Men. In cars. Bonding. “Green Book” & “The Upside”

Green Book
The Upside

My favorite film at the Denver Film Festival this year was The Biggest Little Farm.  I’m excited for people to see this beautiful documentary when it comes to theaters in April. Oddly enough, it was two films with major stars that tied as my other favorites…and both films haven’t been getting much love from the critics.

Green Book and The Upside both feature actors at the top of their game playing characters that are extreme opposites. Based on true stories, both films have scenes that show the characters finding common ground while driving in cars.  And the similarities keep coming. While writing love letters to a woman, both sets of characters reveal their softer, sentimental sides. Black and white, rich vs poor, educated vs street smarts…even the conversations about music play out similarly. They may be set in different time periods and in different cities but where Bryan Cranston’s character loves opera–Kevin Hart is a fan of Aretha Franklin.  Mahershala Ali’s pianist, Dr Don Shirley teaches Viggo Mortenson’s working class stiff, Tony Lip to appreciate classical music and in turn, the refined Dr Shirley learns to appreciate 70’s soul music.

A remake of the brilliant French film, The Intouchables, The Upside has not received a wide release. On-hold since 2017 due to Miramax and #metoo villian Harvey Weinstein’s involvement—is it throwing the baby out with the bath water to stall this film? I really enjoyed it. There are some wicked funny moments between Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart, there are touching scenes that reveal both character’s grief and though Nicole Kidman has a small role here…her presence of gentle guidance and respect give the film a sure footing. I loved the refection on how wealth changes ones approach to art (both good and bad) and felt that this version of the true tale of the ex-con and the quadriplegic has something new to say.

Green Book melted my heart. Critics have been calling it trite or sentimental or complaining that it’s predictable. I found it charming and scary and yes, some of the scenes we’ve seen before but stereotypes are stereotypes because of an endearing trope that has some basis in truth. A tale of two men, but also of two cultures and the racism and bigotry of the South that resonates with our own troubled present. Viggo Mortenson’s Tony Lip is a charming ruffian with a heart as big as Kansas but little opportunity or skill to express it and limited options for betterment. His role as bodyguard and driver to the refined (and repressed) Dr Don Shirley changes both of their lives. The juxtaposition between concert hall and juke joint,  between Dr Shirley’s ornately-decorated penthouse–beautiful but cold and empty, and Tony Lip’s loud, happy family home…these moments provide the blues and the joyful jazz to this film.

Denver Film Fest Winners 2018

41ST DENVER FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES ALL AWARD RECIPIENTS

DFF41 honors Green Book, The Weight of Water, Shoplifters, Wrestle, and so much more…

November 12, 2018 (DENVER) – The Denver Film Festival (DFF) has announced the recipients of its annual People’s Choice Awards and Festival Juried Awards in multiple categories.

People’s Choice Awards
After conclusion of the Festival on Sunday, November 11, the following films were recognized as the People’s Choice Award winners for the 41st Denver Film Festival by a tally of ballots.

Narrative Feature:
GREEN BOOK
Director: Peter Farrelly

Documentary Feature:
THE WEIGHT OF WATER
Director: Michael Brown

Short Subject Film:
EARTHRISE
Director: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee

Music Video:
MIDAS – CAROLINE
Director: Michael Middelkoop

True Grit Award
The following Colorado-made feature film was selected as the winner of the True Grit Award by a jury of members of the Denver Film Academy, which is comprised of dues-paying alumni board members.

THE LAST HONEY HUNTER
Director: Ben Knight

The jury statement reads:
“This year the true grit award goes to Ben Knight for the short subject The Last Honey Hunter which is beautifully filmed in the mountains of Nepal and vividly embraces the harmony of villagers and their unique natural setting. This story of agricultural interdependence reminds us that feudal systems can exist as the smallest geographies and cultures and that faith in oneself can overcome rational fear. It is beautifully told and very moving. We hope everyone has a chance to see this fine film.”

