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October 11, 2019

The Denver Film Festival: The Line-up

denver film fest poster.jpg

The most unexpectedly dramatic story at this year's Denver Film Festival, the 42nd, has taken place off-screen. Some small change was expected with festival co-founder Ron Henderson completely retiring in 2018. What no one could have anticipated was the death of the festival's artistic director, Brit Withey, in a one-car accident in New Mexico on March 31. This was followed by the departure on April 23 of Denver Film's executive director, Andrew Rodgers. At this time, festival director Britta Erickson has been serving as the interim film society's executive director in addition to continuing as festival director. Programmer Matthew Campbell is currently serving as the festival artistic director.

April also saw the passing of filmmaker and teacher, Phil Solomon. One of the highlights of the Denver Film Festival has been the awarding of the Stan Brakhage Vision Award, given usually to an "experimental" filmmaker such as Larry Jordan or Barbara Hammer. Solomon was usually on hand to present the award, and was a recipient himself in 2007. Melinda Barlow, Associate Professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has stepped in and will present a tribute to include work by Carolee Schneemann and Barbara Hammer, as well as Phil Solomon. The recipient of the award this year will by Vincent Grenier.

Unlike previous years, there is no overlap with the newer AFI Film Festival, which occasionally beat Denver in getting some films as well as getting more press attention. What may have been a challenge in programming some of the bigger titles is that more films that premiered at Cannes, Toronto and Telluride, are now getting earlier theatrical releases, so that the festival will be competing with Parasite and Jojo Rabbit at Denver's arthouses. The "Red Carpet" titles include Knives Out, Marriage Story, Waves and The Two Popes, and with the exception of Rian Johnson's new film, a shift from some of the more obvious crowdpleasers screened in the past.

In terms of what I cover, that will depend primarily on what films are available either as part of critics' screenings or available online screening links. Due to health reasons, this will most likely be my last time covering the Denver Film Festival, or any film festival for that matter. That said, I'm planning to write mostly about the films that most interest me. That includes several of the Brazilian films, including Oscar hopeful The Invisible Life and Marighella - a film currently prohibited from screening in its home country. It should be noted that the Brazilian film industry, including the archival work, is being hobbled by the Bolsanaro government making support of these films more urgent.

On the lighter side is the documentary about Paul Verhoeven's cult classic, Showgirls, titled You Don't Nomi. I'll have to find out when filmmaker Jeffrey McHale decided that this oft-derided film was worth additional exploration, but back when this blog was still a small cup of java, several online film critics and scholars simultaneously had postings on Showgirls, waaaay back in January 2006. But don't take my word for it, no less than Jacques Rivette as written highly of this wonderfully misconceived film as well.

Reviews of films seen will appear concurrently with the festival. The full festival schedule is now live at the Denver Film website.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 11, 2019 07:44 AM