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!

“Corbin Dallas Multipass”

18402759_10210576996916028_6110860925362359622_n

Still looks amazing at 20!

A throwback film that feels FRESH and a current film that is full of references to the past but already feels STALE!

Today there’s a good chance you can catch a screening of The Fifth Element at your local cineplex. Fathom Events is releasing the film May 14th and 17th as the studio is getting out the press for the next Luc Besson film, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

This has been a favorite film of mine for many years and I wasn’t worried that the special effects would look cheesy…I’ve seen it many times since that first awesome experience at the movie theater. I still found the story engaging, the cityscapes and costumes (Jean Paul Gautier!) fantastic and found myself on the edge of my seat at the ending with a tear in my eye. It was so fun to hear the crowd cheer at the end of the film and hear the exiting crowd exclaim at how well the movie still holds up.

In comparison, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 is a far weaker film. Yes, there are some wonderful set pieces and a few emotionally-resonant moments between the characters, but what was with that convoluted origin story? Wow, was I bored with the 70’s-themed side trip down memory lane, and any time the film stopped at Planet Ego, the story stalled. It made a gazillion dollars on Opening Weekend and will continue to gross the big bucks, but amid the flash and throwback tunes and the snappy dialogue, where was the story? Why did we care about the gold-dipped aliens and their plan for vengeance?

It felt as if they built all these cool sets and created all this cool SGI, and then added story elements to use them. How many scenes of battle till you create battle fatigue in your audience? The best moments on Guardians, were short scenes away from the action with our central characters…too brief to sustain any goodwill toward the overblown film.

Go see The Fifth Element instead. You’ll be glad you did.

Drinks Rating

Fifth Element: 4 cups of bad coffee (Corbin Dallas can’t get the coffee pot to work) out of 5

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2:  2 kiddie cups of bright-colore Kool-aid, a sugar rush but a let-down, out of 5

I Am Not Your Negro (obviously)

James Baldwin, The Last Interview.jpgUnsparing as history and enthralling as biography. It’s an evocation of a passionate soul in a tumultuous era. —Joel Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

There was something so odd, yet so fitting in watching the Oscar-nominated documentary,  I Am Not Your Negro, on a rainy weekend at the Masonic Temple. Sitting in a meeting hall on mismatched padded chairs with Masonic tapestries and a domed ceiling around us, the crowd included mostly couples, (many over 50) and one family with pre-teen boys. All of us white. Many of us, likely unfamiliar with any of James Baldwin’s writings. The screening had the feel of a town hall meeting where we’d all come together to get political.

Sadly, the sound was rather muffled in this temporary screening hall. It was hard to distinguish between James Baldwin’s voice and the narration by Samuel L Jackson. It’s a powerful film, in part because his words are still so relevant today. Sadly. Pairing his narrative about the lives and deaths of Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King Jr with contemporary video of the sad state of affairs in race relations in America today creates such a resonance that I heard members of the audience actually gasp out loud.

As the crowd quietly filed out of the hall and down the stairs, there was a shared silence and many people were glancing at strangers to see their reactions. It was a thoughtful silence and I didn’t see the usual rush to turn on cellphones. The idea of crowds of mainly white folks gathering to hear a lecture on why we need to stop thinking Black Lives Matter and start thinking how to heal our country as preached by a gay black activist that died in 1987…what a remarkable achievement.

If you’re like me, and you’ve only read James Baldwin’s poems and a few essays, you may be inspired to go pick up a few of his books. Here’s a few suggestions: Four books by James Baldwin. I’ll be headed to the library to find The Last Interview.

Rating: PG-13 for violence and a few swear words

Drinks With Films: 5 glasses of French wine out of 5 — a toast to Baldwin’s time in Paris

Release date: February 3, 2017 (USA)

ACT at Odell Brewery…or Do you want VR with your beer?

 

ACT Human Rights Film Festival

Awaken Connect Transform

ACT Human Rights Film Festival held a Kick-Off Screening at the SIE Film Center in Denver.

Filmmaker Beth Murphy was there for the Q & A for What Tomorrow Brings.

The festival is put on by the Communication Studies Department at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO.

