Starz DENVER Film Festival 2007 Preview & Picks
Art imitating life.
It’s a saying that has proven to be true time and time again, and you’ll see it in all the faceted reflections of our lives, past and present when you view the extensive line of up 178 films, which will make it to screens during the 11 day Starz Denver Film Festival.
From the move the war coverage has made from television to film, the intricate animation productions, romance and brilliant comedy, to women who are beating the odds and changing the political landscape, and documentaries that provide a new way to see and know the world around us. In a nutshell, there’s something for everyone.
Here are our festival picks:
Honoring Film Directors and Film’s Past— “Tribute: Stephen Goldblatt” with screenings of “Angels in America” and “Closer”; the 40th Anniversary of the “Heat of the Night”; the 20th Anniversary of “Moonstruck”; the 1966 film “Blowup” by revolutionary filmmaker, Michelangelo Antonioni; Ingmar Bergman’s 1975 “The Magic Flute,” which was the first adaptation of an opera; the 1972 classic “The King of Marvin Gardens” by renowned cinematographer of over 70 films, László Kovács, starring Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern and Ellen Burstyn; along with “Clint Eastwood: A Life in Film” and an up-and-close portrait of the eclectic, creative, cult classic film pioneer David Lynch in “Lynch.”
Women in Film— Now in its second year, this year’s panel series takes a look at women within the electoral process: “Women + Film: Commanding Voices, Strong Leaders,” which includes the directors of “Run Granny Run,” “14 Woman,” and “Iron Ladies of Liberia, which according to co-director Daniel Junge, is a film that asks the “questions about whether woman are better leaders and more democratic than men”; Oscar Durán’s feature film “Solitary Fragments”; the SAGIndie and Screen Actors Guild panel “Casting the American Scene: Diversity in the Entertainment Industry Today,” which presents “Invisible Woman,” a documentary short that focuses on how women actors face challenges within this industry as they age;” and the documentary by Mary Olive Smith, Tony Hardmon, Jerry Risius, “A Walk to Beautiful,” which follows five Ethiopian women over the period of a decade as they endure the physical and emotion pain of obstetric fistula, caused by the failing health systems in the Africa, Asian and Arab regions.
Political Issues, Human Rights and War— In the ‘60s Americans saw the war as it was happening in Vietnam and essentially brought it to an end. In 2007, the Bush administration just wants to hang banners and keep our citizens ignorant. Since the American television media only allows a minute or two each night to report on issues that really matter, knowledge is brought to us by filmmakers. In cooperation with Free Speech TV (www.freespeech.org), the panel “Bring the War Home” will feature four directors of the films “Soldiers of Conscience,” (Gary Weimberg and Catherine Ryan) “Taxi to the Dark Side” (Alex Gibney) and “Operation Filmmaker” (Nina Davenport), giving them an opportunity share their experiences and what they endured in bringing us these stories; “Oswald’s Ghost” by Robert Stone (“Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst”) delves not only into the conspiracy theories but into the emotional ways Americans were affected by Kenney’s assassination; “Not That Kind of Christian” by Andrew Grossman looks at the conflict between the GLBT community and the Episcopal Church; Daniele Luchetti’s feature film “My Brother is an Only Child” is the story of how two brothers are separated by their political beliefs; an obscure and accidental love story between an actor, Dan Butler (Frasier), and Bush’s brain in “Karl Rove, I Love You”; “Greensboro: Closer to the Truth” does just that with the 1979 massacre of those who rallied against the Klu-Klux-Klan in Greensboro, NC; filmmakers (and brothers) Jeremy and Randy Stulberg move to the New Mexican desert after their disgust with the 2004 election and the death of their father in “Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa,” where they discover a whole other world within the American landscape.
Artists & Cinematic Artistry—The “Wonders Are Many: The Making of Doctor Automatic” documentary takes you into the making of the modern opera; Esther Robinson’s documentary “A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory” provides the backdrop to the mastermind behind the Exploding Plastic Inevitable (EPI) lightshow at Warhol’s parties, and William’s ultimate disappearance after his ousting from the Factory; “Jack Taylor of Beverly Hills” features the tailoring artistry of Mr. Taylor, who has fashioned the Hollywood elite for over 60 years; “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” tells the true story of the human spirit and determination that goes beyond anyone’s expectations; “Black White + Gray” follows the lives of the New York elitist Sam Wagstaff and his protégé/lover/artist/photographer Robert Mapplethorpe during their rise in Manhattan’s ‘70s artscape, delving as a duo into the underground gay scene and drug culture of the time; “The Cool School” documentary by Morgan Neville takes us inside the world of L.A.’s Ferus Gallery, which forged its own path in the snobby art scene as it became the first gallery to show Warhol’s Soup Cans in 1962, taking brazen leaps that at times led a path to jail; and on the animation front, art and politics collide in “Persepolis,” the adaptation of the multi-volume novel by Marjane Satrapi, a provocative story of a young Iranian girl’s journey from girl to teen to young woman, while living under totalitarian rule; and then filmmaking, artistry and environmentalism come together in the workshop “Animation Station: The Green Version.”
