About Jill

With more than 20 years experience working (and attending) film festivals, nationally and internationally, I have a great passion for film! I love entertaining, making cocktails for friends, art and theater--and have been to known to dance with abandon! If the sun is shining; you'll almost always find me in a sunny mood!

And the winner is…”Liyana”

Festival Hub: The McNichols Building

DFF Festival Hub: McNichols Civic Center Building

The 40th Denver Film Festival wrapped on Sunday, Nov 12th. An Awards Brunch celebrated the filmmakers that won jury and audience awards. It was wonderful to see that one of my favorite films at the festival, Liyana, not only won the True Grit Award… the filmmaking team was also awarded Peoples Choice Award for Documentary feature (a tie with the documentary, Hondros).

Liyana is not really a documentary, nor would I call it an animated film (though there are a few moments of animation). Amanda and Aaron Kopp’s film could be classified as a  triumph in raising awareness. The 10-year-long project was a creative way for the filmmakers to give a voice to the many delightful young children that live in an orphanage in Africa. Like an extended therapy session: as the children create the story and drawings for the film, they work through the traumas they’ve suffered: abuse, loss, terrors of war. They tell their stories through this fictional brave girl, Liyana, who is illustrated by the amazing Nigerian artist, Shofela Coker.

This is no pity party. The film is an unusual amalgam combining footage of the children creating the story and the hero’s journey that their character makes. All the elements, the editing, the beautiful illustrations, the children’s voiceovers, an amazing soundtrack and the final dancing scene of the children celebrating…make this film a heart-warming experience. What a wonderful film and deserved win for the filmmaking team!

 

Drinks with films rating: 5 glasses of milk served at a communal table of cheerful, chaotic kids enjoying life. (out of 5)

People’s Choice Awards
After conclusion of the Festival on Sunday, November 12, the following films were recognized as the People’s Choice Award winners for the 40th Denver Film Festival by a tally of ballots.

Narrative Feature:
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
Director: Martin McDonagh

Documentary Features (tie):
HONDROS
Director: Greg Campbell

LIYANA
Directors: Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp

Short Subject Film:
THE SUITCASE
Director: Abi Damaris Corbin

Music Video:
Polo & Pan – Coeur Croisé
Director: Pablo Maestres

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.

LIYANA
Directors: Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp

The jury statement reads:
Liyana, directed by Aaron and Amanda Kopp, is a documentary that juror members called bold, amazing, enchanting, tender, compassionate, empowering, heart-breaking–a triumph of the human spirit. As one jury member said: I couldn’t help but want to give that wonderful storytelling coach a big hug and a kiss … and some funding!”

Special mentions:
THE OUTSIDER
Director: Scott Takeda

HONDROS
Director: Greg Campbell

“The jury also cited two films for Special Recognition: The short film The Outsider, directed by Scott Takeda, a touching film about the need to belong and the beauty of finding beauty in other family cultures, and the feature documentary Hondros, directed by Greg Campbell. Hondros is a powerful and eloquent documentary that pays tribute to the late photojournalist Chris Hondros’ courageous and compassionate career documenting the wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan Liberia and Libya.”

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.

THE HAPPINESS OF THE WORLD
Director: Michał Rosa

The jury statement reads:
“Since the pre-selection was excellent, it gave us a hard task with the diversity of choices and with different values in each film. We unanimously agree to give the Krzystof Kieszłowski Award in 2017 to a film that tells a uniquely complex and layered story, created with artistic integrity and consistency in its cinematic language: The Happiness of the World (Szczęście Świata), written and directed by Mr. Michał Rosa. The filmmaking team created on screen a unique sensual cinematic experience including exceptionally good performances. The Happiness of the World treats painful historical themes, addressing the guilty consciousness of contemporary audiences in a non-didactic and tactile manner.”