I was there, hot toddy in hand…to support the festival!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Odell Brewing Company hosted the Schedule Release Party on Thursday, March 28th, 2017. Odell is brewing a special beer for the ACT Film Festival called Screening Sessions IPA!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The 2nd Annual ACT Human Rights Film Festival will bring 16 films to the CSU campus and the Lincoln Center Theater in Fort Collins, many with filmmakers in attendance. Stay tuned for a Very Important Guest Appearance…to be announced Monday!

The program covers both national and international human rights issues, and includes humor and beauty to sweeten your educational experience. Topics range from the first South Indian female taxi driver (Driving with Selvi) to Tehran’s underground techno scene (Raving Iran), from solitary confinement in American prisons (Solitary) to a flamboyant drag queen in Ireland who fought for marriage equality (Queen of Ireland).

Two documentaries that I recommend are Jackson, a stirring tale of staff and patients in the only abortion clinic in Jackson, MI and What Tomorrow Brings, highlighting how education can change communities in the first all-girls school in a remote Afghan village.

The lively event at Odell brewery was packed on a rainy Spring evening. There were program listings to read through, tickets to be purchased on iPads and live music by the lead singer of The Seers, Brian Collins. There were announcements and trailers and a moving virtual reality short film.

Who Am I  was produced by Blueshoe Media — Kyle Rasmussen (CSU alumni) and Amy Hoeven. The short film immerses you into the encounters of first-generation CSU college students with immigrant high school students from Fort Morgan, CO. I was amazed to learn that there’s been Somalian refugees coming to this conservative town for a decade. It’s a bit of a sweaty (and occasionally, nauseous-inducing) experience once you’ve got the VR headset and headphones on but the VR film is both memorable and thought-provoking. Check it out during the Opening and Closing Night programs.odell-poster2.jpg

Purchase your Festival tickets now! And stay tuned for an exciting announcement on Monday, April 3, 2017! There’s an actor/singer/activist coming to Fort Collins!

 

 

Day-o, day-ay-ay-o Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Harry Belafonte.jpg

1st African American man to win an Emmy, 6 Gold Records including, “Calypso”

I’ve always looked at the world and thought what can I do next? Where do we go from here? How can we fix it? And that’s still how I look at the world, because there is so much to be done. The whole world is caught in human suffering. And those who professed about making change have not come up with answers. We have failed in terms of the moral side. We have to do more. —Harry Belafonte

What if you could choose to see a film at a local movie theater OR go see the same film at a Film Festival?  Hmmm…you don’t need to purchase advance tickets for a film at the multiplex…unless, of course, it’s Opening Weekend. Festival screenings are a different matter altogether. First, you need to know about the festival. Then, generally you need to purchase tickets in advance. Finally, you must arrive early and perhaps venture to a venue you’ve never been to…and if you don’t show-up 15 minutes before screen time, guess what? They can give your seat to someone standing in line. So, why bother?

What makes a film festival such a unique experience is the chance to hear from filmmakers and actors who travel to the festival representing the film. This week, you could go see the remarkable, Oscar-nominated documentary about writer James Baldwin,  I Am Not Your Negro at the temporary home of the Lyric Cinema Cafe (The Masonic Temple) in Fort Collins, and other art house cinemas in the area. OR you could purchase a ticket for the Closing Night of the ACT Human Rights Film Festival.  So, why wait till April 21st???

Why bother? Why wait? Because if you don’t, you’ll miss a great opportunity!  Your festival ticket for I Am Not Your Negro is your chance to see and hear from someone who knew James Baldwin personally, a remarkable humanitarian who also happens to be a famous movie star…someone you may never get the chance to see again…Harry Belafonte!

At the Second Annual ACT Human Rights Film Festival April 21st, there’s a screening of a biopic about this singer, actor and activist. Sing Your Song uses archival footage to celebrate the man who worked with Martin Luther King Jr, led civil rights marches, and fought against apartheid in South Africa. Harry Belafonte was an important leader in the Civil Rights Movement, and he continues to champion social justice. Colorado State University students can see Susan Rostock’s 2011 documentary for free at 4:30pm at the Lory Student Center Theater.

