One aspect of the COVID shift for film festivals that I hope will continue is the virtual element. As delightful as it is to gather in person for screenings, having a virtual platform allows more people access. Not everyone has the funds to travel to Denver or is fully vaccinated. The 44th Denver Film Festival runs November 3-14 and there’s a small selection of films available for anyone in Colorado to stream.
Fortunately, one of my favorite 2021 documentaries, “Krimes” can be seen in person, Nov. 6th and 7th — and on the Eventive Denver Film platform beginning Nov. 4th. Director Alysa Nahmias and artist Jesse Krimes will be there in person for the Q&A session. I had the chance to sit down with director Alysa Nahmias in Philadelphia where the film was screening at the Philly Film Festival.
UPDATE: I wasn’t the only one who loved this film. “Krimes” won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at PFF30! I know at least four friends who attended thanks to my encouragement…huzzah!
Crafting the documentary over eight years, Alysa Nahmias worked with artists and production crews. A few for that whole period and many artists over multiple years in collaboration with Jesse Krimes. The film shadows him in Pennsylvania as he tries to re-connect with his son and find work in Philly. She also captures the excitement of the gallery shows in New York, L.A. and Paris, France. There’s evocative animation by Molly Schwartz that delves into what Krimes was feeling as a child; visually representing his thoughts and preceptions. Composer Amanda Jones also worked with Nahmias over many years and the soundtrack incorporates formerly incarcerated singers in a subtle way.
A story of one man’s redemption through art, the film emerged in a similar fashion to the creation of Krimes’ artwork. It was often a painstaking process funded as it proceeded and only finished with the collaboration of others. The trauma of incarceration and harsh reality of life after prison are integral to Jesse Krimes’ work. Yet both the film and the art have a lightness and joy that belie the years of struggle. They’re both complex works that took an enduring vision and dedication to each of their crafts.
“Krimes” follows the trajectory of a small boy crafting dioramas in his family’s machine shop to the troubled youth now incarcerated to the confident man going to see his art featured at the MOMA. It’s astounding to learn what Krimes was able to create while incarcerated. As a young man who suffered the tragic loss of his father figure, the film traces his troubles with the law growing up in Lancaster, PA. Sentenced to 6 years in prison, he fought depression and suicidal thoughts by dedicating all his time to making art.
In soul-crushing solitary confinement, Krimes utilized soap, playing cards and newspaper. He mailed his small art pieces out to save them from confiscation. Then during his tenure in another jail, as he feared the racial strife and violence within the prison, he again channeled his energy into creating art. This time a massive 40-foot mural was crafted in sections. Created on purloined prison bedsheets adorned with images made with materials he had access to, like hair gel and newsprint, Krimes often worked 12-hours/day. Each piece was mailed off to wait for his release. He had to hold the concept of the mural in his mind till he could be outside the prison walls to assemble this monumental work.
The documentary highlights the larger story of racial injustice in the criminal justice system in America and the tribulations of trying to establish a life on the outside. In prison, Krimes could use his art to establish links to mentors within the prison and also to connect with other inmates. As a fellow formerly incarcerated artist comments in the film, in prison you have a skill that gives you power. Once you’re released, you have no power and you’re no one.
The camaraderie of fellow artists: Jared Owens, Russell Craig, and Gilberto Rivera are also featured in the film, are a lifeline to Krimes. They support each other and learn from one another. The connections that Jesse Krimes established in the New York art world were crucial to securing his way forward. He’s a Guggenheim-winning artist who has shown work in MoMA in New York and is a founder of the Right of Return Fellowship. He has become a vocal activist for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals.
We see the struggle it takes to not fall back into bad habits. There’s a constant terror of one false move and the shadow of prison looming in the background. There is no shortage of people who have spent time in prison in Philadelphia, a city which has had one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation. The Philadelphia Reentry Coalition estimates that approximately 25,000 people are released from jail or prison and return to Philadelphia each year. Of that number, about a third are rearrested within a year, with young people most likely to be locked up again. (Philadelphia Government Media, 2018)
“Krimes” is an inspiring documentary that celebrates one man’s triumph of spirit and makes you want to see his work in person. Fortunately for us, there’s a traveling show of his art (follow him on Instagram at Jesse_Krimes) and he’s represented by the Malin Gallery in NY. In addition to his independent practice, Krimes successfully led a class-action lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase for their predatory practice of charging people released from federal prison exorbitant fees.
Drinks with Films: 4 1/2 Philly beer (maybe Victory)
Purchase Tickets to Screen Through DENVER FILM FESTIVAL Here!
November 3-14, 2021
Saturday, November 6 at 1:30PM
Sunday, November 7 at 2:00PM
November 4 – 14, Available to Screen Online in Colorado
Don’t miss this moving documentary. Purchase your streaming pass at Denver Film Festival dot com, under Virtual Cinema. Or buy your movie ticket for the screening on Nov 6th or 7th at the 44th Denver Film Festival.
If you have the pleasure of attending in person: there’s so much to offer at this year’s Denver Film Festival. Screenings at the Denver Botanic Garden. Tributes to actress Annabelle Sciorra (30th anniversary of “Jungle Fever”) and Irish actor, James Dornan (“Belfast”). A visit to Meow Wolf Denver. The documentary section is particularly strong this year and I can recommend the not-to-be-missed “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America”. It’s more than a screed on racism, it’s a moving portrait of one man’s crusade.
You can see my second favorite film at the Philly Film Fest: “Worst Person in the World” with a charming performance by Renate Reinsve. I wasn’t a fan of “Spencer”, but you’ll enjoy the charming “C’mon, C’mon” with a warm performance by Joaquin Phoenix. Another film with outstanding child actors, “Petite Maman” is a quiet retrospective film by the director of Oscar-nominated “Portrait of a Woman on Fire”. I’m looking forward to Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers” and the Iranian film, “A Hero” and seeing Richard Jenkins and Steven Yuen in the Thanksgiving drama “The Humans”.
I’ll see you at the movies!