Special mention:
UNDER THE TREE
Director: Haffstein Gunnar Sigurðsson

“The special jury award goes to Under the Tree (Undir trénu), directed by Haffstein Gunnar Sigurðsson. We were impressed by the portrayal of the dark sides of human behavior through powerful tragic farce. The combination of erratic conducts and suburbia absurdity melted into a delightfully complex cinematic language. We don’t really believe in competition between films, in our choices we were looking for inventiveness in storytelling. We believe that the awarded films merit the attention of broader audiences and the support of the Denver Film Festival.”

Krzysztof Kieślowski Award Jury: Gyula Gazdag, Christopher Kamyszew, Clémence Taillandier

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.

ALPHAGO
Director: Greg Kohs

The jury statement reads:
“The documentary jury awards the top prize to Greg Kohs’ AlphaGo for its riveting and thought-provoking account of a programming team’s attempt to master the ancient Chinese board game Go. The film chronicles the week-long tournament between the A.I. program AlphaGo and the game’s world champion Lee Sedol as a sporting event with global-historical significance. It does so with the vigor, suspense, and emotional stakes of a great sports film while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of the genre. In the end, AlphaGochallenges our allegiances and our assumptions, demonstrating that the measure of technology is not just whether it can outperform us, but whether it can deepen our humanity and expand human possibility.”

Special mention:
STRAD STYLE
Director: Stefan Avalos

“The jury awards special mention to Stefan Avalos’ Strad Style, a film as singular and charming as its subject, a young Ohio man who promises to build a world-class violin for a renowned European concert violinist but who encounters countless obstacles in his quest to fulfill his promise. The film is a sincere and loving tribute to anyone who has ever known commitment in isolation or passion against the clock.”

Maysles Brothers Award Jury: Shane Boris, Justine Nagan, John Van Wyck

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.

THIRST STREET
Director: Nathan Silver

The jury statement reads:
“For us, this film was a unique vision and one that is informed by the story consistently. Despite its dark themes, it maintains levity and a prism of complex portraits of each character. Bold editing, cinematography and sound design, coupled with an endlessly believable performance from Lindsay Burdge show that this is an impressive leap forward for director, Nathan Silver.”

American Independent Award Jury: Meredith Alloway, Matt Grady, Will Morris

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

Liberty Global Domestic Student Filmmaker Award

WHILE I WAS GONE
Director: Daniel F. Pfeffer

The jury statement reads:
“The Liberty Global Domestic Student Filmmaker Award goes to While I Was Gone, written by Lucas Monroe and directed by Daniel Pfeffer. From the start, this emerging voice struck an unmistakably compelling tone. A first film that is all the more impressive for its subtleties.”

Liberty Global International Student Filmmaker Award

ANIMAL
Directors: Bahram Ark and Bahman Ark

The jury statement reads:
“The Liberty Global International Student Filmmaker Award goes to Animal, by Bahram and Bahman Ark, for its raw and violent depiction of the struggle for freedom. The spirit of accomplishment is met with the ultimate sacrifice in the devastating and surprising resolution of this film.”

Best Animated Short

MANIVALD
Director: Chintis Lundgren

The jury statement reads:
“The best animated short goes to a film that whimsically evokes many emotions because it touches on such themes as the loss of a male figure in the lives of a mother and son, the self discovery of a sexually repressed boy, and the reconciliation of unmet fantasies.”

Special mention:
THE BURDEN
Director: Niki Lindroth von Bahr

“We are giving a jury special mention to The Burden, directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr. As a jury, we cannot believe this film exists because of its craft, its pure vision, and its ability to usher the audience into a dark, animalistic, and wildly mystical realm.”

Best Documentary Short

FISH STORY
Director: Charlie Lyne

The jury statement reads:
“As a jury, this film unanimously struck us as not only a beautiful exercise in craftsmanship, but also hilarious and compelling. The original voice of the director speaks to the core of documentary filmmaking in a refreshing and genuine tone – turning a simple memory into a fascinating story.”

