The 40th Anniversary of the Denver Film Festival (DFF) kicks off November 1, and for almost two weeks Denver citizens can see films they may never have an opportunity to see again. That’s the beauty of the film festival, according to artistic director Brit Withey, who enjoys foreign films and dark narratives the most. Sure, you can search for indie films on Netflix or Hulu, but the chances of finding such an outstanding collection as the Denver Film Festival regularly showcases is unlikely. And, there are always a few films that are simply not available except at film festivals. This year, as they celebrate their 40th festival, the organizers wanted to commemorate some of the best films they’ve screened, which means there will be a handful of films that are either retrospective or throwbacks.

As with every year for the last two decades, DFF will highlight a designated country’s cinema. This year focuses on Denmark, bringing with it the dry, dark wit of Scandinavia. There will also be Red Carpet screenings, including Molly’s Game which follows the true story of a Colorado-born Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker dealer.

Read: Denver Film Festival Announces Red Carpet Films for the 40th Fest

Four venues will screen DFF films: Denver Film Society’s home base, the Sie FilmCenter, UA Pavilions on 16th Street Mall, Ellie Caulkins Opera House and the Festival Annex in the McNichols Building. For a full list of the 200+ films coming to Denver, visit this website. Tickets are required for all screenings and can be purchased online or at the box office prior to the show. Two hundred films is daunting, which is why we’ve narrowed it down to 30 must-see films with the help of Withey and his years of cinematic expertise.

AlphaGo

Why you should see it: This documentary by director Greg Kohs seeks to answer the questions, “where does the line between human and artificial intelligence begin and end?” and “what can computers teach us about ourselves?” It does so by looking at the ancient Chinese game Go and a seven-day tournament that occurred in March 2016, pitting a legendary Go master against an AI program. Go’s board configurations on a 19-by-19 grid have been paralleled to the number of atoms in the universe, making it a game that no human has ever fully conquered. The documentary takes viewers from the origins of the AI program DeepMind in London and across the world to Seoul, South Korea, where the tournament will change many perspectives on the ancient game and what it means to play. Kohs is expected to be at the screenings in person.

See it if you’re into: documentaries that deal with human interest stories like Magnus, or you are interested in Artificial Intelligence systems

When to see it:
Thursday 11/9 – 4:15 p.m. UA Pavilions
Friday 11/10 – 6:45 p.m. UA Pavilions
Saturday 11/11 – 1:45 p.m. UA Pavilions

Breaking the Waves

Why you should see it: As part of the focus on a nation in cinema as well as the theme of retrospective films, Breaking the Waves is a must-see for those who appreciate tragicomedies. This 1996 Danish romance film is not like any romance film from the United States in the ’90s. With an outstanding performance by actress Emily Watson, who was nominated for an Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA for her role as a young woman trying to do God’s work while her Protestant Calvinist community judges her with contempt. Enjoy the film that won Danish director Lars von Trier the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival on the big screen during DFF, because this one probably won’t end up on Netflix.

See it if you likedark, indie comedies like Wristcutters

When to see it:
Sunday 11/12 – 6 p.m. UA Pavilions

California Dreams

Why you should see it: A “docufictional” film, with strands of reality mixed in with imagined moments that are sometimes more mundane than the actual moments, California Dreams will make you squirm, laugh and shake your head in equal parts. Director Mike Ott is a DFF regular, last year he screened Actor Martinez to much critical acclaim, and his films often involve “desolate crossroads and borderlands” both visually and emotionally. California Dreams is a result of Ott organizing auditions in small towns in Southern California in order to find people who have never made it to their ideal of silver-screen stardom. Expect to experience a bizarre version of the American Dream from characters who are so real they sometimes seem fake.

See it if you likethe meandering plot lines of Wes Anderson films like Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou or if you like biographical documentaries that aren’t about famous people.

When to see it: 
Friday 11/3 – 6:15 p.m. UA Pavilions
Saturday 11/4 – 4:30 p.m. UA Pavilions
Monday 11/6 – 1:15 p.m. Sie FilmCenter DFF

Did You Wonder Who Fired The Gun?

