Writing about culture–is it just adding to the noise?

When you go to a concert, read a book, attend a poetry reading, take a trip to the theater or visit a museum, I like to think that you’re starting a conversation with an artist. They’ve created this outpouring of creativity to try to reach your heart, your mind, yes, even your soul. If they succeed, you’ve been moved and you want to share that experience with others.

That water cooler moment when you share your thoughts about it, transforms that passive experience of you taking something in, into a transformative experience where you can relive the joy or share that knowledge learned. It makes you feel good to share those feelings or to warn someone to skip a show that you know they’d find offensive or bland.

I’ve often compared writing about film as a process similar to discussing wine. You gain an understanding of films and wines by sampling many types and learning about the craft. You can discuss nuances and enjoy flavors and discerns smells that might be missed by others. But still, you bring your own palate, your own experience to the table. My top pick of an Orin Swift Cellars Mercury Head wine or the Polish masterpiece, the film Cold War may strike you as overwhelming or pretentious. And what does my opinion matter to you?

A.O.Scott, one of the top film critics at the New York Times wrote a marvelous piece about criticism, A Critic Reviews His Own Role. He argues that writing about culture is akin to news reporting though “inherently subjective”. “No reader will agree with a critic all the time, and no critic requires obedience or assent from readers. What we do hope for is trust*. We try to earn it through the quality of our writing and clarity of our thought, and by telling the truth. The truth, in this case, about what we thought about what we saw, read or heard.” (*my emphasis)

What critics hope to share is what moved us. We want you to be inspired and to seek out the gems that might not get the attention we feel they deserve. That’s why, though I enjoy “Best of” Lists, what I love is lists like The Most Under-Appreciated Films of 2018 from Indiewire. When critics I respect, like Mick LaSalle of the SF Chronicle write rapturous reviews of films I’ve heard might be disasters ( “Vox Lux” review) or I read on Twitter that Kate Erbland and Tomris Laffly mention a film I should see on Netflix (Happy as Lazzaro), I make time to sit in front of a tv or seek out a film screening. Even though I don’t always agree with David Ehlrich, I crack up reading his reviews on Letterboxd. Manohla Dargis wrote an insightful piece on Barry Jenkins’ new film If Beale Street Could Talk and it makes me want to see the film again.

Whether you’re trying to save yourself money by not purchasing a ticket to an event that you’re not sure about…or looking for something exciting and fresh…find a critic writing reviews you can trust. Whether it’s in a paper, on a website, a blog or an Instagram post, you can start a conversation. It will lead you to an experience that’ll be worth your time and money. And who knows, it might enrich your soul.

Boy, Oh Boy, which film about a young man in crisis should you see?

As we head into Awards Season, there’s one sure bet. At least one film about a young man facing a crisis will be garnering nominations…and possibly all three. Beautiful BoyBoy Erased, and Ben is Back not only love the letter “B” — they all explore families struggling with addiction or homosexuality as they try to find a way to love their son while his actions threaten to destroy their family life. All three films showcase heart-felt performances by two talented young actors.
Lucas Hedges (Academy Award nominee for Manchester by the Sea) in both Boy Erased, as a Christian teen in conversion therapy and Ben is Back, as a drug addict determined to spend Christmas with family.
Timothée Chalamet (Golden Globe nominee) in Beautiful Boy is the affluent teen who spirals out of control with a meth addiction.

Having seen The Miseducation of Cameron Post, starring the talented
Chloë Grace Moretz, it‘s hard not to compare Lucas Hedge’s performance to hers and find it less-assured. Boy Erased is also about conversion therapy but it’s also a moving look at the relationship between this traumatized young man and his parents. Nicole Kidman gives another nuanced performance as a woman who loves her husband (Russell Crowe) and their religious life, but knows her son is hurting and damaged by the church dogma and this awful practice of forcing him to be someone he’s not.

Ben is Back features another mom/son relationship. Julia Roberts is receiving lots of critical acclaim for her performance as a woman determined to save her son even as she realizes she’s let a demon back into her home. Lucas Hedges is convincing as the young man who knows the truth about his addiction.

