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

###

So you want to go to the SHOW…

SHOWMedallion_Final

The 45th Telluride Film Festival, the cinema smorgasbord in the tiny Colorado mountain town, is a true labor of love. Hundreds of volunteers transform schools, a conference center and a skating rink into theaters. Volunteers come from all over Colorado and many from out of state. In exchange for 30 hours of work over the four days of Labor Day weekend, SHOWCorps volunteers enjoy swag (t-shirt, backpack, water bottle, snacks, treats) and most importantly, a Staff Badge.

Why dedicate your vacation time and make the trek up to the mountains to share a hotel room or sleep on a couch or camp in the cold? It’s a long weekend of working in theaters, at events, in the tents and information booths. A demanding job for those schlepping all the trappings of the SHOW! We do it because it’s a chance to reconnect with our friends that we may only see once a year. We do it for the joy of being around other film aficionados; discussing film, seeing film, experiencing film conversations with filmmakers and guests–up close and personal. Stars can walk the streets free of paparazzi and they can relax a little, shielded from requests for selfies and autographs.

Telluride Film Fest Swag

A Festival pass is your entry into the Passholder Line. There you stand with other film buffs waiting patiently for your Queue so you can rush off to grab another coffee or scarf a scone/a falafel/anything to keep from eating more popcorn. No pass and you’re doomed to join the Ticket Buyer line. Occasionally, after all the Passholders have gone in, there are seats that can be sold at a premium price ($35) to those with the fortitude to wait. This is your only choice if you didn’t shell out the big bucks for a Festival Pass or join the ShowCorps.

This year, there seemed to be an increase in complaints from everyone from all the ranks about the number of full screenings that they were turned away from…a crushing disappointment if you’ve waited in the rain or made it ALMOST to the front of the line. Has Telluride Film Festival become too popular? Is there space to add another venue or increase the size of any of the screening halls? What I do know is–the volunteers and staff that create this Cinema Heaven so close to the stars; they will keep coming every year. And so will I.

 

 

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.

“Keep On, Keepin’ On”– it should have been the Closing Night film for SDFF37!

Keep On, Keepin’ On  is an inspiring film about the jazz trumpeter, Clark Terry and his legacy: his mentorship of young jazz musicians.  Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock and Diana Reeves all pay tribute to this wonderful man.  When Australian filmmaker, Alan Hicks began making this film, he’d film for 3 months and then tour as a musician for 3 month to earn enough money to continue.  When he made the decision to return to his home, Hicks was convinced by Clark Terry that he needed to stay in Arkansas and finish telling the story. So he sold his surfboard to finance the airfare to Sundance to find a producer.  There he meet Paula DuPré Pesmen.  She was no stranger to first-time filmmakers having produced both The Cove and Chasing Ice. Together, they embarked on a musical journey that Paula said, “honors the joy of Clark’s enduring spirit”.

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Red carpet at Starz–“Keep On, Keepin’ On”

Alan Hicks had been following the story of Clark Terry’s relationship with young blind protégé, Justin Kauflin.  Both Justin and Dianna Reeves were in Denver for the screening.  Alan Hicks and his wife now live in Denver, something he says, he could never have imagined. “Here”, he says incredulously, “they ski and make movies–and there’s this wonderful film community!”

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Dianna Reeves graces us with her vibrant presence

Introducing "Keep On, Keepin' On" SDFF37

Alan Hicks, Paula DuPré Pesmen and Brit from the Denver Film Society

Keep On, Keepin' On at SDFF37

 

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Justin Kauflin plays piano at the Buell Theater in Denver, CO

Lisa Kennedy from the Denver Post led an animated discussion and then, Justin Kauflin played two piano pieces: one, the theme music he composed for the film, called “Exodus” and the composition he titled, “For Clark”.

Justin has been on tour with Quincy Jones and has recorded an album.  He still speaks weekly with Clark Terry and if he still isn’t confident in “his voice”; Justin knows he’s blessed to have had this wonderful experience with the best mentor anyone could ever hope for. Clark Terry is a jazz legend who links the past with all the jazz greats he played with, to the future, with all the jazz talents he’s trained.

Keep On, Keepin’ On  was awarded the True Grit Award and both screenings were major crowd-pleasers. Too bad the Starz Denver Film Festival decided they needed to program “Like Sunday, Like Rain”, in the hopes of some celebrity attendance that didn’t happen.  They “missed the boat” on having this amazing film, with its local connection, as the feel-good Closing Night film!

 
Keep On Keepin’ On opens at the Sie Film Center December 5! TICKETS

 

What are you going to see at Starz?

The Denver Film Festival kicks off this Wed, Nov 12th at the Sie Film Center and continues till Nov 23rd.and what a wealth of exciting films, panels and parties!
The printed program is difficult to read: tiny print and chaotic layout with a calendar grid that will make you blind.  Fortunately, the online version is clear and concise.
Here are a few of my favorite films in the program:
The Imitation Game–Sat, Nov 15 @ 8pm
​Sure to be an Oscar-contender for Best Film and for Benedict Cumberbatch–this is a thrilling biopic of Alan Turing, the Brit who broke the Enigma Code in World War II.
Keep on Keepin’ On–Sat, Nov 22 @ 2pm
There have been some wonderful documentaries about music this year and this is a particularly heart-warming film about a famous jazz musician and his blind prodigy.
The Look of Silence–two screenings
Director Joshua Oppenheimer’s companion piece to The Act of Killing (nominated for an Oscar), this documentary follows one man’s emotional journey to find closure by confronting the members of the death squad who killed his brother (and thousands of others) in the Indonesian massacre of the 1960’s.​  Horrifying and heart-rendering.  An amazing work!
Two Days, One Night–multiple screenings
One of the Dardenne brothers most accessible films, Juliette Binoche gives an understated, touching performance as a women who must convince her fellow workers to give up their bonus to save her job.  Simple and brutally-honest.
3 Still Standing-Mon, Nov 17 @ 3:45 & 9pm
One of my favorite documentaries from the Mill Valley Film Fest, this showcase of three comedians, Will Durst, Larry”Bubbles”Brown and Johnny Steele is a loveable tale of some wickedly funny guys.
See the early show and stay for a stand-up show with the comedians.  It’s a perfect way to experience the film!
There are great documentaries, features and short films with an interesting program of Brazilian cinema, Queer films and a spotlight on Women + Film and Colorado Filmmakers.
I hope to see you at Happy Hour at Henderson’s!
I’ll be holding a Manhattan and trying to decipher my notes scribbled in the dark!