Why you should see it: Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun is a documentary that turns the camera on the filmmaker himself and finds answers to questions he never thought to ask. Travis Wilkerson returns to his hometown of Dothan, Alabama and discovers his great-grandfather once shot and killed a black man and was never charged or punished for it. It would be difficult for this film to not be a southern gothic style, and by the short and vague trailer, Wilkerson points viewers to the idea that questions and answers are sometimes more revealing — and more dangerous — than we hoped.

See it if you likepersonal discovery stories like Stories We Tell, or if you are into the southern gothic style like Winter’s Bone.

When to see it:
Saturday 11/11 – 4 p.m. UA Pavilions
Sunday 11/12 – 2 p.m. UA Pavilions

Easy

Why you should see it: Not just a dark comedy, but a black comedy from Italian filmmaker Andrea Magnani, Easy takes a journey with the outcast son of a family who is given the task of transporting a body in a coffin from Italy to Ukraine. The outcast son, Isidoro, was something of a big deal in his youth, but age has not treated him well and his brother Filo has taken over as the accomplished one. Filo convinces his self-conscious brother to transport the body in the hopes that Isidoro might relight his inner fire, and also because Filo might be in trouble if the body stays put.

See it if you likemovies that take you on a ride with the main character, like Little Miss Sunshine, but darker.

When to see it:
Saturday 11/11 – 8:45 p.m. UA Pavilions
Sunday 11/12 – 4 p.m.  UA Pavilions

Go here to watch the trailer.

The Eyeslicer Roadshow

Why you should see it: The Eyeslicer Roadshow: Presented in Smell-O-Vision is a wacky, late night shorts mixtape that is supposed to be as weird as it sounds. With episodes that are smashed together to feel as if it’s one uninterrupted whole, there are more than a handful of directors to give credit to. Not only is it going to be worth the weirdness, it’s also a great opportunity to see a lot of different directors’ style at once, literally. This is not only a movie screening, it is a live event, with co-creator Dan Schoenbrun, Q and A’s with robots, and milk and cookies, apparently. Indiewire called it “one of the craziest TV shows you’ll ever see.”

See it if you likeThe TV show Robot Chicken. 

When to see it:
Thursday 11/2 – 9:30 p.m. Sie FilmCenter

Faces Places

Why you should see it: Funny, sweet, endearing, inspiring— these are all adequate and appropriate for Faces Places — a documentary co-directed by 33-year-old French photographer JR and 89-year-old French New Wave figure Agnes Varda. Set in an ever-changing scenery of the French countryside, the unlikely duo travel around in a photobooth van that JR has equipped to print large-scale posters of the pictures taken inside. JR then applies those posters to the walls around each village — presumably at certain points, illegally — and documents the reactions of his subjects and of Agnes Varda. Uplifting and quaintly French, Faces Places will stand out among the darker documentaries in the festival as one you can even take your kids to.

See it if you likeuplifting documentaries, especially if it’s focused on art, like Exit Through The Gift Shop.

When to see it:
Sunday 11/5 – 1:30 p.m. – Sie FilmCenter
Monday 11/6 – 4:30 p.m. – Sie FilmCenter

Felicite

Why you should see it: Franco-Senegalese filmmaker Alain Gomis’s Félicité is a touching, musically-infused and loaded narrative film that centers on the struggles of a mother trying to save her child in a world that seems indifferent at times. Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu delivers a masterful performance as Félicité, moving in emotional waves from strong-willed to hopeless and back again. She must break away from her daily routine to find money to help her teenage son who’s been injured in a motorcycle accident. But when that task becomes more and more difficult Félicité wonders if her love of music can save her. With a soundtrack by the Congolese musical collective Kasai Allstars and the Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra, this film will take you to the corners of a mother’s heart and let you hear it beating.

See it if you likestrong, female characters, like Erin Brockovich 

When to see it:
Sunday 11/5 – 6:15 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Tuesday 11/7 – 9:15 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Wednesday 11/8 – 6:15 p.m. Sie FilmCenter

Have a Nice Day

Why you should see it:  A wonderful treat of a movie, Have a Nice Day is Chinese filmmaker Liu Jian’s neo-noir take on a mob film. The animation style tends to favor a sickening palette of colors, accentuated by bright pops of neon. It’s the little things in every scene that really catch the viewer’s eye— a motorbike pausing after a pothole, a dog walking across the screen, people in the background going about their business. At once an absurdist escape and a biting commentary on consumer culture, the movie will captivate big audiences with its homage to films like The Godfather, Blade Runner and the works of Tarantino. But for those of us who love animated movies, and especially Asian animated movies, this will be a delightful new taste of a hopefully long career by Jian. And if you love graphic novels, there is no doubt you will find familiar tactics in Have a Nice Day. Watch it for the violence, watch it for the dry humor, but definitely watch it because the visual style is artistic, emotional and insanely brilliant.