Special mention:
THE RESCUE LIST
Directors: Alyssa Fedele, Zachary Fink

“This year in addition to the True Grit award the Academy has decided to give a special achievement award to Alyssa Fedele and Zachery Fink for The Rescue List, which is an engrossing documentary centering on child slavery in the Lake Volta region of Ghana. The film chronicles the work of a group of social workers whose purpose is to return these boys to their families. It is more than well worth seeing.”

Krzysztof Kieślowski Award for Best Narrative Feature Film
The following narrative feature film was selected as the winner of the Krzysztof Kieślowski Award by a jury of international film industry members.

SHOPLIFTERS
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

The jury statement reads:
“The surprising structure of the screenplay, combined with an outstanding ensemble cast, created an authentic portrait of hidden poverty in Western society. The meticulous production design and superb direction drew us into this controversial family; the lack of sentimentality layered with social, political, and moral questions demonstrated a nuanced approach to the meaning of parenthood and the unpredictable dynamics of love.”

Special mention:
ASH IS PUREST WHITE
Director: Jia Zhangke

“Additionally, the jury would like to award a special mention to Jia Zhangke’s Ash is the Purest White for its compelling transformation of human relationships and social identities in modern China.”

Krzysztof Kieślowski Award Jury: Angela Catalano, Antonio Falduto, Laura D. Smith

Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary Feature Film
The following documentary feature film was selected as the winner of the Maysles Brothers Award by a jury of national film industry members.

WRESTLE
Directors: Lauren Belfer, Suzannah Herbert

The jury statement reads:
“A film as deceptively simple as its title, Wrestle chronicles the lives of four male high school students in Huntsville, Alabama for whom athletic success via the school wrestling team means the nearly unfathomable opportunity to go to college and beyond. Through its nuanced editing, heart-stopping wrestling cinematography, and intimacy with its subjects, this film transcends any perceived boundaries of its subject matter or competition-film structure. Wrestlepresents a deep portrait of what it means to be young, black and poor in America today that never reduces its complex protagonists to victims or heroes.”

Maysles Brothers Award Jury: Zaman Farihah, David Fenster, Greg Rhem

American Independent Award
The following narrative feature film was selected as the winner of the American Independent Award by a jury of national film industry members.

GHOSTBOX COWBOY
Director: John Maringouin

The jury statement reads:
“The jury has chosen a totally original, dark comedy that fuses documentary and fiction storytelling, taking on late stage capitalism through the chaotic exploits of a wannabe cowboy entrepreneur.”

Special Mentions:
LITTLE WOODS
Director: Nia DaCosta

“We are awarding a special jury mention to Nia DiCosta for outstanding achievement in first time directing. Her film Little Woods elicits remarkable performances from her two main actresses, and evokes a searing portrait of a North Dakotan oil boom town, alongside our broken healthcare system.”

TYREL
Actor: Jason Mitchell

“Additionally, we are awarding a special jury mention to Jason Mitchell. His performance in Tyrel is the driving force in this highly prescient film about the most uncomfortable of weekends in the Catskills.”

American Independent Award Jury: Kate Hurwitz, Michael Sladek, Matthew Soraci

Short Film Awards
The following short films were selected by a jury of national film industry members.

Liberty Global Domestic Student Filmmaker Award

DIOS NUNCA MUERE
Director: Barbara Cigarroa

The jury statement reads:
“Family, immigration, ownership, and duty are explored through the eyes of a single family living in the hills of Hudson, NY. With remarkable restraint and moving performances, this filmmaker highlights the human right of “home” and the basic necessities migrants are so often deprived of.”

Liberty Global International Student Filmmaker Award

TANGLES AND KNOTS
Director: Renée Marie Petropoulos

The jury statement reads:
“A film that lives up to its title with complicated situations and performances vividly brought to screen.”

Best Animated Short

BLOEISTRAAT 11
Director: Nienke Deutz

The jury statement reads:
“This raw and authentic portrait of adolescence, charmed us with its unique style. Blending multiple animation techniques, it captured the world in a really beautiful way.”

Special mention:
AIRPORT
Director: Michaela Müller

“And we’d like to give an honorable mention to Airport for its beautiful and technically challenging artistry.”