After the screening of Sing Your Song, the final film of the festival, I Am Not Your Negro will be presented in the same theater. The Sing Your Song star, Mr. Belafonte, will be there for the Question and Answer session post-screening. There will also be a Closing Night party in the Lory Student Center Ballroom.

Put this film festival on your calendar: April 14-21, 2017.  Purchase your tickets now!

Don’t let this opportunity come and go…Day-o Day-ay-ay-o

 

If you’re going to see just 1 Oscar-nominated film…see 5!

So here we are, almost Academy Awards time…Have you seen all the films? Have you heard the scores? And what’s the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing anyway?

This is an unusual year for me as I haven’t seen all the films but if you asked me which one of the nominated films to see—what would I recommend? My answer may surprise you. I would tell you to go see the Oscar-nominated Live Action Shorts!

20170225_150002-1.jpg

Seeking out shorts!

This doesn’t mean that I think the Best Picture nominations aren’t deserving! I’ll give you a quick run-down of how I’d rate them another time, perhaps. What makes this collection of five films from five countries so remarkable? These gems of great storytelling will move you, inspire you, and make you cry or laugh. They represent a distillation of what makes movies amazing: the craft of storytelling at it’s most focused and assured!  So please, go seek out the Shorts Programs. Many big cities are screening the Oscar-nominated Live Action and Animated Shorts and the Documentary Shorts are also brilliant–though that is a 3-hour program.

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

  • Ennemis Intérieurs — my least favorite

    Sélim Azzazi

    La Femme et le TGV –what a brilliant poster!

    Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff

    Silent Nights — just brilliant and Kim Magnusson’s 6th nominated film!

    Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson

    Sing — great film for the whole family

    Kristof Deák and Anna Udvardy

    Timecode — when you gotta dance!

    Juanjo Giménez

    trailer

Film Festivals: why they are more important than ever!

I’m obsessed. It’s true. There are very few people who dedicate this much time attending, working and curating film festivals; my life is is ALL about film and I love it. As I embark on the journey to help birth two new film festivals in the Front Range of Colorado, one might question why? Do we need another film festival? Aren’t Sundance, Cannes, TriBeca and SXSW covering all the bases? So few people attend local film festivals in the early years of a festival…why do I work so hard to get these events off the ground? Why bother?

Here’s the thing…Americans are insulated. We are living in a very divisive time and so many of us are surrounded by like-minded individuals. Our lives are lived in bubbles of work, family, church and community. There is little opportunity or dollars to travel if you’re working hard to stay employed.  And little time off to pursue the pleasures of the arts or hobbies or time to just BE. Politics have become an issue that raises blood pressure and angry words. There are alarming changes to government policies and threats to art, education and environment. What does this look like from the perspective of countries outside our own? Do you know? Do you care?

Rather than turn inward, or turn off—I find community in the shared experience of cinema. When there were threats to the EPA, I went to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival and listened to the cheers of nature-lovers applauding the work of environmentalists. When the ACLU seemed overwhelmed by government actions, I went to the United Nations traveling film festival where civic-minded film lovers rallied friends to march, donate and celebrate successes here and worldwide.

Not everyone is fortunate to live in a town with an art house theater. Fort Collins, CO, has a gem of an art house theater. The Lyric Cinema Cafe will soon be moving but currently there are screenings of the Oscar-nominated Shorts and on Feb 28th, short films created by local filmmakers in 48 hours! Tonight, I’m going to a screening billing itself as a film festival. I love how Wandering Reel Film Festival describes it’s mission:

“Artists have long been at the forefront of social innovation. The Wandering Reel believes in the power of film art to effect positive change, to bring people together through shared cultural experiences and to promote peace and justice around the world by inspiring conversation between individuals and communities through the common experience of cinema. By exposing under-served communities with films that are artful in their meaning and compassionate and conscious in their approach, the boundaries that divide people can be slowly stripped away, cultures can be enriched and peace grown across the globe.”