See it if you likemob caper films, animation, graphic novels— or if you like Pulp Fiction. 

When to see it:
Friday 11/3 – 9:15 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Sunday 11/5 – 6:45 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Monday 11/6 – 3:45 p.m. Sie FilmCenter

In the Fade

Why you should see it: A gripping film with American-German actress Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds, Mr. Nobody) who plays a woman struggling with the loss of her husband and son from a bomb attack in Germany. Katja (Kruger) teeters almost over the edge, finding solace in destructive habits while also trying to exact revenge, and in that precarious state, viewers are able to feel her tattered insides while still hoping she can stitch it all back together. Written and directed by Faith Akin, who was born in Germany to Turkish immigrants, and whose inspiration for some of this film came from experiences he endured or witnessed with xenophobia in Germany in the 2000s. Because of current events, with xenophobia again on the rise in places like the US and Germany, this film might feel too close to home. Luckily, the artful direction of Akin and the spot-on acting by Kruger softens the blow.

See it if you likecourtroom dramas interspersed with action-movie-disaster-scenes, something like American History X crossed with High Crimes

When to see it:
Tuesday 11/7 – 4 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Wednesday 11/8  – 9:15 p.m. Sie FilmCenter

Infinity Baby

Why you should see it: The newest film by Bob Byington, Infinity Baby is a delightfully absurd black-and-white film which is narrated by the owner of a company who must find homes for babies who never grow up — an odd genetic side effect from stem cell research. With a star-studded cast, including Nick Offerman (Parks and Rec) as the narrator, Megan Mullally, Kieran Culkin, and Martin Starr, this movie delivers the dry comedy those actors thrive in with a killer soundtrack for hip hop fans. Be prepared for some dark moments that seem akin to parts in movies like Trainspotting, but sit tight because things get better toward the end. Part sci-fi, part drama, part indie comedy, Infinity Baby ultimately dissects the problem of growing up in a way other coming-of-age films have never done yet.

See it if you likedry humor, like the kind found in TV shows like Arrested Development, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, or in movies like Being John Malkovich

When to see it:
Friday 11/3 – 4:30 p.m. UA Pavilions
Sunday 11/5 – 4:45 p.m. UA Pavilions
Monday 11/6 – 6:45 p.m. UA Pavilions

I, Tonya

DFF 40, DFF 2017, DFF, Denver Film Festival, I Tonya, Tonya Harding movie

Why you should see it: This is the closing night red carpet presentation for DFF. Everyone’s heard about the Tonya Harding incident in 1994, where competing Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked and injured, leading to Harding’s victory. This biopic by director Craig Gillepsie (Lars and the Real Girl) reveals Harding’s complicated life story and has been garnering buzz about Margot Robbie’s (Suicide Squad) performance as the troubled skater. Even though it’s been over two decades since the outrageous scandal, this movie will bring the drama back to life in a less defamatory way.

See it if you like: Complex stories about athletes or fame like Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story

When to see it:
Saturday 11/11 – 8 p.m. Ellie Caulkins Opera House

Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy

Why you should see it: Director Thomas Riedelsheimer has teamed up with artist Andy Goldsworthy for the second time. The first time was 16 years ago with the acclaimed film Rivers and Tides to create a visually-stunning documentary that fuses Goldsworthy distinctive artistic style with Riedelsheimer’s keen eye for the moments in between. Though the film is ecstasy for the eyes, it is also a deeper look into Goldsworthy’s life and motivations, struggles and failures. Filmed over the course of four years, Leaning into the Wind allows viewers a rare glimpse into the “wonderment, intimacy, fragility and evanescence of the environmental artworks” as they are being made. And, some of Goldsworthy’s pieces in this film are bigger, use heavy machinery, and require help from others, setting them aside from his earlier work that always seemed to be more meditative than reactive.

