If you love movies, there’s no way your home setup is going to replace the experience of the theater, if for no other reason than there’s something special about sharing a cinematic experience with a group of people. But, as this year’s 43rd annual Denver Film Festival displayed, there’s more than one way to create a community.
Thanks to three drive-in screenings of films at Red Rocks, the organization was able to give audiences that “we’re all here together” feeling, and its incredibly convenient virtual platform allowed viewers access to around 180 films and creative conversations with filmmakers - hence that community feeling.
During this year’s festival, I saw 29 films over 17 days — all of them with their own fascinations and stories to tell. Rather than pick a top 5 or 10 favorites list, I thought this year I would name some categories and the corresponding film. Happy watching!
Best catnip for movie nerds: ‘Kubrick by Kubrick’
Release date: 2021
Look, if you’re a fan of film, at some point you’re going to have to reckon with the work of Stanley Kubrick. That’s just how it is. But it’s a rare treat to actually hear the man’s voice - a treat this film provides, thanks to recorded interviews with French critic Michel Cimet. It’s thrilling to hear firsthand from an honest-to-god genius about his craft - a man one person describes as, “The Frank Sinatra of cinema - he always did things his way.”
For cinephiles and Kubrick aficionados, it’s a must-see.
Best love story/eerily prescient film: ‘Little Fish’
Release date: Feb. 5
Chad Hartigan’s heartbreaker of film “Little Fish” takes viewers to a world where a disease called neuroinflammatory affliction (or NIA), which is a kind of rapid Alzheimer’s, is washing over the planet. In the midst of all this, we have Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell), a married couple trying to build lives for themselves. But when Jude contracts the disease, their whole world changes and what seemed like a romantic drama turns into a creeping horror film.
The entire premise is a thoroughly clever and ultimately insightful way to examine a relationship. With the questions it explores about the power of memory and what ties people in love together, “Little Fish” flies in the face of its premise - it’s damn near impossible to forget.
The best example of what people working together can do: `The 8th’
With everything going on in the Supreme Court this autumn, the documentary “The 8th” hits differently than it would have just a few months ago.
The film follows the successful campaign to repeal Ireland’s 8th amendment, which made it illegal for women in Ireland to have an abortion for any reason. It follows campaigners through the 2017-2018 grassroots effort to have the law changed and shows their fight to ensure women can have a say over their own lives and bodies.
The rhetoric on both sides of the issue will sound familiar to American audiences, where women still have to deal with numerous restrictions and stigma around abortions and reproductive rights. For those concerned about those rights in this country, it’s a must-watch, invigorating jolt of hope.
The best hope for the future: `I Am Greta’
Release date: Nov. 13
The film follows climate justice activist Greta Thunberg from her first school strike for the climate in Sweden in 2018 to her legendary, righteously incendiary speech at the UN in September 2019. Viewers are treated to a look at the teenager behind the character the media has perpetuated. She’s at times funny, other times broken-hearted, often just a kid, but always dedicated and laser-focused to the cause.
This is a film for young people who feel disenchanted, or like their future doesn’t matter to the adults who are only concerned about their here and now. But as producer Cecilia Nesson said in a post-screening interview, “Everyone can make a big difference.”
Best ending: `Nine Days’
Release date: Jan. 22
Do you know that thrill you get when you experience something you’re familiar with in a totally new way? All of a sudden, there’s this whole new range of possibilities, new regions to explore. Director Edson Oda achieves that very feeling at the end of his metaphysical science-fiction film, “Nine Days,” by combining two elemental forces - Walt Whitman and Winston Duke.
The best example of what makes America great: `Minari’
Lee Isaac Chung’s film is based on his own experiences moving to a farm in Arkansas with his Korean-American family in the 1980s and delves deeply into the joys, exploration and growth that occurs as they make a life for themselves. Everything in this film feels lived in and real, perhaps most of all the performances from leads Yeri Han and Steven Yeun.
In a fascinating post-screening interview with critic Lisa Kennedy, Yeun spoke movingly about playing a character that reflected the dedication of his parents’ generation, not only the difficulties they went through.
“We don’t even want to justify their existence through their suffering.,” he said. “They get to exist. Period. And their existence is valid. Period.”
Clarke Reader’s column on culture apears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.
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