Shorts Jury: Christine Davila, Mallory Martin, Adam J. Minnick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ticket in hand, why is it so hard to get to my theater seat? Film Festival navigation 101

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Red carpet for filmmakers to walk…no, not YOU! You go get in line!

Movie-goers are accustomed to purchasing tickets online a few hours before a show or at the door. Then you show your ticket and waltz right in to get your popcorm and find your theater seat. Easy peasy.

Film Festivals are an animal of another color. Tickets must be purchased well in advance or you risk finding out your film is at RUSH (Sold Out expect for the brave souls waiting to purchase last minute tickets). Once you pick up your tickets and make it to the theater, what do you find? Lines, lines, lines. Usually there’s a Members Only line, a general admission line, a Will Call line and a Rush line…all of one screening. There are always more than one screening, so the lines are long and often intimidating.

Telluride Film Festival has giant queues but hands out queue cards and patrons are very good about lining up in order and respecting their place in line. At Mill Valley Film Festival, the lines snake around the block but filmgoers are discussing what films to see and are usually pretty amicable. Denver Film Festival has a problem in their signature theater, the SIE Film Center because the lobby is so small. The screening rooms are also small but if one show runs late and two shows are trying to load, oy vey!

Another issue for all film festivals is getting from one screening to another. Telluride Film Festival has an app that lets you estimate the time from one screening location to the other and what your chances are to get into that film. For other film festivals where you must get in a car (or a Lyft) and drive across town (or to another town for MVFF), you must carefully plan your screenings to leave time for traffic, parking, etc. For instance, yesterday I had a screening at the SIE, After an hour in line, I was finally seated, and the screening only started 10 minutes late. But my next screening was at the Denver Pavilions and it was 5:30pm! Yes, I made it to the parking lot in time but the line to PAY for parking was 12 deep and full of Friday night dating couples. There was no way to make it inside to my screening.

This year, I’ve missed a lot of screenings due to filmmaker Q&A’s going long, movies starting late and films booked back to back with no room for dilly dallying. Good thing there’s always another film in a few hours…and a coffee shop or bar to discuss the last screening. As a programmer, I know I’ve scheduled films too close…as a film attendee, I know I’ve purchased tickets to screenings that in hindsight, I’d need a teleporter to make on time. So take a word of caution, leave time for lunch or cocktails and space your films appropriately!

Happy Festivaling!

 

March on over to the Lyric!

1510251593592_Openingday-coverphotoYes, my days and nights have been spent in Denver for the last two weeks, and while I was away, my favorite local Cinema opened it’s doors for business! The Lyric, once crammed into an old laundromat with two tiny screening rooms and great programming, has now moved into their new digs.

This Tuesday night, Nov 14th @ 6pm, you can join the Guerilla Fanfare Marching Band and make the one mile journey from Old Town to the new location on College Avenue. There’s now parking, a restaurant & expanded bar, plus THREE screening rooms. This light-filled building is like a big blue and silver cruise liner ready to sail you into your next cinematic adventure.

Free admission to the Grand Opening party. There will be live bands, a DJ and even live video streaming. Come play pinball, enjoy some crazy delicious Porky Pop (bacon AND caramel?!) popcorn and other culinary treats and celebrate your new local art house cinema. Sign up for Space Camp, the Lyric rewards program, and you’ll get to come to select screenings for free.

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Here is the schedule of events for the GRAND OPENING on November 14th:

          6:00pm – Parade Starts in Old Town Square lead by Guerrilla Fanfare
          7:00pm – Parade Arrives at The Lyric/The Alcapones, HYZENBORG, Live Video Art
          9:30pm(ish) – Wes Watkins & Grumpy Uncle begin playing
Make sure to put this event on your calendar and get ready for the same great programming of art house cinema, festival favorites, and live events here in Fort Collins.