See it if you likevisually-stunning images and compelling narration, like any Planet Earth, but instead of animals it’s about art.

When to see it:
Friday 11/10 – 3:30 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Sunday 11/12 – 1:30 p.m. Sie FilmCenter

Los Olvidados

DFF40, DFF 2017, DFF, Denver Film Festival

Why you should see it: As part of the retrospective theme of this year’s DFF, the well-known Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa will be showcased with three films. Los Olvidados is one of those films, a 1950 classic from Spanish Surrealist director Luis Buñuel that won two Cannes Film Festival awards. It’s a story of a gang of young men who are shielding their true emotions with cruelty and corruption. Figueroa and Buñuel work seamlessly with each other in executing a vision that leaves the viewers little choice but to know more than they want to and be unsure how they feel after it ends. A corresponding exhibit for the retrospective for Figueroa will be shown in the Annex at the McNichols Building throughout the festival.

See it if you likethe original and old classics of film, like any Hitchcock movie or West Side Story.

When to see it:
Sunday 11/5 – 11:30 a.m. Sie FilmCenter

Liyana

DFF 40, DFF 2017, DFF, Denver Film Festival, Liyana

Why you should see it: Colorado filmmakers Aaron and Amanda Kopp have made a documentary that is also a narrative, composed of an imagined story told by five orphans in Swaziland. Liyana transitions between animated sections, where a courageous girl helps save her two younger brothers from dangers seen and unseen, and real-life segments where the orphans must confront their own struggles and successes. The animated parts are by Shofela Coker and the movie is produced in part by Thandie Newton (Westworld) and Daniel Junge (Saving Face). 

See it if you likeanimated tear-jerkers like Up, but with more reality mixed in.

When to see it:
Friday 11/10 – 6 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Saturday 11/11 – 4 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Sunday 11/12 – 11 a.m. Sie FilmCenter

Molly’s Game

Why you should see it: This is the big night red carpet presentation for DFF. Based on a true story about a Colorado-born Olympic-class skier, Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), who turns to high-stakes poker after a back injury that ends her skiing career, only to be caught by FBI agents in the middle of the night. Some of Bloom’s gambling clients included Hollywood stars, athletes, business titans and members of the Russian mob. Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, this film is one of those almost unbelievable “based-on-a-true-story” capers. It also has a Colorado connection since Bloom grew up in Longmont and went to the University of Colorado, Boulder. Co-starring Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Chris O’Dowd and others. Molly and Jeremy Bloom will be at the screening alongside Aaron Sorkin for a Q&A after the movie.

See it if you like: Ocean’s Eleven, The Whole Nine Yards

When to see it:
Thursday, 11/9 – Ellie Caulkins Opera House

READ: Aaron Sorkin to Appear and Discuss Directorial Debut at Denver Film Festival

Music Video Mixtape

Why you should see it: This is a staple of the Denver Film Festival, and especially for those of us who grew up with music videos on MTV, it’s always a welcome hour and a half. With a variety of current music videos streaming one after the other, it doesn’t get boring and if you don’t like one of the songs you just have to wait a few minutes. Don’t expect pop songs — this is a film festival after all— instead, look for songs from Feist, Fyfe, The Regrettes and more.

See it if you likeold-school MTV, or if you look up music videos on youtube.

When to see it:
Thursday 11/9 – 6:45 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Friday 11/10 – 7 p.m. UA Pavilions

No Man’s Land

DFF 40, DFF 2017, DFF, Denver Film Festival, No Man's Land, David Byars

Why you should see it: Director and cinematographer David Byars was granted one-of-a-kind access to the 41-day armed standoff outside Bend, Oregon in January 2016 that came as a result of a protest against the conviction of two ranchers. No Man’s Land is a gripping documentary, following the everyday actions of the armed men within the Malheur Wildlife Refuge while also investigating the very origins of revolution, revolt and the human need to rebel. This is the film we have all been waiting for since the armed standoff occurred.

See it if you likedocumentaries about recent events that were politically charged, like Citizenfour (about Edward Snowden.)

