Not all films are fabulous…some can be flawed or pretentious or downright irritating!

Bravo to the Denver Film Festival programming team for being adventurous in their programming. There are so many wonderful films and undiscovered gems in this year’s programs. There are also some that I wish I hadn’t wasted my time on…

static1.squarespace

Yes, this cabin was parked in front to SIE for the Premiere of “Walden”

Walden…oh Walden.  How much did I want to love you?! A Colorado narrative feature with a big name actor and lots of local crew and local supporters (including DFF!), Walden, Life In The Woods is an amazing short film. Trapped in a feature.

Three narrative threads attempt to illustrate three lost souls struggling through one day.  A man working at a senior center, played by Demian Bichir (Academy-nominated) is trapped in a spiral of financial woe. Will he have a nervous breakdown over the endless choices of bbq grills at the massive warehouse store? An egocentric young man is troubled by his boyfriend’s lack of support in his work. Is he losing his soul to corporate America? Or will he join his lover in the wilderness in a poorly-constructed cabin? Yes, I’m trivializing their plights but they are are the weak links in this saga.

While the two men struggle along on their literal paths thru the stores and streets and over rivers and rocks…the heart of the film is unfolding in the beautiful portrayal of an elderly woman (Lynn Cohan) overwhelmed by her dementia. Using drawings, stop motion animation and intricate camera work, the audience is shown a window into her world. Laura Goldhammer, also a producer on the film, created the wonderful animation. If only the rest of the film matched the vibrancy and uniqueness of this section…really wonderful.

Drinks with Films rating: 2 slugs out of a whiskey flask while sitting by a Colorado lake (out of 5)

A team of Colorado filmmakers, including director Alex Harvey, producers Mitch Dickman (Hanna Ranch, DFF37; Rolling Papers) and Shane Boris, writer Adam Chanzit, and musician-animator Laura Goldhamer, shot Walden on location. T.J. Miller (Deadpool, Cloverfield, Silicon Valley), Chris Sullivan (This Is Us) and Demián Bichir (The Hateful Eight; Alien: Covenant; Weeds; Un Cuento de Circo & a Love Song, DFF39) co-star.  They even brought the cabin to the World Premiere!

A Chiambra is Italy’s submission for next year’s Academy Award for Foreign Film. If you like gritty, down-on-their-luck tales of familial love, despair and crime; this is the film for you. There are no beautiful vistas of scenic Italy. This is car-jacking, children-smoking slice of ghetto life captured with too much handheld camerawork. Co-executive-produced by Martin Scorsese, there isn’t a lot of violence but there’s a lot of shouting and table pounding.

Rating: 1 glass of cheap Italian red, sipped from an unclean glass in a cluttered kitchen

images

Sometimes it’s my own anticipation that does me in…I was so thrilled to get to see Sally Potter’s new film, The PartyWhat a cast! Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Timothy Spall. I’m thinking witty bon mots, sparkling British dialogue, something of a farce but brutally funny…

Instead, it’s a black-n-white bore with stilted dialogue, frenetic acting, and a plot that even your dottiest aunt would never believe. Patricia Clarkson is the only one who seemed to have made friends with the cinematographer; she looks glamourous. Emily Mortimer wandered in from another movie in her overalls…she’s the only one who isn’t speaking the dialogue as if reading from a cue card. This was one Party I was glad to leave.

Rating: 1 glass of champagne tossed right out the balcony of the well-appointed London flat!

What I learned curating the Front Range Film Festival…

Left Hand Brewing Company, Longmont, CO

Jill Brooke introduces “DamNation” at the Front Range Film Festival 2014

I had the privilege of helping curate my first film festival in Colorado this last week.  Front Range Film Festival screened three feature films and a eight short films over four days at four venues.  It was a pleasure to work with Jessica Kooiman, the Executive Director of the Firehouse Art Gallery, the non-profit organization that produces the festival.  She’s a real powerhouse and she’s instrumental in bringing film and culture to downtown Longmont.

Front Range Film Festival

Jill Brooke and Jessica Kooiman

Having worked for many film festivals, both nationally and internationally, there are some real pluses to working as part of a small team to create something that feels like a real personal accomplishment…and a few challenges that are eased by a bigger budget, an established audience and a large pool of seasoned volunteers.

Here are a few of my lessons from this particular film festival: Outdoor movie screens may be a marvel of technology, but they require some real brawn AND brains to erect and deconstruct!  This particular screen needed to be put up a total of three times over the course of our festival and it wasn’t until the final question of my q & a that I realized that I was in charge of getting it down and packed up…BEFORE I could go enjoy the Closing Night Party!

Front Range Film Festival

Front Range Film Festival–surprise guest

What a small world it is!  As I asked for the final question at The Forgotten Kingdom screening, a young man at the back of the church stood to speak.  He said he was from Lesotho, Africa — the setting for the film!  We invited him to the stage and the director, Andrew Mudge asked him how he felt the film depicted his home.  It was a wonderful, unexpected pleasure for all of us.  A special shared experience that is unique to the film festival experience!

Movies may inspire audiences but they also teach lessons to all of us involved in getting those stories to the screen!  I had been grumbling about having to go to a separate store to purchase my beer since moving to Colorado but having done my research on Beer Culture, The Movie; I now know that the “one liquor license, one store” is a boon for the craft beer industry.  DamNation fired up the audience to take action in support of the removal of obsolete dams and it was a real wake-up call to discover that there is a river in the area that is facing extinction! http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-13030-obituary-for-a-river.html

This festival was a lot of hard work and couldn’t have happened without the great team at the Firehouse Art Center and the St Vrain Habitat for Humanity–co-producing our Closing Night film, The Forgotten Kingdom.  And as with any festival, there were many local organizations that pitched in supplies, equipment (like that crazy movie screen!), donated booze (hello Spirit Hound distillery and Oskar Blues Brewery!) and treats (Kim Sorden of Magic Fairy Candles–you rock!) and funding!!  Next year will be bigger and better and I’m already excited to get the ball rolling…onward and upward team.  We need to bring these films and filmmakers to Longmont…and the whole Front Range!  There is such talent here that needs to get exposure and films that are crying out to be seen on the big screen.

Four of the fabulous filmmakers at Front Range Film Festival

Craig Stevens, Ian Cooke, Michael Vasicek and Patrick Sheridan