It is once again time for the Denver Film Festival. Last year was one of the best-attended festivals in its history, and the Denver Film Society now looks to repeat that performance. The festival runs from Nov. 3–12, and you can find the entire program and ticket information on its website: https://denverfilmfestival.eventive.org/welcome. I preview several of the films here and give short reviews of a few that caught my eye; just take note of all the locations because they vary. Get your tickets soon, and I hope to see you there! I end with a new film from one of the greatest directors of all time.
White Plastic Sky
I put this first only because I will be introducing the film and hosting the Q&A with my colleague, astrophysicist Dr. Ka Chun Yu from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The film is wonderful sci-fi/cli-fi from Hungarian directors Tibor Bánóczki and Sarolta Szabó, and it is set exactly 100 years in the future where climate change has wiped out most societies and the few remaining survivors live under giant domes. With scarce resources, everyone has a strict limit on how long they are allowed to live. A love story is where the plot finds its footing, and the end result of that story is quite touching and extremely human.
The film uses rotoscoping (the technique where animators trace over real footage to create realistic-looking action), and the effect is quite brilliant. The net effect adds an interesting layer of meaning because it (literally) paints a world that seems both futuristic and yet believable. It is human and a creation at the same time. Finally, this film does what all great sci-fi does: it makes important points about the world we live in today. Are we headed toward this society? Perhaps, but we can also take measures to combat the outcome we see. Come join us to discuss the film and the issues therein.
Friday, Nov. 3 @ 7pm and Saturday, Nov. 11 @ 3:45pm at the Sie Film Center. Tickets are limited, so get them soon!
“In 24 hours, freedom of the press was gone.”
In 2018, the leaders of the Muscogee Nation—the fourth-largest Native American tribe—abruptly decided to censor their own free press. With an election looming, the tribal government was facing a slew of corruption-related stories and subsequently voted to just repeal the nation’s Free Press Act overnight.
This enthralling documentary follows a doggedly stubborn journalist, Angel Ellis, who refused to bow to powerful forces and took up the fight for press freedom. While it tells a fairly straightforward and conventionally structured story, it plays out like a nail-biting political thriller and we find ourselves on the edge of our seats. You’ll be riveted while rooting for the gutsy protagonist who utters the shuddering line that opened this review. A warning for all?
Friday, Nov. 3 @ 6pm and Saturday, Nov. 4 @ 1:30pm at the AMC CO+
This haunting, elegiac documentary about the Appalachian coal industry constantly surprises. The filmmaker, Elaine McMillion Sheldon—a West Virginian from a multi-generational mining family—expressly set out to explore the “psychology of coal,” rather than its economic, social, or environmental impacts. Consequently, you’ll find very little here in the way of sooty, coal-smothered faces or black lung disease. The format and content meet wonderfully in this unique documentary.
Thursday, Nov. 9 @ 7:15pm and Friday, Nov. 10 @ 2:30pm at AMC CO+
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project
Directors Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson have produced an exquisite, impressionistic, and visually beautiful film, which differs from the typical documentary format but tracks nicely with its subject: the wonderful poet and activist Nikki Giovanni. Giovanni has been writing from the Civil Rights era to the Black Lives Matter movement, and she offers insightful perspectives on both and everything in between. A fascinating journey.
Saturday, Nov. 11 @ 4pm and Sunday, Nov. 12 @ 12pm at the Sie Film Center
Starring Matthew Modine, this film tells the true story of a committed social worker who led an extraordinary cycling journey—consisting of a group of directionless, abandoned youth and violent teenage offenders—from Denver to the Grand Canyon. This has Colorado scenery, an inspiring story, and the type of content that we need right now.
Sat, Nov. 11 @ 3:30pm at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Killers of The Flower Moon
I include this because it is the new film from Martin Scorsese, whom I consider to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. We don’t know how many more films he will make, and at age 80, we can only hope he gives us more gems such as this one. I make it a point in this column to give you reviews that you may not easily access elsewhere, but I make an exception for Martin Scorsese. It is another gorgeous, sweeping, important film about an ugly episode in our nation’s history—the Osage murders of the 1920s.
The film is a sparkling epic covering ground that Scorsese has examined throughout his career: greed, violence, venality, masculinity, and bigotry. I could go on, but that’s a good start. The direction is kinetic, the editing from longtime collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker is energetic, and the music from the late, great Robbie Robertson is inspiring. The acting is flat-out wonderful: Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro give fantastic performances, but the revelation is Lily Gladstone as the gritty, intelligent Native American who bears the brunt of the patriarchy. She stands out among a sea of giants. This is brilliant filmmaking by a brilliant filmmaker.
I also mention this film because it will be on the big screen for only a short time before it lands in its home on Apple TV. Go out and see it on the big screen!
Opened Oct. 19 at theaters across Denver.
Vincent Piturro, PhD, is a Professor of Film and Media Studies at MSU Denver. Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter. For more reviews, search The Indie Prof at FrontPorchNE.com.