When to see it:
Friday 11/2 – 9 p.m. UA Pavilions
Sunday 11/5 – 11:15 a.m. UA Pavilions

Go here to watch a clip.

Quality Time

DFF40, DFF 2017, DFF, Denver Film Festival, Quality Time,

Kjell’s story in Quality Time.

Why you should see it: Dutch filmmaker Daan Bakker has created a strange, sly and poetic narrative that pieces together five distinct stories. Each different story is filmed in its own special style, separating the parts visually from one another. It’s the disjointed, dysfunctional way that each character copes within their world that ties the five episodes together thematically. Some of the characters are an anthropomorphized dot named Koen, Kjell who time-travels to heal wounds from the past, aspiring photographer Stefaan, a punk-guitarist who returns to earth after being abducted by aliens, and the uber-sensitive Jef who must meet his girlfriend’s parents. It is made in the Netherlands, with English subtitles.

See it if you like: charming but though-provoking movies with a touch of fantasy, like Fantastic Mr. Fox or The Corpse Bride

When to see it:
Friday 11/10 – 6:45 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Saturday 11/11 – 4:30 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Sunday 11/12 – 7 p.m. Sie FilmCenter

Radiance

Why you should see it: Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kamase presents her newest film, Radiance, a romance that only touches on the fringes of love. The story is set between Misako (Ayame Misaki), a writer of audio descriptions for the visually impaired, and Nakamori (Masatoshi Nagase) a photographer who is slowly losing his sight. Perhaps on paper, the matching seems apropos, but the couple’s first meeting is filled with disagreement and the film never fully approaches the reasons why the couple falls for one another. Kamase is known for her naturalist approach to cinematography — using elements of nature to drive messages home —and Radiance does not back down from that, using autumnal light to hint at Nakamori’s failing vision, for instance. This is one of the films at DFF that is almost surely not going to be easily available after the screenings. Not only because it’s a Japanese film with English subtitles, but also because Kamase’s films are usually known for their popularity at film festivals and not for mass consumption.

See it if you like: movies focused on cinematography, like Blue Valentine 

When to see it:
Saturday 11/4 – 9:30 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Sunday 11/5  – 3:45 p.m. Sie FilmCenter

Ramen Heads

Why you should see it: Do you love ramen as much as Japan loves it? Probably not, but even if you only know about ramen in those pre-made packets, this documentary will have your mouth watering for the real deal. Documentary filmmaker Koki Shigeno took a chance when he asked Japan’s ramen master to reveal his trade secrets. The master, Osamu Tomita happily agreed, divulging the exact process he undertakes to make the ramen people line up around the block to eat. With footage from the restaurant Osamu Tomita cooks from, to interviews with customers who have just eaten, Ramen Heads is a lighthearted affair that indulges our senses.

See it if you like: food documentaries, like Jiro Dreams of Sushi, or if you like ramen.

When to see it:
Wednesday 11/8 – 6:45 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Thursday 11/9 – 9:15 p.m. Sie FilmCenter

Song of Granite

Why you should see it: Fame — is it beloved or betraying to those who find it? This biographical drama from Ireland focuses on the 20th century master of a traditional style of Irish singing sean nós, Jon Heaney, who struggled with the fame he encountered through his career. Director Pat Collins shot the film in black and white and introduces viewers from all over the world to the wonderful and hauntingly beautiful styles of Irish folk music while telling the sometimes tragic story of Heaney and his genius.

See it if you likedocumentaries or narratives about eccentric people, like Cate Blanchett’s Manifesto

When to see it:
Thursday 11/9 – 4 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Saturday 11/11 – 9 p.m. UA Pavilions
Sunday 11/12 – 4:30 p.m. UA Pavilions

Strad Style

DFF40, DFF 2017, DFF, Denver Film Festival, Strad Style, Danny Houck

Danny Houck in his Ohio home

Why you should see it: This documentary follows the sometimes nauseating tale of an eccentric from Ohio who made a promise to a renowned European concert violinist that he would make a perfect copy of the most famous violin in existence— the Stradivarius Il Cannone— in time for a concert. “To compete with the masters, you’ve got to be a little crazy,” it reads in the trailer because even though the film will have you intrigued on the art of creating violins, it will have you more intrigued about this person who believes he can make a masterpiece without any formal training. The man’s name is Danny Houck, and he is at once endearingly aloof, frustratingly crazy and brilliant. You’ll have to see the documentary to know if he fails or succeeds his mission, but even without that curiosity-stoker, violinist-turned-filmmaker Stefan Avalos will pull viewers into the story with his ability to capture the essence of a man and his dream.

