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!”

Opening Night for BIFF 2014

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Boulder Intetnational Film Fest, Opening Night

The Gala Opening Night for the Boulder International Film Festival was spread across two venues; The Boulderado Hotel and the Rembrandt Yard. Arriving right on time at the Boulderado, it was like a treasure hunt to find the party. Accompanied by an odd assortment of costumed film characters, we traversed the halls and stairwells to find…they weren’t ready yet! No worries, a short wait and then we were first in line to get our two drink tickets (beer or wine) and the first pick of all the appetizers! There was a lovely jazz combo in the corner and plenty of tables to enjoy our bounty. Passed hors d’oevres and many food stations meant there was plenty of tasty food and room to get to it. Wine was even served in lovely goblets.

The Rembrandt Yard was another story, too small for the amount of people crammed in the space and an outside staircase crowded with party-goers trying to find their friends or at least make it to a beverage table. The gala attire ranged from full-length glittery ballgowns, suits and ties and casual Boulder attire (yoga pants, nice shirt and sensible shoes). Thrown in the mix was a Batman, Princess Leia, Stormtrooper and a staggering Zombie. There seemed to be a number of women wearing bejeweled headbands as if inspired by Carey Mulligan’s character in The Great Gatsby. With only a few cash bars and most people sticking to their two wine or beer limit, no one was getting out of order and it was a very friendly atmosphere even in the crowds. Ladies in high heels had the double challenge of icy streets and multiple staircases and I wondered how anyone with limited mobility could have attended the party.

There was a fun New-Orleans-style marching band, The Purple Squirrel, performing outside to serenade us to the Boulder Theater. They were onstage at the Boudler Theater keeping the party going. The bar inside was crowded with folks trying to make-up for the light drinking earlier and the trek down to the seats was slow. Stand alone seats like you’d find in a conference hall were fairly comfortable but sadly, not staggered for optimal viewing and the floor of the venue was not “racked” enough to allow for clear sightlines. There was a lovely new screen and a recent addition of Real 3-D projection. With the digital package projection, the crew was probably not able to test screen the film so there were a couple instances when the sound blared out of the speakers and those seated on the sides all-but jumped out of their seats!
The crowd was very forgiving and everyone seemed to enjoy the screening of The Faded Gigolo which oddly enough, was never introduced by our convivial hosts, Kathy and Robin Beeck.

Leaving the Boulder Theater, we were greeted with the fresh scent of rain-washed streets and the glow of an almost-full moon. A few people seemed to be headed for a nightcap at one of the many local watering holes but for most celebrants, this was a weeknight and it was time to head home to bed! This was a successful evening for the 10th annual Boulder International Film Festival.