“Summer of Violence” directed by Nicki Micheaux is one of the many films showing at this year’s Denver Film Festival, which takes place Nov. 3-12. Credit: Festival Formula

Gun control is a hot topic and two of the movies being shown at the 46th annual Denver Film Festival focus on the intractable nationwide problem of creating and implementing safer gun control.

In “The Great Divide,” Director Tom Donahue followed Colorado state legislators around as they fought hard to pass newer and stronger red flag laws. Director Nicki Micheaux’s “Summer of Violence” is based in summer 1993, when gun violence and crime rose in Denver. 

This year’s Denver Film Festival runs Nov. 3-12 at venues across Denver, including the Sie FilmCenter, Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the MCA Denver at the Holiday Theater. It boasts a robust lineup of feature length films, documentaries and shorts, as well as immersive programming such as filmmaker conversations, panels, parties and industry guests.

In “Summer of Violence,” college grad Naomi has a tumultuous summer, turning down law school to pursue poetry, which angers her parents. Later, she has to cope with tragedy when people close to Naomi die from gang activity.

“It was based on the events of that summer – the gang violence and the way it impacted the community,” said Micheaux. “But it’s not about something specific. A young woman trying to find her voice in the middle of this turbulent time. With shooting so rampant in this country, it’s one woman’s story about being caught up in that storm.”

Micheaux shot footage in Denver’s Five Points and Capitol Hill neighborhoods, and in Boulder, among other places.

“A lot of former gang members came out to the set to be extras in the film,” she said. “They just wanted to be part of it. It was a welcoming atmosphere and a great place to shoot.”

Micheaux summed up the art of filmmaking.

“I couldn’t do anything more difficult,” she said. “Making an independent film is like pushing a boulder up a hill all day. But I still choose to do it, and I love it because of the impact.”   

Turning to Donahue’s film. 

“I will say the generation coming up is so much more enlightened on the topic (of gun control), (and) has so much more on the history,” he said. “They are so smart and are being so vocal about it.”

His film was also shot in Colorado. He had his crew follow people such as Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners; Lesley Hollywood with Rally For Our Rights; Eileen McCarron of Colorado Cease Fire; and Tony Spurlock, former sheriff of Douglas County. Spurlock’s department lost Deputy Zackari Parrish, who was shot to death in the line of duty, which the film opens with.

The documentary focuses on the subculture of gun violence in the U.S., focusing on Colorado’s recent history – Columbine, the Aurora theater shooting, the shooting at the King Soopers in Boulder and more.

Other not-to-miss films at this year’s festival

Matt Campbell, the festival’s artistic director, programmed the lineup of films. His recommendations of “must-sees” this year include “I.S.S.,” “The Boy and the Heron,” and “Smoking Tigers.” 

“I.S.S.” was directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite of Denver, who focuses on documentaries and narrative fiction. This film is a thriller in which all the action occurs inside the International Space Station.

“We’re incredibly proud of our DFF46 lineup and the opportunity to bring some groundbreaking films to our Denver-area audiences,” Campbell said in a statement. “This is a robust international lineup of independent films, including the Oscar submissions from more than a dozen countries, that allows us to share, explore and celebrate the work of many of the industry’s most respected and awarded directors.” 

To see a full lineup of this year’s films, or to purchase tickets, visit denverfilm.org.

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