See it if you likedocumentaries about an unlikely expert in their field like Man on Wire, or like the TV show Curb Your Enthusiam, because some of the film will make you squirm

When to see it:
Friday 11/3 – 4 p.m. UA Pavilions
Saturday 11/4 – 9:15 p.m. UA Pavilions
Sunday 11/5 – 6:15 p.m. UA Pavilions

Thelma

DFF40, DFF 2017, Denver Film Festival, DFF, Thelma

Why you should see it: A paranormal thriller from Norway, Thelma is about a young woman who must go through hell to discover her true self. After leaving her parent’s strict religious home for university in Oslo, Thelma begins having seizures and starts noticing signs of supernatural activity. She is befriended by another young woman, Anja, and through their sexually confusing relationship, Thelma must question her upbringing, her religion and her motives for being attracted to Anja. But the more she questions it, the more she has seizures, and the more she realizes there are issues in her family’s past that she needs to understand. By filmmaker Joachim Trier, this Norwegian narrative will have viewers gripping their seats. Beautiful and daring, and a little scary, too.

See it if you likedark, romantic horror movies, like Black Swan

When to see it:
Friday 11/3 – 9:30 p.m. UA Pavilions
Saturday 11/4 – 3:45 p.m. UA Pavilions
Monday 11/6 – 4 p.m. UA Pavilions

The Endless

Why you should see it: This film is coming to Denver Film Festival straight from Telluride Horror Show where it was the talk of the town. Directed by the filmmakers who brought you Resolution and Spring, The Endless follows two brothers who return home to a cult that raised them, and they escaped from, to see what came of the order. Guaranteed to be creepy, scenic and psychological, The Endless is not to be missed. Oh, and the two lead actors are also the filmmakers. For a taste of what you’re walking into check out filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s previous films. Spring is an especially beautiful horror-romance that shows us the terror as well as the beauty of nature, all wrapped into a tense love story. Resolution follows two brothers, one of which locks the other in an isolated cabin as an intervention. It doesn’t take long before the brothers realize they’re not alone in this psychological suspense-thriller. — words by Tyler Harvey
See it if you’re into: Martha Marcy May Marlene, The OA, Donnie Darko
When to see it

Wednesday, 11/8 – 1:45 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at UA Pavilions
Thursday, 11/9 – 7:00 p.m. at UA Pavilions

READ: Review – Telluride Horror Show Was a Halloween Dream

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Why you should see it: This is the red carpet matinee choice for DFF. From acclaimed Irish-British writer-director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), this dark comedic drama will embroil you in a battle for justice. As a grief-stricken mother and main character, Frances McDormand (Fargo) delivers with a noticeable (and typical, for McDormand) depth and realistic approach to her performance. Co-starring Woody Harrelson as the Chief of Police, who McDorman’s character badgers to find the murderer of her daughter. Unapologetic, a little crass it is altogether a movie to empower and enlighten. Hopefully, you like hearing curse words.

See it if you like: Kill Bill, without as much violence.

When to see it:
Saturday 11/11 – 2:30 p.m. Ellie Caulkins Opera House

 

Tragedy Girls

Why you should see it: It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie that made it impossible to hold back laughs from beginning to end. Tragedy Girls filled that void this year at the 2017 Telluride Horror Show. The film stars Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool) and Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocalypse) as two teenage girls working hard to promote their “Tragedy Girls” Twitter page. Luckily for them, tragedy is nearby with a serial killer on the loose. The two decide to take advantage of the opportunity at hand and, well, prolong such tragedies. Offering interesting criticisms of social media and millennials, this twisted and creatively gory horror-comedy is a roller coaster worth riding. Tragedy Girls will assuredly leave a lasting impression on film-goers for time to come. The film also features appearances by Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games trilogy), Kevin Durand (The Strain, Fruitvale Station) and Craig Robinson (This is The End, Pineapple Express). — words by Tyler Harvey
See it if you’re into: The Heathers, Jawbreaker, Scream Queens, The Craft
When to see it: 
Saturday, 11/4 – 9:15 p.m. at Sie FilmCenter
Sunday 11/5 – 9:00 p.m. at Sie FilmCenter
Monday 11/6 – 9:15 p.m. at Sie FilmCenter