Best Documentary Short

SKIP DAY
Director: Charlie Lyne

The jury statement reads:
“What ostensibly begins as a fun day trip to the beach with friends reveals itself as a deep, dark, and powerful reckoning on race in America. For the pure distillation of modern life, its complications, and its joys.”

Shorts Jury: Jeffrey Bowers, Suz Loshin, John VonThaden

Project NEXT High School Student Awards

Best High School Short Subject Film

MOONAGE DAYDREAM
Director: Oliver Chamberlin
Denver East High School

Best High School Documentary Short Subject Film

THIS IS OUR COUNTRY TOO
Directors: Jack Cosgriff, Elena Katz
Denver School of the Arts / Denver East High School

Best High School Animated Short Subject Film

MARBLES
Director: Hallie Farmer
Rock Canyon High School

High School Short Subject Viewer’s Choice Award

DOUBLE TAKE
Director: Tanner McGarr
Denver School of the Arts

Awards previously given or announced:

Rare Pearl Award

ROMA
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Reel Social Club Indie Voice Award

IN A RELATIONSHIP
Actor: Dree Hemingway

John Cassavetes Award

Jason Reitman

Career Achievement Award

Governor, John Hickenlooper

Stan Brakhage Vision Award

Barbara Hammer

###

Messy, Immersive and above all; Collaborative! “Meow Wolf: Origin Story”

 

Meow Wolf crew

Filmmakers Morgan Capps and Alessandra Dobrin Khalsa refer to cast members now working in Denver. Hurrah for Meow Wolf Denver in 2020!

Meow Wolf director and editor

Morgan talks about how collaborative the team was on the film.

Morgan Capps and Alessandra Dobrin Khalsa

Grateful to get to meet these talented women

Meow Wolf: Origin Story documents how a motley crew of artists and musicians came together in Santa Fe, New Mexico to create collaborative art shows. Initially started as a collective with an agenda to offer art to locals and visitors that broke the mold (and yes, also mold as in musty, dusty and not relevant to this hip group of avant-garde artists!) of Southwest Art featured in the art galleries, Meow Wolf has grown to embrace a consortium of artists, craftsmen and even, GASP, a few directors to run a massive art happening that has been running for 3 years. House of Eternal Return, a 20,000 square foot immersive storytelling experience has become an art destination but not everyone can make the trek to Santa Fe.

When young filmmaker, Morgan Capps arrived in Santa Fe, she joined the fray and started to document the process of creating House of Eternal Return. It was a great way to meet people and she was drawn to the creative energy. Flash forward to an unlikely partnership with George R. R. Martin and an infusion of capital, and Morgan found herself at the right place with the right skills to create this fascinating documentary. Meow Wolf: Origin Story is a love letter to all the artists and the spirit of collaboration. It’s also a great introduction to the immersive world of Meow Wolf.

The directing team of Morgan Capps and Jilann Spitzmiller partnered with animators, artists and the talented Alessandra Dobrin Khalsa to combine jumpy archival footage, interviews with past and present member of the Meow Wolf family and immersive time-lapse footage of the build for House of Eternal Return. The journey to create the documentary reflected the collaborative process of creating the art–resulting in a supportive network of people who would walk thru fire for each other.

Morgan and Alessandra traveled with the film to the Denver Film Festival and spoke of the trails and tribulations–and ultimately the joy, of getting this documentary completed and off to the festival circuit. It was wonderful to have two of the Meow Wolf crew attend the screening. Many of us here in Denver are excited for the 2020 Meow Wolf installation and the various pop-up installations currently in the works. Check out the Kaleidoscape at Elitch Gardens!

There are a few more screenings at the Denver Film Festival — today, Monday, Nov 5 and Wed, Nov 7.

The documentary will be released by Fathom Events nationwide on Nov 29th. Bring your art-loving friends and see it at your local theater. You’ll be glad you did!

Fall is a feast of film festivals!