“Story of a Girl”, Kyra Sedgwick, Director

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Kyra Sedgwick at her DFF Tribute with Festival Director, Britta Erickson

Once upon a time, Kyra Sedgwick was likely best known as Kevin Bacon’s wife. Now a beloved television star, producer and film star, Mrs Sedgewick has conquered directing with her assured first feature, Story of a Girl. Congratulations on your Career Achievement Award from the Denver Film Festival!

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It was wonderful to see the Lifetime movie on the big screen with both the author, Sarah Zane and one of the screenwriters and producers, Emily Bickford Lansbury there to discuss how the film adaptation changed from the novel. Kyra Sedgewick was generous with her praise of both women’s work. The audience was wowed by the film.

What happens when a sex tape goes viral and a 13-yr-old girl must suffer the consequences? Ryann Shane plays the young woman with a startling fierceness combined with a craving to belong and to be seen. Bravo to the filmmaking team for letting the character continue to make poor choices and then, own her own culpability.p13954592_p_v8_abIt was so enduring to hear how this film became such a family affair: Kyra asked her husband Kevin Bacon to take a pivotal role, her daughter Sosie Bacon plays the brother’s girlfriend and her son composed the production music. Kevin Bacon has a wonderful rapport with Ryann Shane, and though I didn’t believe that his character was gay, he brings a real warmth to the role. It’s fabulous that this film is having a festival run so that people can recommend it to their friends and stream with the whole family. It’s a great teaching tool about sexuality, social media and remaining true to yourself.

Available on: From $3.99. iTunes, Amazon Video and Vudu

 

Drinks with Films rating: 4 lite beers quaffed while working at the pizza place (out of 5)

Not all films are fabulous…some can be flawed or pretentious or downright irritating!

Bravo to the Denver Film Festival programming team for being adventurous in their programming. There are so many wonderful films and undiscovered gems in this year’s programs. There are also some that I wish I hadn’t wasted my time on…

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Yes, this cabin was parked in front to SIE for the Premiere of “Walden”

Walden…oh Walden.  How much did I want to love you?! A Colorado narrative feature with a big name actor and lots of local crew and local supporters (including DFF!), Walden, Life In The Woods is an amazing short film. Trapped in a feature.

Three narrative threads attempt to illustrate three lost souls struggling through one day.  A man working at a senior center, played by Demian Bichir (Academy-nominated) is trapped in a spiral of financial woe. Will he have a nervous breakdown over the endless choices of bbq grills at the massive warehouse store? An egocentric young man is troubled by his boyfriend’s lack of support in his work. Is he losing his soul to corporate America? Or will he join his lover in the wilderness in a poorly-constructed cabin? Yes, I’m trivializing their plights but they are are the weak links in this saga.

While the two men struggle along on their literal paths thru the stores and streets and over rivers and rocks…the heart of the film is unfolding in the beautiful portrayal of an elderly woman (Lynn Cohan) overwhelmed by her dementia. Using drawings, stop motion animation and intricate camera work, the audience is shown a window into her world. Laura Goldhammer, also a producer on the film, created the wonderful animation. If only the rest of the film matched the vibrancy and uniqueness of this section…really wonderful.

Drinks with Films rating: 2 slugs out of a whiskey flask while sitting by a Colorado lake (out of 5)

A team of Colorado filmmakers, including director Alex Harvey, producers Mitch Dickman (Hanna Ranch, DFF37; Rolling Papers) and Shane Boris, writer Adam Chanzit, and musician-animator Laura Goldhamer, shot Walden on location. T.J. Miller (Deadpool, Cloverfield, Silicon Valley), Chris Sullivan (This Is Us) and Demián Bichir (The Hateful Eight; Alien: Covenant; Weeds; Un Cuento de Circo & a Love Song, DFF39) co-star.  They even brought the cabin to the World Premiere!

A Chiambra is Italy’s submission for next year’s Academy Award for Foreign Film. If you like gritty, down-on-their-luck tales of familial love, despair and crime; this is the film for you. There are no beautiful vistas of scenic Italy. This is car-jacking, children-smoking slice of ghetto life captured with too much handheld camerawork. Co-executive-produced by Martin Scorsese, there isn’t a lot of violence but there’s a lot of shouting and table pounding.