Under the Tree

Under the Tree, Icelandic films, DFF, Denver Film Festival

Why you should see it: This Icelandic film, directed by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson, takes a sometimes disturbing look at the foibles and mishaps of a small group of characters living in the suburbs in Iceland. Between the exaggerated dispute with an older couple and their neighbors, and their son who is turned out of his house by his wife on suspicions that he might endanger their daughter, this dark comedy is exactly what you want out of Icelandic films. There is a specific color of grey-green that only exists in Iceland, and there must be a specific style of cinema that goes along with it. If you haven’t heard the Icelandic language, this film will give you ample opportunity to bask in its poetic rhythm while reading English subtitles.

See it if you likereally dark films that will definitely depress you a little, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

When to see it:
Thursday 11/9 – 9 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Friday 11/10 – 7 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Saturday 11/11 – 9 p.m. Sie FilmCenter

Vigilante: The Incredible True Story of Curtis Sliwa and the Guardian Angels

DFF 40, DFF 2017, DFF, Denver Film Festival, Vigilante, Curtis Sliwa

Why you should see it: This documentary by director David Wexler takes an in-depth look at the Guardian Angels — the 1970s crime-fighting gang who worked in New York City to protect their neighborhood— and in particular, their founder Curtis Sliwa. With interviews with Sliwa, who proves himself an outstanding storyteller, there is also amateur video footage, TV clips and photographs which help detail the account. With remarkable admissions from Sliwa — who was almost assassinated by John Gotti Jr.— it’s revealed that his motivations are not all that different from groups who exist today (like Antifa) and ultimately come down to communities fighting for change and not waiting for higher authorities to do the work. Both Wexler and Sliwa will be at the screenings in person.

See it if you likeDogtown and Z Boys, The Seven Five

When to see it:
Friday 11/3 – 6:45 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Saturday 11/4 – 3:45 p.m. Sie FilmCenter
Sunday 11/5 – 8:45 p.m. Sie FilmCenter

Shorts

DFF 40, DFF 2017, DFF, Denver Film Festival, The Burden

Swedish Director Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s “The Burden”

Why you should see it:  The short programs are the best way to introduce yourself to independent cinematography, if you are unfamiliar. With each video lasting under 20 minutes, the shorts are grouped into five different screenings, divided generally by theme or style. Filmmakers from all over the world are represented side-by-side in these programs, allowing for a happy-hour-esque viewing of indie films— just enough time to enjoy it but not so much time that you start to regret your decision. Shorts are also for veteran cinema fans, as there are often up-and-coming filmmakers to watch out for. This year, the short segments are divided into these themes (wording from DFF site)

See it if you like: the animated shorts before Pixar movies

Shorts 1: These dynamic shorts explore our internal struggles and define our greatest strengths.
When to see it:
Saturday 11/4 – 6:45 p.m. UA Pavilions
Sunday 11/5 – 2:30 p.m. UA Pavilions

Shorts 2: A powerful collection of shorts revealing secrets and truths.
When to see it:
Wednesday 11/8 – 3:45 p.m. UA Pavilions
Thursday 11/9 – 6:30 p.m. UA Pavilions

Shorts 3: A dark and surreal mix of late-night shorts
When to see it:
Thursday 11/9 – 9:15 p.m. UA Pavilions
Friday 11/10

Shorts 4: These stories from around the world reveal the extraordinary in the mundane.
When to see it:
Saturday 11/11 – 4:15 p.m. UA Pavilions
Sunday 11/12 – 1:45 p.m. UA Pavilions

Shorts 5: A juried competition of unique animated shorts created by talented artists from around the world. These are not your typical Saturday morning cartoons.
When to see it:
Friday 11/3 – 6:45 p.m. UA Pavilions
Saturday 11/4 – 11 a.m. UA Pavilions
Monday 11/6 – 9:15 p.m. UA Pavilions


 

All photos are stills and were provided by Denver Film Society. 

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