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

 

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

What a ride…Telluride!

There are as many ways to enjoy Telluride as there are reasons to go to this glorious mountain town: festivals, skiing, and nature!  For some visitors, it’s the stars…you feel so close to the star-filled sky in this village with it’s Dark Sky policy.  And then, there are the other Stars; the Film Stars that descend on this tiny town for the Telluride Film Festival every year.

Just like any other festival I’ve ever attended, film-goers flock to the screenings with the most glamorous guests.  Even in this rarified atmosphere of film as fine art and a welcome respite from the paparazzi, the screenings that fill up are the ones with the Big Names.  This makes seeing the really good films more difficult.  The bigger budget (and often, more mediocre) Hollywood films, screen multiple times and in all the big venues. When the true gems of the festival create a buzz, there’s little chance to see them in the remaining day or two, especially when those films are screening in the smaller houses!

Pablo Larrain, Joseph Cedar, Isabelle Huppert moderator: Annette Insdorf and Mia Hansen-Love

 

 

2016 was no different, but what a fabulous line-up of films!  The Arrival with Amy Adams was the one film that seemed to always have to turn away the crowds.  Three films that I really wanted to see, I didn’t make it to: Graduation, Toni Erdmann and Through The Wall.  I didn’t attempt to see some of the bigger films that will soon be released but I did enjoy the hot mess that is La La Land.   Amusing, romantic, and fanciful, it’s a fun Hollywood musical.  Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have great chemistry.   The score and choreography are wonderful. Sadly, it’s suffers from poor editing and the last third of the film is a muddled mess.  Still, it was a delight and I’d give it 4 coupe glasses of champagne (out of a possible 5).

My favorite film of the Fest: Inner Workings, the new short from Disney directed by Leo Matsuda!  Delightful, heartwarming and a complete story in it’s short running time. I’d rate it 5 margaritas (not during work) out of 5!

vqtmtpjy

In the features category, my heart belongs to Frantz! François Ozon has crafted an indelible film full of grief, loss and longing all set in a small German village shattered by the loss of life during WW2.  Using black and white cinematography to bring you into this period; the costumes, setting and acting seem so attuned to the time that it creates a documentary feel…and then when love and vitality touch the lives of the anguished young lovers (played with such sensitivity by Paula Beer and Pierre Niney), color brightens the screen and warms the mood.  I was swept away and found the story to be so rich that I wanted to see it again immediately.  5 German beers!

One film that I did end up seeing twice, and would rather have not seen at all…Bleed For This.  Aaron Eckhart gives a great supporting performance as the trainer to Miles Tiller’s underdog boxer in a soap opera of a tale that’s so loopy — it has to be true.  Ben Younger directs a cast of gum-snapping, beer-drinking stereotypes where alcoholism is cured with a short stay in the pokey.  Did we need another boxing movie?  Really?  1 can of Budweiser.

Una is an emotional roller coaster based on the play, Blackbird.  Almost a one-woman show, Rooney Mara is emotional-wrenching in her role as the young woman left frayed and broken by an encounter she still doesn’t fully comprehend.  As the small cast reveals the shocking details, the audience is along for the intimate, anguished reveal.  Master work by director Benedict Andrews.  5 shots of vodka…no chaser.  You’ll be shaken and stirred!

In the just-for-the-joy-of-it category: Lost in Paris.  Two physical comedians, Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel, writer/directors, play characters named Fiona and Dom that keep careening into one another in Paris.  The French actress, Emmanuelle Riva, adds grace and depth to a film of childlike wonder. 3 bottles of French bubbly washed ashore.

Not a fan of the film Wakefield, I felt the character was a caricature of a man losing his grip on reality and Bryan Cranston gave a one-note performance in this unlikeable portrait. For a much more in-depth and believable parent and human being, there’s the soulful Isabelle Hubbert, radiant in her role of a woman who’s life is unraveling in Things To Come, directed by Mia Hansen-Løve.  Her performance has so many layers that you believe that her journey out of chaos will yield only stronger bounds with her family and an affirmation that she deserves a good life. 4 glasses of a good Bourdeaux!

All in all, a stellar year for the Telluride Film Festival.  So many films I wish I could’ve seen that I left with a feeling of yearning.  I look forward to seeing Manchester by the Sea when It’s released as I hear Casey Affleck’s performance is a revelation.

See you at the movies!

 

“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”.

unnamed (3)

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!”

unnamed (4)

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

 

unnamed (2)

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!