As the Toronto Film Festival finishes it’s last week of films, parties and panels, let’s celebrate the local film festivals right here in Colorado! My favorite is the Telluride Film Festival, a gem of a festival over the Labor Day weekend. The 45th year welcomed stars galore: famous filmmakers, movie stars and tributes. Actress, Emma Stone, Director/Cinematographer, Alfonso Cuaron, and Cambodian filmmaker, Rithy Panth were honored. And a Silver Medallion for a Hero of Cinema was presented to Dieter Kosslick, Director of the Berlinale Film Festival.

Staying in the mountains, you could be in film heaven with Breckenridge, Aspen and Crested Butte having festivals one after the other! First up is Breckenridge Film Festival.  Breck‘s fest has 70+ films (lots of good shorts) with premieres, forums and parties and opens with the great documentary, Love, Gilda: Sept. 20–23, 2018. Aspen Filmfest: keeping in sync with Aspen’s tradition of big names and big fur, this festival includes major productions, Oscar hopefuls and lavish benefit dinners. Some of the films I loved at Telluride Film Fest are screening including a few I missed!: Sept. 25–30, 2018.  Crested Butte Film Festival is another smaller festival where screenings are within walking distance. Here you’re sure to discover the transformative power of stories while fostering great connections at this intersection of 90 great films, bikes, hikes and magical mountain scenery: Sept 27-30, 2018

Here in the Front Range, you can enjoy beer and movies at the 1st Boulder Film & Brew in Gunbarrel. You can travel to No Man’s Land in Carbondale for films made by and for women outdoor enthusiasts. You can whet your appetite with films paired with food tastings and beer pairings at the 7th Annual Flatirons Food Film Festival in Boulder. Whatever you choose, you’ll find that we have talented filmmakers right here in our own wonderful state!

Boulder Film & Brew Festival 

September 15, 2018

Boulder Film & Brew will feature creative beautiful independent films featuring comedy, animation and of course, BEER! You don’t want to miss the fun we’re going to have!

The inaugural Boulder Film & Brew Festival, highlights not just the craft of brewing, distilling and the food arts but also comedy and adventure. This is a festival where drinking beer, eating and laughing make for a fun and engaging experience.

Our schedule includes workshops about food and beer pairing by Element Bistro, brewing your own beer by Brewmented, Comedy by Bubb Comedy and a Quaffing sport beer competition with Team Quaffstafari!

Breweries are the new living rooms of Colorado and a beer tastes better when you’re enjoying a film with friends and learning how to create something new. Film and beer. Laughing with friends and beer. Workshops with beer. Learning stuff. Yep, your mom will be proud of you!

No Man’s Land

September 13-16 · Carbondale, CO

We are women and we are allies. We are sunsets and alpenglow, dangerous riptides and endless singletrack. We are coffee-fueled optimists who may dance-all-night into an alpine start and laugh too loudly at jokes that no one else understands. We are unique. We are individual. We are human. And we don’t draw lines, because everyone defines their own.

Flatirons Food Film Festival

October 11-14, 2018

The 6th annual Flatirons Food Film Festival opens with a night of craft beer and ends with a twisted tale of pastry and deep subterfuge. Between opening and closing nights, learn about Cuba’s food traditions, local food nonprofits, Anthony Bourdain from his friends, the struggle of opening a women-run food truck in a refugee camp, passing on family traditions, how to nurture young farmers, and how to move away from factory farming.

Denver Film Festival  Denver’s largest film festival is in its 41st year and has grown to 12 days in duration. With a little more glitz than some of the mountain events, Denver hosts red-carpet premieres and films from dozens of countries and more than 250 filmmakers: Oct. 31–Nov. 11, 2018.

Plus there are all these other film festivals in the Fall:

Telluride Horror Show, Oct. 12–14, 2018
Dickens Horror Film Festival in Longmont, Oct. 19–20, 2018
Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival, Colorado Springs, Nov. 9–11, 2018
Nederland Film Festival, Nov. 17–18, 2018
Winter Stoke Film Festival in Glenwood Springs, Nov. 29, 2018; Carbondale, Dec. 6, 2018; Rifle, Dec. 20, 2018

Rise Up! How to combine social activism with film screenings.

