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Starz Denver Film Festival 2009 Picks

Starz Denver Film Festival 2009 Picks – November 12 – 22

The 32nd Annual Starz Denver Film Festival (SDFF) kicked off last night to a sellout crowd at Ellie Caulkins. Having arrived right at 7:30pm, I found one of the last seats left in the nose bleed section to see the highly provocative film, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” which is garnering high praise from many (the film opened in New York and Los Angeles last weekend). The film sold out faster than any movie in the film festival’s history.


Director Lee Daniels was in Denver for opening night, along with the film’s two producers and investors from Denver, the wife and husband team Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness.

The crowd applauded as Daniels took the stage next to the two and festival’s director, Britta Erickson, and it was evident that this was an emotional moment for the director, whose previous work had won him an Oscar for “Monster’s Ball” and who received a 15-minute standing ovation when “Precious” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

“They believed in me when no one did,” Daniels stated with a huge smile, turning to the Magness couple for a group hug between the three. In an instant, you could feel what they had been through in making a film. Laughing a bit, but with a voice that quivered ever so slightly, Daniels continues, “They mean so much to me. You don’t know what it’s like to have won an Academy award, to win Cannes, and still be told, ‘You cannot make a film about an overweight black girl.’ These people believed in me and they’re the reason we’re here tonight. And I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

Daniels, his crew, and the amazing acting and writing of this film has definitely thrown mud on the face of the naysayers in Hollywood; something I wish I could do in person when movies like “Saw VI” and “Couples Retreat” are getting funded while amazing screenplays are searching for scraps.

Appearing on Channel 7 News this morning, Daniels made the valid point that studios have, “Given us stuff to watch. But not stuff to make us think.” Amen to that.

I’ve agreed not to release my review of the film until November 20 when “Precious” is released here in Denver, but I can say this: although I had seen the movie the day before at a special screening at Starz (and had gotten my crying out of the way in the process), there was no way I was going to miss this. It was just one of the magical moments that make the Denver Starz Film Festival so unique in comparisons to others I have attended, and I expect more of them to happen as the festival continues through November 22.

This year, the festival takes a deeper look into the filmmaking process, through a number of panels, “Money & Movies: Avoiding the Pitfalls When Making Your Magic,” “Indie-Film Roulette,” the “Young Filmmakers Workshop,” “Who Has the Write Stuff?” about the process of screenwriting, and even a documentary, “Tales from the Script” about the trials and tribulations of going from script to screen, and “Official Rejection,” another doc about “the big bad world of indie cinema.”

Women + Film is back and bigger than ever, with eight films being included in the program, featuring women filmmakers creating celluloid stories of breaking new ground in the advocacy for civil and human rights, influencing the pursuit for peace, and telling true life tales.

Exemplifying the festival’s tagline, “Destination: Anywhere,” is the presentations of as many international as domestic films, including a number from the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Russia, Iraq, India and Iran.

SDFF also reflects the growing number of Mexican films being made by introducing “Festival de Cine Mexicano,” which includes eight films that that reflect the issues that exist in many other cultures, from women’s struggles and political strife, to dealing with personal and sexual identity.

“Being Green” has gone far beyond the use of canvas bags when you go the grocery store. The focus on future of our environment is a growing point of contention that affects the global economy and how world leaders will work together, or not, to influence the future of this place called earth. Four films and the “Environment in Focus” panel hope to “inspire audiences to make a difference through their interactions with the natural world.”

Love Hope Strength, a cancer foundation with ties to music and music lovers, hosts a traveling music lounge that hits the Walnut Room (2701 Larimer Street) on November 15 and 17, and November 18 and 19 at Meadowlark, featuring a number of local music buds, including The Swayback, Mike Marchant of the Widowers, Jim McTurnan of Cat-A-Tac, Churchill, and Aaron Collins (formerly of Machine Gun Blues).

Check out our Starz Denver Film Festival reviews, interviews and write ups, which will be posted during the course of the film festival’s run. Hope to see you at the movies (or at the Latenight Lounge)!

When you go to check out a number of these films you may see that advanced tickets are sold out. You may still be able to get in by arriving at the Concierge Desk in the Starz FilmCenter lobby at least one hour before to screening to purchase rush tickets.

For more information on the schedule and all the wonderful films showing from November 12 through November 22, go to


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