Comedic Moments— “Vince Vaugh’s Wild West Comedy Show” documentary combines the manly road-trip with a stand-up comedy flick; filmed here in Denver and Aurora, Denver based director Monty Miranda blew away the peeps in Austin with this edgy comedy, “Skills Like This,” winning the Audience Award at Austin’s SXSW; and “Caramel” by Yves Sehnaoui features the comedic and poignant discussions between five woman as they banter around with their thoughts about sex, adultery, motherhood and aging, and the imposition of their society’s double, all within the setting of a Beirut beauty salon.
Missing from the program in 2007 is the Colorado Filmmakers Shorts, due mainly to the submissions of full-length feature films versus a large quantity of shorts. That is not to say that Colorado’s presence won’t be felt in our own backyard.
One local film that was previously mentioned, “Skills Like This,” made a huge splash earlier this year. “Last Hat in Town” is a documentary by Zachary Fink, who wants people to see the humanity and both sides of the controversial issue of accessing natural gas in Colorado, and how that affects the lives of our rural citizens to the east of our state. “We are living in changing landscape, a changing terrain,” said Fink, “Driving the I-70 corridor…there is an impact that we’re having on the land, the choices that we make using our gas stoves or driving our cars, over the hill there are people who are being affected.”
Directors Brendan Kiernan and Frank Pickell of “Mountain Town” take film goers into the making and history of Colorado’s most famous mountain town, Aspen, going beyond the slopes and après parties and into the lives of those that made it a destination to visit and to live.
“The Red Elvis” tells the story of Colorado-born singer who leaves the U.S. to pursue his musical career. Directed by German filmmaker Leopold Grün, the trail leads from South America, where he became a pop-music icon, to the day in 1986 when they dragged his body out of the lake in East Berlin.
Going back to the first year of Denver’s film festival, “The Movies That Made Us” was shown at the Ogden, featuring a compilation of memorable clips from the Warner Bros. archive. This year will also include a historical walk down the festival’s memory lane, including photographs by Larry Laszlo who has captured every year of the festival since it first began.
Oh yes, and then there are those red carpet events and opportunities to do some star sightings without having to travel to Hollywood, all of which take place downtown at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.
Thursday, November 8 kicks off the grand Opening Night, featuring “The Savages.” Starring Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, siblings come to grips with the decline of their father’s health, and in the process, recognize not only their own mortality but the potential of their current lives. The after party takes place at the Donald R. Seawell Ballroom, and Sara T will on the turntables, so even the stiffest of Denverites will need to get down and dirty, know what I’m sayin’?
The Big Night goes off on Saturday, November 10, with “Juno,” a smart witted, fantastic comedy starring the rising star Ellen Page, Michael Cera from “Superbad,” along with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. Page and Cera play an odd-couple, still in high school. But when Page’s character Juno realizes she’s pregnant, she turns to what she believes to be the perfect couple to adopt her baby, providing a happy ending to her precarious situation. During the course of the film, you often see Dancing Elk Track Team running through scenes, and they’ll be in full effect at the dessert party, which will offer up plenty of Sunny D and orange Tic-Tacs. After the movie, you’ll get the food related jokes.
You have a second chance to see Ellen Page in her appearance in the book adaptation of “The Tracey Fragments.” Director Bruce McDonald uses a number of creative tricks of the trade to unfold the story of Tracey Berkowitz, a 15-year old who contends with a myriad of problems beyond her young age.
You may have already seen the trailers for “August Rush,” starring child prodigy actor Freddie Highmore (“Finding Neverland”), along with Jonathan Rhys Meyers (“Velvet Goldmine,” “Prozak Nation,” “Vanity Fair,” “Match Point”), Keri Russell (“Waitress,” “Felicity” series), and a beat poet looking Robin Williams. This is the feature film for Closing Night, which takes place on Sunday, November 18, which will be followed by the Last Reel Party at Exdo Event Center (3599 35th Street @ Walnut).
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.
During a recent television interview, Brit Withey, program director for the Denver Film Society, had this to say about experiencing the festival: “Choose a film that might make you uncomfortable; try to see films where the directors are in person…you don’t get that experience going to the regular theater very often; try to do as big a cross section as possible…get a complete spread of what the film festival is all about.”
There you have it. For more information on the schedule and all the wonderful films showing from November 8 through November 18, go to www.denverfilm.org/festival.