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So you care about the environment? You might feel like I do, that Climate Change is the biggest issue we face right now. Or maybe you’re fighting for marijuana legalization, reproductive rights, or getting out the youth vote in 2018. If you’re feeling powerless or want to make a difference and don’t know where to turn…HOST A SCREENING!

This weekend I got to see The Human Element, the latest climate change film from photographer/writer and film subject, James Balog. Director Matthew Testa does a great job of mastering the balance of depressing statistics, awe-inspiring footage with the humanizing tale of one man’s journey to understand and communicate what’s facing our planet. There were many scenes set in Boulder and Denver and it really brought the issue home for me.

If, like me, you didn’t get to travel to the San Francisco Green Film Festival where The Human Element screened, there were other community screenings as the filmmakers partnered with the Earth Vision Institute. Colorado State University in Fort Collins screened this inspiring documentary in a conference room, and combined it with a great discussion on how to act locally. What can you do as a citizen activist about this overwhelming issue? I’ve included a photo of some of our ideas for actions on the Front Range. You can also host a screening of this film in your own community!

There are screenings of social activism films at many film festivals: ACT Human Rights Film Festival, traveling screenings from Mountainfilm or Human Rights Film Tour + every film festival seems to have at least a side bar of activist-driven films. Films are a great way to engage audiences and get them to think globally and act locally this election season. With issues such as a new bill being introduced by Colorodo Oil and Gas facing Colorado voters, why not host a movie night as a Get Out The Vote event. As the League of Women Voters would say: Educate, Advocate & Impact!

JJis-S4A

The documentary that I had the pleasure to work on, Mary Janes: The Women of Weedtraveled the film festival circuit. Audiences embraced the film’s message about overturning stoner stereotypes and celebrating the women who’ve made inroads into the cannabis industry.  Now, rather than chasing a distribution deal, Director Windy Borman has chosen to partner with TUGG.com so that communities can host their own screenings.

Puffragettes at a screening

Puffragettes at a screening

You can even invite any of the 15 Colorado women of cannabis in the film to speak to your audience afterwards.

So next time you care about an issue, you might find that there’s a film that supports your mission. Find a theater or a community room and gather your friends with some local experts. Start your own local revolution! Rise Up!

 

Jill ranks the films she saw at the Telluride Film Festival

If it seems to exist on a higher plane, this is not just a matter of altitude. Mostly it is the kind of place where, for one long weekend, all anyone wants to talk about is movies. There are no prizes, and therefore no juries; no market, no press screenings, no red carpets or paparazzi photo calls. The ethos is open and egalitarian. –A.O. Scott, The New York Times

There’s no way to see all the films you want to see at the Telluride Film Festival. Once you’ve accepted that, you’ll find that what you do see–is often more enriching or more thought-provoking than what you may have chosen on your own. After attending for five years, I’ve learned to seek out the smaller films and hope to catch some of the studio films at later festivals or when they come to the theaters. Sometimes though, it’s just a matter of what film is playing in the theater you’ve ushering at…or the next available screening that’ll fit into your schedule…or the one film where you might not have to wait too long in the rain. C’est la vie!

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I was lucky to see 12 films out of the 37 in the Main Program. I’ve listed them in order of my enjoyment level. Please remember that I didn’t see First Man, Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Destroyer…or the smaller films I wished I’d seen like Shoplifters, The Biggest Little Farm, Girl, The White Crow and Fistful of Dirt.

