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October 19, 2015

Denver Film Festival: The Line-up

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For the first time in too many years, the 38th version of the Denver Film Festival will be launched without the added appellation of the name of the main corporate sponsor. While I understand that film festivals, at least the big ones, can't exist without corporate sponsorship, I never understood why Denver seemed to be the only one that had to include it in their name. Prior to Starz, there was the Village Voice wannabe, Westword that held that honor. Starz is still the main sponsor, but really, it's not like anyone refers to the GLP Far East Film Festival or the American Airlines New York Film Festival.

As for the tag line, "Come sit and be swept away". OK, I get it. Film at its best can be an immersive experience where the only thing the viewer is thinking about is what's happening on the big screen. Maybe my long memory of cinema past is getting in the way, but I am unintentionally reminded of the last Lina Wertmuller film I was able to watch in its entirety. I guess this is still better than had someone decided the tag line would be "Come and See".

Several films that have been featured in earlier festivals will be featured, including Carol, Anomalisa, Where to Invade Next and Cannes winner, Son of Saul. Totally under the radar is the closing night film, Coming through the Rye, about a teen boy's attempt to persuade J.D. Salinger to let him adapt Salinger's most famous novel into a play. The high schooler is convinced he is destined to play Salinger's famous (or infamous) literary creation.

For myself, there is more interest in the series of recent Polish films, with several titles recommended to me by those more familiar with current Eastern European cinema. Also, there is a more substantial representation of Asian films this year including festival entries Cemetery of Splendor and Mountains may Depart, along with Peter Chan's newest film, Dearest and the new film by Kamikaze Girls filmmaker, Tetsuya Nakashima, The World of Kanako. Martial arts will be represented by Roy Chow's Rise of the Legend, the newest version of the Wong Fei Hung story, with Eddie Peng stepping into the role played by, among others, Jet Li in Tsui Hark's Once Upon a Time in China series. On a somewhat related note, I keep hoping the film festival organizers will bring Josephine Siao back to Denver. A star of Hong Kong films since childhood, and a pioneering female action star as well, Siao's connection to Denver is her time at Regis University studying Child Psychology.

This year's "Stan Brakhage Award" will be given to Nathaniel Dorsky.

As in previous years, the festival venues will be shared between the Denver Film Society's Sie Film Center and the UA Pavilion 15, the downtown Denver multiplex. Taking advantage of the Pavilion's ability to show 3D films, there will be a late night screening of Gaspar Noe's Love.

Two films conspicuously missing are Don Cheadle's Miles Ahead and The Assassin. The Sie Film Center is almost across the street from Denver East High where Cheadle, and yours truly, are graduates. As for The Assassin, it has a one night screening about thirty miles away in Boulder, simultaneous with the festival, with no indication of even a theatrical run for Denver according to Well Go USA's website.

My own coverage will be a mix of what I want to see, what I want to write about, and what films I can see from available screeners and screenings. That said, it will be just a fraction of what's scheduled between November 4th through the 15th. Even with what might not be on the schedule, and this can be said about virtually every film festival, this year's festival line-up is, for myself, stronger than some previous years.

The official website is here.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 19, 2015 06:33 AM