The one thing that a film fanatic can expect from the Starz Denver Film Festival 35 (SDFF) is the unexpected, to be taken through a journey to unknown territories when the lights go down. The array of films is expansive, and this past week SDFF gave us a glimpse of what’s in store for 2012, with plans to announce the full schedule on Monday, October 15, for the 35th festival that will run from November 1 – 11, 2012.
This sneak peek includes films planned for the Red Carpet Gala features, Special Presentation films, along with those that have been chosen to compete for awards, including the Krzysztof Kieslowski Award for Best Feature Film, New Directors Award, and the Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary.
Whether a documentary, a feature film, documentary, comedy, a movie that focuses on the human condition, on art, revolutions, political strife, or a lesson in history, this annual event is a film fanatic’s Disney Land. So many amazing films to choose from and tough choices to be made; a good problem to have.
A few films that caught my attention include “Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal,” directed and written by Stephen Vittoria, presents the voice of Abu-Jamal, a member of the Black Panthers who has been imprisoned since 1981, highlighting his story through his writing and through others with powerful voices, from fellow revolutionist Angela Davis to Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman.
When I read on “Consuming Spirits,” written, directed and produced by Chris Sullivan, two other films from past SDFF’s came to mind, “Persepolis” and “Sita Sings the Blues,” each of which told a compelling story in a highly artistic fashion. “Consuming Spirits” is the tale of an imaginary Appalachian town, one with secrets and a twisted past, brought to the screen through stop-motion animation, pencil drawings, and the like.
A subject rising in importance, and rightly so, is the insane level of incarceration in the United States, which has also shined a light on many sitting in prisons that are in fact, innocent. The feature film “Guilty” takes place in France, based on the true story of Alain Marecaux who was accused of sexually assaulting children. His life is torn apart through this case that was based solely on allegations and lacking in evidence. It is Marecaux’s writings that are the basis for this compelling film.
As a football fan (Go Gunners!), I was immediately drawn to “The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus,” a documentary that will balance some of the heavier subject films with one that is expected to be humorous and entertaining. Director Alexandre O. Phillippe, whose previous work includes “The People vs. George Lucas,” takes on the tongue-and-cheek subject of Paul, the infamous octopus who chose eight out of eight winners of the World Cup football matches. Interesting that it turned out to be eight matches…’cause he’s an octopus…yeah, sorry.
Edward Burns has always and continues to lead the way not only in DIY indie filmmaking, but in setting the bar for grassroots marketing and promotion, from digital distribution to utilizing social media to make those one-on-one connections to film fans and contributors. A past SDFF feature included “Nice Guy Johnny,” and Burns returns this year with “The Fitzgerald Family Christmas,” connecting back to where he began in 1995 with “The Brothers McMullen.”
Beyond cities like London making museums free and open to the public, street art is the true democratization of access to art while portraying the many facets of daily lives throughout the world, especially in the area of politics and strife. “Art of Conflict,” directed by Valeri Vaughn and narrated by Vince Vaughn, showcases the tumultuous history of those who lived in and through Northern Ireland’s political turmoil, and how their story was told on the walls of the city.
Red Carpet presentations for SDFF 2012 include the Opening Night film, “A Late Quartet,” starring Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Big Night film “Quartet” a directorial debut for Dustin Hoffman, and the Closing Night Film “Silver Lining Playbook” based on Matthew Quick’s 2008 novel and starring Robert DeNiro, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
These films are just the tip of the iceberg. The 35th annual film festival will offer more than 225 films to choose from, spanning the globe from 40 different countries, including 16 from right here in Colorado. So stay tuned.