  1. Roma: Alfonso Cuaron (writer, director, cinematographer) I was fortunate to see two beautiful black & white films enveloped in non-stop smoking and wonderful music back-to-back; Cold War and Roma. It’s rare that I submit to an almost 2 1/2 hour film without feeling that there should’ve been an intermission or some serious editing. I was so immersed in this story of a young Mexican woman caring for an upper middle-class family and anticipating the unfolding turmoil about to descend upon them all. This was a true labor of love from Alfonso Cuaron; a tribute to the woman who raised him as well an odd to his biological mother trying to find her place in the world.
  2. Cold War: Pawel Pawlikowski (writer, director, Oscar-winner for Ida) This was the most beautifully-shot film I saw at the festival. A tragic love story set in Poland and Paris, we watch as the couple perform folk music under a political watchdog, traveling to Russia. Years later, they’re reunited in a life of jazz and booze. But the reality of life with someone who’s had to compromise too many times leads to a tragic return to Poland. Love can triumph over politics but can it survive the loss of your soul?
  3. Ghost Fleet: Shannon Service, Jeffrey Waldron: Documenting the horrifying reality of men imprisoned on fishing boats in the Indonesian sea, this film was a revelation to me. Focusing on the brave team lead by Patima Tungpuchayakul traveling to surrounding islands to rescue men who’ve fled slavery in the seafood trade, there’s a tension and tenderness to the footage. The horrors that these men face is compounded by the shame they feel about not wanting to return home, penniless and broken. Truly an amazing, inspiring film.
  4. Trail By Fire: Ed Zwick: 12 years on death row for a Texas man who’s low-class hard-living ways have blinded the legal system to his innocence and genuine love for his children. Jack O’Connell is mesmerizing in his performance of a man losing his soul but finding some meaning in his connection with Elizabeth Gilbert (played with great depth by Laura Dern). She starts a crusade to overturn his death sentence. A moving true story to make us rethink the death penalty.
  5. Boy Erased: Joel Edgerton (director, script, co-star): Lucas Hedges is a soulful young man trying to reconcile his same sex attraction with his family’s Baptist faith. When his preacher father (Russell Crowe) sends him to a religious conversion center, we meet the clients, many forced into treatment by their parents. Based on the autobiography of Garrad Conley, the painful revelations and vicious abuse heaped on the teens rings true. Joel Edgerton plays a masterful misguided leader who doesn’t just believe in praying away the gay; but also, beating out the devil of same sex sin. Nicole Kidman, the loving mother who comes to realize her son deserves understanding instead of punishment, is a welcome relief to the trauma. The closing scene between father and son is truly touching.
  6. The Favourite: Yorgos Lanthimos: I must confess to not being a fan of director Lanthimos’ work but this film was wicked and odd and sometimes wonderful. Olivia Colman plays Queen Anne of the 18th Century British court as a simpering, needy bully. Her companion, Rachel Weisz as Lady Marborough, keeps the Queen in check with flattery and sexual companionship. When her poor cousin shows up in court (the versatile Emma Stone), her position as “favourite” is threatened. Gorgeous costumes, some scathing lines and wacky antics kept me amused. The cinematography (low-light, fish-eye, wide-angles) was distracting but the long takes of Olivia Colman’s mournful face held me in thrall.
  7. Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache: Pamela E. Green: Bravo to this intrepid woman, Pamela E. Green! Upon seeing a documentary about early filmmakers, she wondered why she’d never heard of Alice Guy-Blache. When she discovered that not only her pioneering role in cinema, but also her films were not recognized by history or her peers, Green started this passion project. Connecting long-lost family members, discovering treasure troves of archival footage and recordings, Green seeks to restore Alice Guy-Blache to her rightful place as the first narrative filmmaker; and the first woman filmmaker! This is a fun fast-paced documentary that should be a must-see for any film lover.
  8. The Old Man & The Gun: David Lowery: A delightful film about an unrepentant bank robber and jail breaker played by the legend Robert Redford. The charm of this film is in the relationship between the thief and his comrades-in-arms (Danny Glover and Tom Waits), the detective who doesn’t want to catch him (Casey Affleck) and the woman who falls for his charms (the delightful Sissy Spacek). The real kick is that this is based on a true story. The sad news is that this is Robert Redford’s last role…what a great swan song.
  9. The Front Runner: Jason Reitman: Gary Hart, played with a nice head of hair by Hugh Jackman, gets his comeuppance in this political drama about the power of the media. Vera Farmiga portrays the much-wronged wife who must deal with the media circus and the sensationalism that can destroy a career and sideline not only a man’s run for office but also a nation’s chances for a flawed leader who may have made a big difference in politics.
  10. Eldorado: Markus Imhoof: Swiss filmmaker Imhoof interweaves his childhood relationship with an Italian refugee, a child sheltered by is family in World War II with a look at the overwhelming plight of refugees from Africa. His argument; that these immigrants are supplying low-paid labor to harvest food that is then subsidized and undercuts the economy in their own countries. A tragic cycle of economic slavery and hardship.
  11. Christian Wahnschaffe, Part 1 & 2: Danish silent filmmaker Urban Gad: Restored prints from 1920, this drama of class struggle with religious allegory was accompanied by Stephen Horne playing piano, flute, accordion with various thumping and strumming to great effect. A fascinating look at well-realized story where the acting, though broad, is still emotional.
  12. Graves Without A Name: Rithy Panh: The noted Cambodian filmmaker has created a tone poem to remember the thousands of lives brutally and agonizingly ended in the genocide there. Beautiful images of white paper prayer flags fluttering in the wind and carved faces to represent ghosts of those lost float in the water or appear in the tree’s bark. They represent those bodies lost in mass graves or never recovered as they were left to decompose on the land. A meditation on death and remembrance in a cyclical telling over 2 hours.

