Denver International Film Festival going gonzo |

Denver International Film Festival going gonzo

This weekend, the Starz Denver International Film Festival will show a local filmmaker’s account of the final memorial to gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson.The screening of “When I Die,” a 60-minute film by director Wayne Ewing, is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Denver Press Club. A panel discussion, “Remembering Hunter,” will follow, with a number of the Good Doctor’s close friends sharing stories and memories of Thompson’s life and times.The panel is to include Ewing, Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, Woody Creek artist Michael Cleverly, former Aspen Daily News editor Curtis Robinson and Anita Thompson, the author’s widow. Thompson’s son, Juan, was to attend with his wife, Jennifer, organizers said this week, but a death in the family called them away.Also on hand will be two of the men involved in the Aug. 20 funeral ceremony on Thompson’s property, Owl Farm, in Woody Creek. Actor Johnny Depp, who portrayed Thompson in the film version of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and became a close friend of the writer, paid the $2.6 million price tag.Steve Cohn, engineer and builder of the “Gonzo Monument” and cannon that blasted Thompson’s ashes skyward on Aug. 20, and Jon Equis, producer of the memorial service at Thompson’s Owl Farm in Woody Creek the night the cannon was fired, will be on the panel.The festival, from Nov. 10-20, is the 28th festival the Denver Film Society has produced. This year’s festival features a salute to Japanese cinema and showcases close to 200 films with 20 premieres (seven world premieres, three North American premieres and 10 U.S premieres).Ewing’s film is about the creation of the internationally infamous Gonzo Monument cannon, which stood 183 feet tall at the back of the Owl Farm property, and about the firing of the cannon itself.Ewing, an award-winning filmmaker whose first piece on Thompson, “Breakfast With Hunter (2003),” played to sold-out houses at an earlier Denver Film Festival, prompting the festival to invite him back with his latest effort.Spokeswoman Britta Erickson said the Film Festival was a perfect opportunity to return Ewing and his work to Colorado. She also called it an opportunity for Thompson’s Denver fans to share in the farewell to their idol, since the service itself was by invitation only.”It’s primarily about the design and building of the monument, and the actual blast-off of Hunter’s ashes,” Ewing said of the film in a telephone interview on Sunday. “It’s not so much about the memorial service.”The film begins, he said, with a one-minute clip from the BBC showing Thompson laying out his plans for his own memorial service and describing the monument and the cannon in great detail.The film also depicts the process leading up to the building of the device, including a debate of the Woody Creek Caucus that shows the caucus members’ desire to fulfill the wishes of their neighbor (Thompson took his own life on Feb. 23 at his home in Woody Creek), and explanations concerning the various government approvals that had to be obtained so the event could go on. There also are scenes of the construction of the monument that contained the “cannon,” including a process of cutting the steel plats for the shell of the structure using a “water jet with sand in it,” Ewing said.A highlight of the film, Ewing said, is a sequence shot in high-speed 35-millimeter format and replayed in very slow motion, showing the ignition of the blast and the propulsion of the author’s ashes from the top of the monument structure.”It’s like watching the Golden Gate Bridge being built,” Ewing remarked.Also featured at the Press Club screening will be a short piece by filmmaker Tom Thurman (“Sam Peckinpah’s West” and “John Ford Goes to War”), who will show clips from his upcoming Starz original documentary “Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride,” which focuses on Thompson’s long-standing ties with myriad cultural celebrities, including many of the Hollywood elite.Tickets to the event at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Pace, were still available as of Sunday afternoon at the Denver Film Society’s Web site, or by calling (303) 534-1339 between noon and 7 p.m. daily.John Colson’s e-mail address is

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