And the winner is…”Liyana”

Festival Hub: The McNichols Building

DFF Festival Hub: McNichols Civic Center Building

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Documentary Features (tie):
HONDROS
Director: Greg Campbell

LIYANA
Directors: Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp

Short Subject Film:
THE SUITCASE
Director: Abi Damaris Corbin

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

True Grit Award
The following Colorado-made feature film was selected as the winner of the True Grit Award by a jury of members of the Denver Film Academy, which is comprised of dues-paying alumni board members.

LIYANA
Directors: Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp

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

Special mentions:
THE OUTSIDER
Director: Scott Takeda

HONDROS
Director: Greg Campbell

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

Krzysztof Kieślowski Award for Best Narrative Feature Film
The following narrative feature film was selected as the winner of the Krzysztof Kieślowski Award by a jury of international film industry members.

THE HAPPINESS OF THE WORLD
Director: Michał Rosa

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

Special mention:
UNDER THE TREE
Director: Haffstein Gunnar Sigurðsson

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

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

Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary Feature Film
The following documentary feature film was selected as the winner of the Maysles Brothers Award by a jury of national film industry members.

ALPHAGO
Director: Greg Kohs

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

Special mention:
STRAD STYLE
Director: Stefan Avalos

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

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

American Independent Award
The following narrative feature film was selected as the winner of the American Independent Award by a jury of national film industry members.

THIRST STREET
Director: Nathan Silver

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

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

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

Liberty Global Domestic Student Filmmaker Award

WHILE I WAS GONE
Director: Daniel F. Pfeffer

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

Liberty Global International Student Filmmaker Award

ANIMAL
Directors: Bahram Ark and Bahman Ark

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

Best Animated Short

MANIVALD
Director: Chintis Lundgren

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

Special mention:
THE BURDEN
Director: Niki Lindroth von Bahr

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

Best Documentary Short

FISH STORY
Director: Charlie Lyne

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Flags of our Fathers” — DFF, Day 3

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

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

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

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Denver Film Festival 40 — Day One, “Lady Bird”

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Opening Night is an exciting, exhilirating time at a Film Festival. The program has launched, guests are arriving, everyone’s getting on their party shoes…and the scene is set. SThere may still be a hundred thousand details for the staff to check and double check, but there’s a feeling of pride…and relief…once the first feature is one the screen.

Opening Night Video of the Fun

One terrific thing that Denver Film Festival does is to give filmmakers and talent from the entire program the chance to walk the Red Carpet on this big night…and many others. Whether you’ve made a short film, a student work or it’s your masterpiece documentary, everyone can share this moment to strut their stuff for the cameras.

I was fortunate to see Ladybird at the Telluride Film Festival with both the director, Greta Gerwig and her talented stars, Laurie Metcalf and Tracie Letts in attendance. The question and answer session was warm and lively.  The three of them seemed relaxed and enjoyed teasing each other.  All of them praised Saoirse Ronan.  She is so natural in the role and gives another intriguing, nuanced performance as the main character.  This journey from adolescent angst to eager college freshman feels distinctly personal.  Based on Greta Gerwigs’s own upbringing in Sacramento, there are so many moments that ring true and make you cringe or cry.

Each character is infuriating real.  I loved that the Mom is so emotionally distant and the Dad is helpless to heal the fractured relationship between the daughter and mother. The costumes, settings and language brought me right back to high school.  I identified with this stubborn, ballsy gal with a yearning for a future that seems so out of her reach. A wonderful directorial debut by Greta Gerwig, Ladybird  is a film I highly recommend.

Drinks With Films Rating: 4 glasses of pretentious wine while trying to act sophisticated out of 5

#DFF40 #feminist #comingofage

UPDATE: November 16, 2017 (DENVER) – The Denver Film Society (DFS) is excited to announce a collection of films from the 40th Denver Film Festival (DFF40) to open for special engagements at the Sie FilmCenter. Among those slated to open is the recently wrapped DFF’s Opening Night Red Carpet Premiere
title, LADY BIRD.

“Lady Bird – a film for the ages – explores all that is weird and wonderful about growing up,” says Festival Director, Britta Erickson. “Greta Gerwig, who we have long admired for her acting and writing, proves she’s a triple threat with a directorial debut as sure-handed and genuine as any we’ve come across. Featuring stellar performances from Saoirse Ronan, as the feisty angst-ridden eponymous teen, and Laurie Metcalf as her loving but opinionated mother, Lady Bird earns its awards buzz. For only the second time in history, Denver Film Festival was proud to open the Festival with a film helmed by a female director. We believe it is important to continue to showcase voices underrepresented in cinema, not only at the Festival, but at our year-round home, the Sie FilmCenter.”

LADY BIRD opens at the Sie FilmCenter on November 22, with an early preview on November 21.

Click to purchase LADY BIRD tickets

 

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!

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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!

 

 

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!

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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

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“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!