Festival buzz–Telluride

Destroyer/Can You Ever Forgive Me conversation

Director Marielle Heller, Melissa McCarthy –“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Nicole Kidman, Director Karyn Kusama –“Destroyer”

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache

Director Pamela E Green, “Be Natural”

Robert Redford, Director David Lowery, Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck,  writer David Grann

Writer David Grann, Director Ed Zwick, subject Liz Gilbert, Laura Dern and Jack O’Connell

Patima Tungpuchayakul, Tun Lin, Jeffrey Waldron, Shannon Service, “Ghost Fleet”

The wonderful thing about film festivals is the discoveries…the films you haven’t heard anything about and filmmakers that can share their stories in person. Kicking off the fall festival season, most of us can’t afford to travel to Venice and Toronto Film Festival can be overwhelming. Telluride is a trek — but you don’t need your passport! Here in this tiny mountain town, film lovers begin to build the award season buzz.

It’s challenging to try to see as many films as you want, often you’re too far back in line or there’s a limited amount of seats. That builds an excitement over which films to try to see and everyone seems to have a strategy. As you stand in line with filmmakers, film fans and festival lovers, the one question asked is “What’s been your favorite film?” This year at Telluride, the buzz was for First Man, Can You Ever Forgive Me and Roma. The smaller films that were getting high praise were Shoplifters, Cold War and Girl.

There was talk of this being Nicole Kidman’s year. She has two disparate roles; as the Baptist wife with tall blond hair and lacquered nails in Boy Erased and unrecognizable as the drab damaged detective in the dark L.A. noir, Destroyer. Melissa McCarthy was also almost unrecognizable in person; til she smiled. She’s lost a lot of weight and was a charming guest which made her performance as the hard-drinking forgery artist all the more impressive. The New Yorker writer David Grann was in many conversations as two films, The Old Man & The Gun  and Trail by Fire were based on his articles. The many conversations and interviews, in the park and after the film screenings, add to our enjoyment of the films by revealing layers of meaning and interesting anecdotes shared by the filmmakers.

Two documentaries that I had the pleasure of seeing made my top 10 list. Ghost Fleet, about slave labor in the international seafood industry, stars the heroic Patima Tungpuchayakul. She started a human rights organization to protect children in Thailand from forced labor but she and her husband have spent the last few years traveling to sea in the attempt to free the captives on commercial fishing boats. Many never leave the ships and die at sea but thousands have been rescued and returned home.

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache is a fascinating documentary with inventive effects and title sequences that move the story at break-neck speed. Director Pamela E. Green has been researching the first woman filmmaker for more than 10 years and her film uncovers amazing details and reconnects many of her contemporary ancestors. A must-see for anyone interested in this forgotten trail blazer of cinema. Alice Guy-Blache directed thousands of films in France and the United States and even ran her own movie studio. Be Natural is a resounding call to rewrite our history to restore Alice Guy-Blache to her rightful place as the first woman filmmaker.

What films made your Top 10 at Telluride? What films will build audience anticipation as the Fall Festival Season continues…we shall see.