“Chef”–cooking up a few misconceptions?

Two films that I didn’t get around to watching till recently, both featured Twitter.  One film, Frank, featuring Micheal Fassibinder in a plaster of paris head (why would you cover that man’s gorgeous head?), used Twitter as a way for the least-talented band member to create a buzz and a following for the band.  Chef,  written and directed by the lovable Jon Favreau, uses it as a central plot device.  The Chef loses his job over a tweet that he assumes is private but instead goes viral.  The social media tool is used to build a connection between father and son and Twitter also magically drums up business for their new food truck.  I say, magically, because the young son played realistically by Emjay Anthony, manages to create a fan base, send out map coordinates for where the food truck is traveling and posts professional photos all while the young man is learning to be a cook!  It’s an interesting time when the last three movies I’ve seen, all feature social media prominently in their story lines.

Chef is a lovely fairy tale of film.  A work-obsessed man loses his job and must learn to love his son and reinvent himself.  Hardly ground-breaking but setting the action on a food truck and featuring some wonderful actors that aren’t frequently given good roles makes for an enjoyable ride!  John LeguizamoBobby CannavaleSofía Vergara and Oliver Platt all give wonderful performances and it’s fun to see Dustin Hoffman in a juicy part.  My issue with the film is that it is a fairy tale.  Money magically appears to finance the venture, one character quits his job after just being promoted so he can make sandwiches with the chef and love blossoms when you follow your heart.

A friend, and divorce coach, had some good advice to families that might watch this film together.  Mandy Walker writes about Wish Fulfillment in children from separated parents.  And hopefully, anyone who loses their job won’t think that transforming your life doesn’t generally end with an enemy with a pocket-full of cash offering to make your dreams come true…

And can someone tell me what role Amy Sedaris played?  I sure missed her!

Rating: 4 beers, but don’t share them with your son

Bechdel Rating: passes

“Men, Women and Children” — technology and our place in the cosmos

Sneak peek screening

I love preview screenings.  Especially for a film that will be at the Mill Valley Film Festival for Opening Night when those of us who work don’t usually get in to see the films!

Jason Reitman’s new movie, Men Women & Children is an alarmist’s view of how technology is damaging all of our interpersonal relationships.  There are some stand-out performances by the teenagers in the cast, particularly Ansel Elgort and Kaitlyn Dever as our central pair of technology-crossed lovers.  But I found the casting to be a problem.  Emma Thompson is one of my favorite actors but in this film, we only get to hear her voice.  Adam Sandler and Jennifer Garner are cast against type, and although it’s nice to see actors seeking challenges, the film suffers.  The characters would have been better served had they been portrayed by actor’s with less star power and the weight of audience expectation.

The film goes back and forth trying to show today’s world as inconsequential in the grand scheme of the universe at large.  It does so, ponderously, with lovely shots of planets and a tale of the Voyager satellite and a Carl Sagan quote.  The focus is on the relationships of three families and how technology is driving them apart (gaming, online porn, looking at a phone or through a camera instead of being present) and how important small moments of engagement can be.  Earth is a tiny dot but our connections to one another create our world.

It’s an important message–but the characters behave in ways that stretch credibility.  Men Women & Children posits that teens are vulnerable and they make poor choices, but that parents act just as irresponsibly.  We’re all struggling to find ways to connect, to be intimate and to protect our families.  The orchestrated child-in-peril plot is used for optimal dramatic impact but the hyperbole is justified if Men Women & Children gets conversations started between parents and teens!

Jason Reitman and Kaitlyn D

Opening Night MVFF 37

Update: I did get to hear the Q & A for this film at MVFF!

Jason Reitman was like a hip teenager teasing Kaitlyn Dever in the lobby by imitating what she’d sound like if she was in a video game. They had a fun rapport and she later joked that she had to teach him what Snapchat was all about.  “This film is about intimacy, not about the internet” and “I had no idea there were websites to teach you how to be anorexic!” were among the director’s funny comments. It was also interesting to hear about all the work (and expense!) that went into creating the fake porn sites and clickable faux internet for the characters to surf.  We also learned of the extended masturbation scene that was cut so as to not encourage teen boys to try putting whip cream inside a football and warm it in a microwave… There were some grumbles from the exiting festival crowd about the predictability of the dramatic ending and a few people seemed to agree with me with the miscasting (particularly Adam Sandler) but overall, they seemed to have a lot to talk about.  And that’s what good films do…create conversations!

Some good tips on Teens and Social Media from Dave Taylor featured on Christian Toto’s Blog

Rating: 3 Jameson on the rocks, ordered from a hotel bar where your spouse may be cheating on you

Bechdel test: Passes, and hip hip hooray for the rock in the window at the end!