the focus is on Spain, with eight feature-length films and three short films.
If you fancy global cinema, you have an amazing selection to choose from. We enjoyed Granny’s Dancing on the Table (pictured above) a Swedish film directed by Hanna Sköld and featuring animation and live action entwined with fairy tales and family history. It is in competition for the Krzysztof Kieslowski Award for Best Feature Film.
We also were fascinated by Russian filmmaker Ivan I. Tverdovskly’s Zoology, an oddball dramedy about a middle-aged woman who grows a tail, and whose struggles speak to the individualist in each and every one of us. Canadian Denis Côté brings a modern morality tale — Boris Without Beatrice — to the screen with a hypnotizing style that focuses on body language and sounds to move the plot forward.
There are films from the UK, Chile, Germany, Denmark, Poland, Japan, France, Czech Republic and Indonesia, just to name a few more of your options.
First Look Student Program
This will be the 15th year that Denver Film Festival presents movies from college and university filmmakers from around the world. Each year the filmmakers are given the opportunity to show their movie — which must be 30 minutes or less — and attend networking events with other filmmakers and film industry people. The 23 films are divided in four groups loosely by theme and appear on the schedule as First Look 1-4. The themes are: Who Are You?, Highs and Lows, Face the Music and Strange Things, Man. These are a great way to foreshadow what the future of movies may hold and to support the study of film.
Music Video Mixtapes
This 94-minute collection will reinvigorate your love of music videos, or remind those of us who remember the good ole’ days of MTV that music videos are an art form of their own. The collection features 25 videos from different states and some that hail from countries such as Canada, the UK, Australia and France, as well as three specifically from Colorado. Look out for Elephant Revival’s video Petals (a still from it is pictured above.)
You have two chances to see this entertaining collage of music and art at the Sie FilmCenter:
Saturday, November 5, 9:30 p.m. & Thursday, November 10, 6:30 p.m.
Shorts are films under 40 minutes grouped together — as in the First Look Student Program — thematically. Denver Film Festival has 74 shorts this year, separated into five groups (listed below.) Within those groups are animated, documentary, experimental and narrative fiction films. These are especially great for those of us who can’t make up our minds or have short attention spans, since the 87-97 minute screenings are split by about 15 shorts a piece. Each story adhering to the time limitation (and many lasting only 10 minutes) bursts into life without wasting a second of reel, and usually ends just as suddenly. Catching at least one of these groups is highly recommended.
Shorts 1: Love, life and the feelings in between
Shorts 2: Character Study
Shorts 3: Late Night Shorts
Shorts 4: Documentary Shorts
Shorts 5: Close Encounters of the Animated Kind
303‘s Recommended Festival Schedule
Making the most of the festival means prioritizing your time wisely and we are here to help. We’ve compiled a schedule for the 12 days with a few suggestions for each day, making sure to include the films that have the most buzz about them (and a few we enjoyed that we were able to pre-screen.) Definitely check out the full guide with an A-Z list of films, as well as programmer’s picks. And if you want to be really adventurous, then close your eyes and place your finger somewhere on the guide, going to whichever showing you point to.
Wednesday, November 2
La La Land at Ellie Caulkins Opera House at 8 p.m.
Thursday, November 3
Off the Rails at Sie FilmCenter at 4:15 p.m.
Friday, November 4
Solitary at Sie FilmCenter at 2 p.m.
First Look Student Program 1: Who Are You at Sie FilmCenter at 3:45 p.m.
Lion at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House at 8 p.m.—or—
Katie Says Goodbye at UA Pavilion at 9:15 p.m.
Saturday, November 5
Shorts 5: Close Encounters of the Animated Kind at UA Pavilions at 11:30 a.m.
The Red Turtle at Sie FilmCenter at 11:30 a.m.
Folk Hero & Funny Guy at Sie FilmCenter at 4:15 p.m.
First Look Student Program 2: Highs and Lows at Sie FilmCenter at 5 p.m.
Shorts 1 at UA Pavilions at 7 p.m.
Radio Dreams at UA Pavilions at 7 p.m.
Music Video Mixtape at Sie FilmCenter at 9:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 6
SEED: The Untold Story at UA Pavilions at 1:30 p.m.
One Week and a Day at Sie FilmCenter at 1:45 p.m.
Do Not Resist at UA Pavilions at 6:45 p.m.
Zoology at UA Pavilions at 8:45 p.m.
Monday, November 7
Mom and Me at Sie FilmCenter at 1:45 p.m.
I, Daniel Blake at Sie FilmCenter at 6:15 p.m.
United States of Love at UA Pavilions at 9 p.m.
Tuesday, November 8
Granny’s Dancing on the Table at Sie FilmCenter at 3:45 p.m.
The Tip of the Iceberg at UA Pavilions at 6:30 p.m.
Dead Slow Ahead at Sie FilmCenter at 9:15 p.m.
Wednesday, November 9
Shorts 2 at UA Pavillions at 4 p.m.
Score: A Film Music Documentary at UA Pavilions at 4:15 p.m.
The State of the State: Filmmaking in Colorado at the Festival Annex at 6 p.m.
Boris Without Beatrice at UA Pavilions at 9 p.m.
Thursday, November 10
A Song for the Living at Sie FilmCenter at 4:15 p.m. (filmed in and around Central City, CO)
Mr. Gaga at Sie FilmCenter at 6:15 p.m.
Trespass Against Us at Sie FilmCenter at 9 p.m. (with a soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers)
Friday, November 11
Obit at Sie FilmCenter at 4:30 p.m.
First Look Student Program 4: Strange Things, Man at Sie FilmCenter at 7 p.m.
Shorts 3: Late Night at UA Pavilions at 9:15 p.m.
The Cinema Travellers at Sie FilmCenter at 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 12
The Eagle Huntress at Sie FilmCenter at 2 p.m.
The Edge of Seventeen at Ellie Caulkins Opera House at 2:30 p.m.
Shorts 4: Documentary at UA Pavilions at 4:15 p.m.
Staying Vertical at UA Pavilions at 6:45 p.m.
Jackie at Ellie Caulkins Opera House at 8 p.m. (starring Natalie Portman)
Sunday, November 13
Stay at the Sie FilmCenter for an afternoon of the American Epic three-part series:
The Big Bang at 1:45 p.m.
Out of the Many, One at 4:30 p.m. and
The Sessions at 6:45 p.m.
Or try one of these:
Check it at UA Pavilions at 4:15 p.m.
Hunter Gatherer at UA Pavilions at 4:45 p.m.
Dogs at UA Pavilions at 7:30 p.m.