Rating: 1 glass of cheap Italian red, sipped from an unclean glass in a cluttered kitchen

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Sometimes it’s my own anticipation that does me in…I was so thrilled to get to see Sally Potter’s new film, The PartyWhat a cast! Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Timothy Spall. I’m thinking witty bon mots, sparkling British dialogue, something of a farce but brutally funny…

Instead, it’s a black-n-white bore with stilted dialogue, frenetic acting, and a plot that even your dottiest aunt would never believe. Patricia Clarkson is the only one who seemed to have made friends with the cinematographer; she looks glamourous. Emily Mortimer wandered in from another movie in her overalls…she’s the only one who isn’t speaking the dialogue as if reading from a cue card. This was one Party I was glad to leave.

Rating: 1 glass of champagne tossed right out the balcony of the well-appointed London flat!

“Flags of our Fathers” — DFF, Day 3

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Richard Linklater‘s ode to fatherhood and brothers-in-arms is a long road trip with many diversions.  Last Flag Flying features outstanding performances from the cast; the quiet, soulful man that sets the plan in motion, Steve Carell (reminding us that he’s more than a comedian), to the grandstanding, hard-drinking man covering up his shame with booze and broads played by Bryan Cranston.  Laurence Fishburn is a solid straight man who’s found his way and isn’t keen to be tempted off the path. These three men bicker and bound as they go on a journey of redeemtion and brotherhood.

The horrors of war but the joy of war-tested friendship, the deep sadness of not trusting your leaders and fighting for a lost cause, the military’s hypocrisy and easy lies and the state of men’s souls — complex themes for a movie that keeps company with men still recovering from the Vietnam War. Linklater is no stranger to themes of manhood and his work here is a brilliant study in why a lie can change your life, or sooth a weary soul. This is a long journey and the side-trips are a welcome reprieve with some comedy moments that had the audience laughing through their tears.

Drinks with Films Rating: 3 beers and a shot in an Irish bar trying to drown your sorrow

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DFF40-Day 2 and is it too late to buy tickets?

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Day Two of Denver Film Festival was an evening of Sold Out screenings at the Sie Film Center.  Many of the Film Society members have grown used to strolling into their films here as it’s managed by DFS year-round. There was a lot of grumbles from folks having to stand in long lines that snacked thru the lobby. Wait till they hear that my recommendation: put those patrons OUTSIDE! It was utter chaos for the seating of “The Party” as it was at RUSH and the only screening! Granted, this was the only night that there weren’t other screenings at the Pavilion movie theater to thin the crowd.

Humor Me — Starting off with an odd soundtrack (who puts clapping in the mix) and what seemed like a very worn premise, this tale of one man’s redemption had to work hard to win me over. I quickly grew weary of the corny stories pretending to be jokes told by Elliott Gould‘s character. And haven’t we seen a grown-up having to retreat to a parent’s home in a Senior Community? Why yes, and it starred Cameron Diaz and Shirley Mclaine!

Once our long-suffering dad (his only redeeming quality at first), Jermaine Clement learns some humility and begins to direct a local production at the Senior Center, the story had become more endearing. His character becomes less obnoxious and more-likeable and a near-tragedy finally redeems him. It may be a story you’ve seen many times but the warts-and-all performances and the delightful older actresses will make you want to cheer!

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Drinks With Films rating: 3 glasses of sake while wearing a revealing kimono (out of 5)

Tickets, get your tickets! There are still plenty of delightful films waiting for you at the Denver Film Festival. Buy them here. The Festival runs from Nov 1-12, 2017

And remember, films at RUSH can often be seen if you’re willing to wait in line!

I witnessed two film tickets being gifted to folks waiting to purchase them–one of them was me!

#DFF40