Learning about other cultures and other worlds is so important. Documentaries are so crucial to spreading knowledge and helping us learn about our world. Yes, we need to decompress and laugh at Batman, The Lego Movie but the experience just doesn’t compare to the satisfaction of seeing Hidden Figures! This fictionalised account of a true story benefits from the amazing cast but it’s the STORY; the true story that draws you in. There’s a feeling of community when you hear the applause in a crowded theater; when you know that we’ve all shared an experience and learned something together. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race written by Margot Lee Shetterley.

We can all be transported and moved by a true story compellingly told.

hidden-figures

Yes, documentaries are more important than ever; I completely agree with Simon Kilmurry! I would argue that we also need places to see these compelling documentaries. That’s why we need film festivals. How many documentaries are screening at your local cineplex? You need to seek them out on the Nature Channel or PBS; you need to set your DVR. I’m on a mission to bring them to you, in your town, to help build community and showcase your local talented film community. I hope you’ll join me!

See you at the Boulder International Film Festival March 2-5 and at the Front Range Film Festival April 20-23! And stayed tuned for news about Lyons, Nederland and the newest film and craft festival: Boulder Beer and Film Festival in September!

Please put this important documentary on your must see list for tomorrow night! A perfect companion film to the brilliant documentary, I’m Not Your Negro about the life of James Baldwin. Because, Black Lives Matter!

 

Maya Angelou in 1974.
Maya Angelou in 1974. Wayne Miller/Magnum, via PBS
Tuesday
‘Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise,’ 8 p.m., PBS (Check Local Listings)
This two-hour “American Masters” biography covers the astonishing breadth of Angelou’s work as a singer, performer, poet, author and activist, and includes footage from throughout her life as well as candid interviews.
KQED has a thorough companion archive to the documentary, which is particularly poignant because Angelou hosted a 10-part series on KQED in 1968 called “Blacks, Blues, Black!”

Fall Film Festival Favorites

wp-image-455211428jpg.jpeg

Four Fall Festivals in three months!

Fall is a grand time to be a cinephile. Studios release their “important films”; the ones they hope the Oscar voters will remember. There are independent films that have landed distribution deals at film festivals and these gems are making their way to local art-house cinemas. A few films with festival buzz are about to hit a theater near you. Often these films don’t stick around long if they don’t find their audience…so here’s what I’d recommend.

Moonlight: Barry Jenkins has created a film of exceptional power. A slow-burning film essay on growing up poor, black and feeling hopeless…facing bullies, family addiction and a daily trail just to make it to school. Using three different talented young actors, the story feels both personal and universal and there’s not a false note or preachy moment. Great support from Naomie Harris as the mother helpless in her addiction spiral and Janelle Monáe as the mother figure who nurtures the boy. An amazing look at one boy’s arduous journey to manhood. I’d rate this film 4 shots of spiced rum for it’s Florida setting.

Eagle Huntress: We need stories of female empowerment now more than ever, and Otto Bell’s documentary of the first girl to become an eagle hunter in the Mongolian Steppes is both beautiful and exciting. Otto Bell’s note about filming  This is a film to take your daughters and sons to and I hope that it gets the wide release it deserves. 4 shots of whiskey to drive away the winter chill.

Lion: A Hollywood film that certainly doesn’t need my endorsement, it’s the amazing true story that makes this film stand out. Directed by Garth Davis and heralded by the Weinstein Company, Lion will have enjoy wide release. Dev Patel is gorgeous in this film even if his character is a moody, restless young man. Nicole Kidman adds considerable warmth as the caring adoptive mother…but it’s the young actor, Sunny Pawar, who steals your heart and the film! As the 5 year old Indian boy who is lost and then rescued into a new life, Saroo is torn from his home and his land. Sunny plays Saroo as a determined young man; full of hope and not looking for pity. I liked that the film doesn’t sugar coat the life of an orphan and the conditions in the orphanage. 4 cups of good Indian tea served with an Aussie biscuit.

My other favorite films: Una, a grueling, mesmerizing film with Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn playing broken individuals trying to regain their lives after an underage affair. L’Avenir, a very French film starring Isabelle Huppert as a woman who’s life is unraveling but she keeps her cool and creates herself anew.

Films I’m looking forward to seeing: A Man Called OveCertain Women  and 20th Century Women