A guide to Denver Film Fest’s virtual lineup
There aren’t many of things we still want to hang onto from 2020, most of which we’re all eager to leave in the past. For movie lovers, certainly, it was a downer of a stretch with theaters closed and so many movie releases delayed.
But the virtual film festival program was a small but significant silver lining, democratizing international festivals – or portions of them – for the masses.
Last year’s virtual Denver Film Festival was one of my favorites, stretching across two weeks and including a trove of diverse films in a program that included some of the best movies of 2020, a film year decimated by the pandemic where otherwise there was little to celebrate. I saw films in the robust virtual lineup last year ranging from Riz Ahmed’s “Mogul Mowgli” to Steve James’ “City So Real” and the eye-opening Black Panthers Party doc “Dope is Death.”
Filmmakers and the movie industry are cheering the return of theatrical releases, of course, in 2021’s post-vaccine landscape. But many festivals have hung onto some virtual programming, including the Denver Film Festival – which opens Nov. 3 and runs a virtual program from Nov. 4-14 – and that’s a good thing both for filmmakers and fans.
After the almost all-virtual 2020, Denver Film’s in-person schedule is just about back to pre-pandemic levels, with a packed schedule at the Sie FilmCenter, red carpet events and events with stars including actor Jamie Dornan (“Belfast”) and special screenings at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The festival wants butts in seats and deserves them for a promising lineup that includes buzzy awards season titles like “King Richard” and “Spencer” and “C’mon C’mon.” The main tagline for the festival this year is “Escape the Virtual.”
So, let it be state here that, yes, movies are meant to be consumed in a theater on the biggest possible screen surrounded by strangers in the dark. Yes, being in-person at a film festival is one of the most fun and rewarding experiences you can have as a movie lover. Yes, but: Denver is far, Independence Pass is closed, and we’re still in a pandemic, so some folks might not be able or ready for the proper film viewing experience. So virtual options are welcome and Denver Film Festival’s virtual lineup – viewable only from within Colorado – is a gift to cinephiles beyond the Front Range. The virtual lineup includes four-movie tracks on Social Justice, French language film and U.K./Irish movies amid a robust lineup. Here are some highlights to look for:
‘A DECENT HOME’
This documentary comes from a Colorado-based creative team led by writer-director-producer Sara Terry. It examines life in mobile home parks and the affordable housing crisis. An intimate and informative work on the wealth gap that speaks directly to the existential threats to local life in the Roaring Fork Valley.
This festival track provides treasure trove of our region’s talent and our state’s stories. Among the titles on the virtual side are the UFO cult drama “Cosmic Dawn,”
the personalized opioid crisis documentary “Anonymous Sister” and two Colorado Shorts programs – one for documentary and one for narrative – which always provides a primer on emerging voices.
A documentary profiling six women cannabis growers who tried to go legal as the drug was decriminalized and found themselves butting up against the corporations cashing in on the crop.
Six films from Latin filmmakers and Latin stories are spotlighted here, among them the Mexican kidnapping drama “La Civil” and the borderlands documentary “Missing in Brooks County.”
LATE NIGHT SHOWCASE
A packed selection of “midnight movies” here, ranging from strange and experimental dispatches from the avant-garde to edgy horror films like “See For Me,” a thriller about a blind house-sitter under siege at a remote mansion who defends herself with use of a smartphone app.