When a movie is set in an area you’re familiar with, like Marin County was for me in Beautiful Boy, I think it tends to draw you in even deeper into the story. The juxtaposition of gorgeous settings with depraved behavior made it even more unsettling. For me, the interactions between Steve Carell’s devasted dad and Timothee Chalamet’s helpless lying boy left me weeping and wanting to read both books based on this real struggle: Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines.

If you’re only going to see one film of the three, my recommendation would be Beautiful Boy. Heart-breaking but hopeful, and the performances are Award-Worthy. This film is beautiful, mesmerizing and reveals the difficult truth that letting go when all you want to do is hold on, is sometimes the only way to save the one you love.

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

###

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

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.

Based on a true story–Films at the 45th Telluride Film Festival

43 films screened over 4 days for the 45th Telluride Film Festival. 10 of those 43 were excellent documentaries, but another 12 were films based on true stories. The most Hollywood of these, First Man is the star-spangled story of Neil Armstrong starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by the talented Damien Chazelle (La La Land). It was very well-received. Trail by Fire, directed by Ed Zwick  and driven by amazing performances by Laura Dern and Jack O’Connell, was absolutely riveting. I’m so glad I saw it before it starts being dismissively described as the anti-death-penalty film. It deserves a wide audience.

Alfonso Cuaron wrote, directed and shot most of his autobiographical film, Roma. Eric Kohn of Indiewire described it as “writing his personal story with a camera”, which seems quite apt. It’s a lovely black & white period piece revealing an upper-middle class family’s daily struggles through the eyes of their caring maid. Each scene is populated with so many details of their lives — we get to visit a turbulent time in Mexico City and in this young woman’s life. There’s so much drama and tension that the 2 1/2 hours flies by. I’m thankful that it’s a Netflix film and I’ll be able to watch it again.

Standing in the rain for an hour sharing an umbrella with a stranger was worth it to see The Old Man and the Gun (David Lowery). It was a treat to see Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek in person. They have delightful chemistry in this sweet film about a bank robber and escape artist who can’t retire from the thrill of the chase. Redford stated that this is indeed his last acting role, though he’ll still produce and maybe direct. That gave the film a lovely sentimental feel as there are photos of a younger Redford used to illustrate his character’s past. Casey Affleck is particularly good as the detective trying to catch the bank robbers who develops a rapport with the gentleman criminal.

If you’re a fan of Yorgos Lanthimos, you’ll to get a kick out of The Favourite. Queen Anne rules the 18th Century English Court but it’s her consort who’s making the real decisions. Played with petulance, emotional neediness and disdain, Olivia Colman is a powerful and fickle Queen. Vying for a place in her bed and in her court are the penniless lady, Abigail (Emma Stone), a cousin to the powerful Lady Marlborough (Rachel Weisz). Great roles for three powerful performers and I enjoyed the wicked banter and court intrigue. There are many extended close-ups of Olivia Colman’s face and it’s amazing to watch the emotional storms sinking her sanity. I could’ve done without the showy camera flourishes as it took me out of the story but the costumes (Sandy Powell) are sumptuous.

My final film of the festival was Boy Erased. This family drama is based on Garrard Conley‘s memoir brought to the screen by another multi-hyphenate talent, Joel Edgerton. He directs the screenplay he wrote; he also has a starring role as the director of a religious gay conversion center.  Lucas Hedges, portraying another damaged young man (Manchester by the Sea, Ladybird, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) gives another emotionally revealing performance. When he’s forcibly outed at college after a traumatic incident, his Baptist preacher father (a solid Russell Crowe) convinces his mother (Nicole Kidman) to admit him to the conversion center. The loving relationship between mother and son is sorely tested when she learns what’s happening as staff try to sublimate the sexual urges of the clients. It’s an emotional journey with another great Nicole Kidman performance as she reconciles her love for her son with her love and duty as a Baptist wife. I’m looking forward to seeing The Miseducation of Cameron Post for the female viewpoint (directed by Desiree Akhavan) on conversion therapy set in an earlier time but still dealing with this shameful practice.

More Telluride reviews coming soon…