Colorado film fest expands to Junction |

Colorado film fest expands to Junction

Sharon Sullivan
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Gretchen Reist, executive director of cinema at the Avalon in Grand Junction, and filmmaker Lawrence David Foldes sit in the directors' chairs Saturday at the Avalon Theatre after a showing of 2007 Independence Film Festival highlights. (Sharon Sullivan/Grand Junction Free Press)

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” When Los Angeles-based filmmaker Lawrence David Foldes visited the “quintessential mining town” of Leadville he knew it would be a good place to host a film festival.

“I saw all these perfect venues,” Foldes said. There was the Tabor Opera House, the Silver City Cinema, a small performance venue called the Old Church and the National Mining Museum, which had a small theater.

Other Arkansas River towns ” Buena Vista and Salida ” joined Leadville in hosting the first Independence Film Festival of Colorado, held last Labor Day weekend.

This year, the festival is expanding to include Grand Junction thanks to a grant from the Grand Junction Commission on Arts and Culture, the historic Avalon Theatre and its executive director, Gretchen Reist.

Saturday, the public was invited to the Avalon Theatre to experience a sampling of what the Independent Film Festival would look like in Grand Junction. Foldes spoke about the project, his experience making films and the film industry itself.

The event showed highlights of the 2007 Independence Film Festival, including a showing of “Leadville Skijoring,” a short documentary made by Colorado filmmakers about a unique sport, and one of last year’s “Films of the Colorado Rockies” series.

Video tributes to actors Scott Wilson and Diane Ladd, various movie clips and two powerful short films from the best of the 34th annual Student Academy Awards were also part of the showing Saturday.

Foldes and his partner and festival co-founder Victoria Paige Meyerink are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and serve on the Student Academy Awards Executive Committee.

The student academy awards are often launching pads for talented filmmakers, and Reist said she’s excited about the prospect of showing the films in Grand Junction.

“After hosting the student Oscars, agents are lined up in the lobby to grab these people,” Reist said.

“These are potentially some of the big names of the future. Imagine seeing one of (student Oscar winner) Spike Lee’s first films. That’s what you could see in Grand Junction with this film festival,” Reist said. “Lawrence and Victoria have created a venue for these films that otherwise people wouldn’t see.”

Reist contacted Foldes after reading about the Independence Film Festival last September in the Denver Post.

“What really struck me, was this theme ” they’re very passionate about vintage theaters and original forms of presentation,” Reist said. “I thought maybe we could collaborate in some way. I wanted to let them know we were here.”

All of the films Foldes presents are either archival prints or prints of original releases.

After talking with Foldes, Reist learned about possible grant funding from the Arts and Culture commission that would pay to bring the festival to Grand Junction.

Racing against a grant application deadline, Reist immediately called Foldes and the two spent an entire day on the phone planning what a Grand Junction film festival could look like.

“We’ll show some of the best programs from Leadville, and then we’ll be creating some unique programs specific to Grand Junction,” Foldes said.

Last year, Denver’s Westword magazine called the Independence Film Festival the “best undiscovered film festival” in Colorado.

“Undiscovered” may no longer be true. The core festival will again take place in Leadville on Labor Day weekend, followed by an event in Grand Junction Sept. 12-14, and another festival in Pueblo the following weekend.

Foldes and Meyerink’s films include cult classics such as “Malibu High” and “Young Warriors.” Their latest film, “Finding Home,” has won numerous honors including five Best Picture awards.

Foldes said he “got a taste of the old Hollywood” by making films in the 1970s.

“I truly believe the last golden (filmmaking) period was the 1960s to the 1980s,” he said. “It has to do with independence. By the mid-1980s, (the movie business) got bought by conglomerates,” such as Viacom, Sony and Time Warner, and directors lost a lot of their artistic freedom, Foldes said.

That is why he and Meyerink seek out current independent filmmakers.

“We can provide a certain kind of movie you won’t see at the multiplexes,” Foldes said.

To learn more about “The Highest Film Festival in the World,” visit