A Look at Colorado’s 2023 Film Festivals

Man on stage with microphone in front of screen
Photo courtesy of Boulder ENOFF

Festivals and warm weather go hand in hand and Colorado’s 2023 film festivals are shaping up to be the star of the show. With nine film festivals returning to Colorado, Denver’s community of cinema enthusiasts should clear their schedules. The list of upcoming events packs in something for everyone— covering various genres and social issues including horror, outdoor adventure and sports and mental health.

Colorful letters displaying date and title of film festival
Photo courtesy of Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

May 9, Colorado kicks off the May film season with Cinema Azteca—a Spanish-language film series highlighting the diverse traditions of Mexico and Latin America. Every Tuesday in May, audiences can experience a different film selected by Eduardo Sarabia and Lorena Peña Brito. Featured movies include Circo Guerra’s El Abrazo de la Serpiente — a surrealist adventure with mesmerizing visuals; Natalia Almada’s El Velador — a slice-of-life documentary and María Novaro’s Tesoros — a coming-of-age, heartfelt drama.

Tickets range from $5-$15, and showings are held May 9, 16 and 23.

Colorful cartoons of creatures, skulls and monsters with lightning and text surrounded describing one of nine returning films festivals to Colorado
Photo courtesy of Rockymountainnightmares.com

May 12-14, Colorado fright fans can experience Denver’s Rocky Mountain Nightmares, a horror expo and international film festival to fulfill any scary movie lovers’ need for gore, monsters and terror. Not only will attendees witness 2023’s new horror, sci-fi and fantasy film entries, but they can also meet with actors and filmmakers from past horror classics.

Guests include A Clockwork Orange and 2007’s Halloween’s Malcolm McDowell, The Hills Have Eyes’ Michael Berryman and Cujo’s Dee Wallace—just three of twenty-four confirmed guests. In addition, for three days, various vendors will set up unique booths around the convention center at the Grand Hyatt for fans to shop.

Passes range from $30-$200 and are available until the Friday of the event.

Man climbing large rock wall
Photo courtesy of Lena Drapella

If horror isn’t your thing, but you’re still looking for films with thrill, the 17th annual Reel Rock film festival makes a stop on their international tour in Golden on May 12th. This year’s featured films include three new “heart-stopping” and inspiring stories—all under 60 minutes—from France, Austria and Palestine. The lineup features DNA and the story of Sébastien Bouin tackling the world’s hardest rock-climbing grade, the Burning the Flame which is about two challenge-seekers and their 3,000 ft free climb and Resistance Climbing which follows author and climber Andrew Bisharat on his first visit to conflict-torn Palestine.

Can’t make the climb to Golden? The festival can be streamed online.

Drawing of film camera, film strip, big green square and text describing one of nine returning film festivals to Colorado
Photo courtesy of BCC Evolution

On May 13, one of the film festivals returning to Colorado is the MHSA (Mental Health, Suicide Awareness) Film Festival returns to Denver for its fifth year. Presented by BCC Evolution, MHSA opens up the discussion around mental health and suicide prevention—bringing more awareness to a sometimes complex subject. This year’s lineup features six international titles, including Sweden’s Love Shades, England’s Passing Ships and New Zealand’s Embrace ME. A few Colorado shorts will also be featured along with the international films. Falling Into the Abyss: the state of mental health in Colorado and Emma’s Recovery: Journey to Congress will open up conversations about local mental health laws.

Three people playing instruments and singing on stage
Photo courtesy of Emily Trombly

Founded by Colorado native, Aisha Weinhold, and now run by best friend and executive director, Kathy KarloNo Man’s Land Film Festival focuses on stories led by women, transgender and gender-fluid communities that don’t see mainstream platforms. “Our mission is really to create a space where people feel like they belong and to walk away knowing that they are a part of something and that they’re not alone,” said Weinhold. “So if people walked away feeling like they were part of this, part of something bigger than themselves, that would be the ultimate goal.” Starting in 2015 in the town of Carbondale, the festival has created a large and loving community full of like-minded and open individuals with “nothing less than humility”.

Along with its yearly festival, No Man’s Land hosts upwards of 200 events nationwide and outside of the US, including upcoming programs this month in Colorado. On May 19, families can gather at the Girl Scouts DreamLab to watch inclusive shorts, including Cheshire Li’s documentary Practicing Freedom and Erica Hink’s, Who Are You To Tell A Story?

At Movememnt Rino on May 20, experience 10 featured adventure films like Savannah Cummins and Bronwyn Hodgins’ free-climb epic El Gavilán and Palmer Morse’s non-verbal film, Elevated. Lastly, on May 22, grab your buds and head over to VNTRbirds in Breckenridge for a night of inspiration. Highlighted programs include Aubrey and Danielle Dawn’s, DiVit’s A Bitch of a Race and Travis Rummel, Felt Soul Media and Darcy Hennessey Turenne’s, Well Travelled Collective’s North Shore Betty | You’re Never Too Old to Send.

Banner in a town with a backdrop of mountains
Photo Courtesy of Mountainfilm on Facebook

Festival-goers looking to venture outside of Denver have a few opportunities to get out of town in the next few months—including Mountainfilm Festival. Beginning May 25, guests can witness over 100 documentary films on cultural, environmental, social and political justice issues. Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, attendees can watch panel discussions, filmmakers, subjects and guest speakers share their passion for the topics documented.

Film reel shooting rays like the sun peaking in between mountains with above text describing one of nine returning film festivals to Colorado
Photo Courtesy of Ourayfilmfestival.com

If you can’t get enough of Telluride, at the start of summer from June 22 – 25, the Ouray International Film Festival celebrates global artists—showcasing rare features and shorts. Founded by Terry Kiser, Jared LaCroix and Jacob Abell in 2019, the festival strives to create community and an impact on the world. Guests spending the weekend in the cozy mountain town can enjoy parties, award shows and panel discussions in addition to attending film screenings in the historic Wright Opera House. Video Funeral, Fraya, An Avocado Pit and King Me are just a few featured titles this year.

Film Reel with trees and text surrounding it
Photo Courtesy of Boulder ENOFF

Adventure-seekers, outdoor lovers and conservationists should plan on attending the Boulder Environmental/ Nature/ Outdoors Film Festival this July. Held at the Dairy Arts Center, the event packs film screenings, Q&As and receptions into four days. “You want to provide a memorable event. And you want people not just to watch a film, especially in film festivals, but to also engage with that film, engage with the audience among themselves, and also with a speaker,” said founder and director Richard Paradise. “That is the baseline of any film festival.” Attendees post-film screenings can stay for discussions with filmmakers or experts on specific subject matters.

The upcoming lineup includes Oliver Stone’s, Nuclear Now, Ted Young’s, Enter the Slipstream and Alastair Evans’, A Crack in the Mountain.

Banner with festival title above mountains and buildings
Photo Courtesy of Pamela Gentile

Closing out the summer of festivities— for four days Telluride Film Festival highlights the films worthy of awards season. The larger-than-life show gathers film lovers, filmmakers and film novices to experience hours of cinema in nine venues. Of course, committing to a pass means you won’t know the festival lineup until you’ve made it to Telluride, but know that you can expect the best in film to be there. Past programs included Blue Velvet, Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Juno—just a few award contenders and fan favorites out of dozens.

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