WHAT: 44th annual Denver Film Festival
WHEN: Nov. 3-Nov. 14
• In person films will be shown at SIE FilmCenter, AMC 9 + CO 10, the Denver Botanic Gardens Sturm Auditorium and Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Denver Film will require all festival patrons, guests, employees and volunteers entering venues or host sites to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 with an FDA or WHO-approved vaccine.
• Some films will also be available for streaming online at Denver Film’s virtual platform.
The latter half of the 2010s saw increased involvement in national and local elections, with more women running - and winning - than ever before. While national figures drew a lot of eyes, filmmaker Rebekah Henderson turned her eye - and camera - to campaigns happening right here in Denver.
“The film is really a love letter to the activist community and my friends,” Henderson said. “People do not know how hard local races are, and I wanted to tell a local story that is universal.”
The resulting film, “Running With My Girls,” follows the 2018 races of Shontel Lewis and a cohort of candidates who ran as a group - Dr. Lisa Calderón, Candi CdeBaca, Shayla Richard and Veronica Barela. It showcases their triumphs, struggles and what it means that more activists from underrepresented groups are getting involved in the government.
“If you live in any city in America and are a Black or brown person who is paying attention, you’ll see yourself in this film,” Henderson said. “It’s very much a reflection of my experience. I never stopped rolling because I didn’t want to miss anything.”
The film is part of the 44th annual Denver Film Festival, which runs in person and online from Nov. 3 through Nov. 14. All films will be screened in various theater settings — the SIE FilmCenter, AMC 9 + CO 10, the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Sturm Auditorium and Ellie Caulkins Opera House — and about 50 films will be available for streaming at home on Denver Film’s virtual platform.
The festival features about 233 films, which includes 140 feature-length films, shorts, music videos and episodic content, according to provided information. Some major highlights — and award-season contenders — include “Spencer,” featuring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana, Will Smith’s “King Richard,” and “Jockey,” which stars Clifton Collins Jr., who will be in attendance to receive the 2021 John Cassavetes Award.
“We really planned to do this as a hybrid because we wanted to return to what we’re known for - the in-theater experience,” said Matthew Campbell, artistic director of Denver Film. “The best of both worlds is really ideal, especially because we already made the investment in virtual. We’re really excited to get back (to) the excitement of the environment of places like Ellie Caulkins.”
One silver lining from the COVID-19 pandemic is that embracing streaming has expanded the reach of the Denver Film Festival. Campbell said doing the 2020 festival entirely virtually proved this fact - historically, about 90% of attendees are from the Denver/Boulder area, but last year, only about 60% of viewers were from the metro area, while the rest came from all over Colorado.
Attendees can also put themselves in the world of film, thanks a range of virtual reality and immersive experiences taking place at the Festival Annex at the historic McNichols Civic Center Building. There’s even an immersive experience called “Fire Season” that will be set up at Lakewood’s Bear Creek Lake Park.
“It feels like it’s been so long since we’ve been around our audience and can welcome them back in person,” Campbell said. “We’re looking forward to it going off without a hitch and it being a safe, enjoyable festival - something we take as seriously as possible.”
For local filmmakers like Henderson, being part of the home film festival reflects the importance of community - not only as it applies to filmmaking, but as it applies to improving the lives and future of those around you.
“The film is really community-made, and shows that when we band together, we have this power,” she said. “I want people to see it. I want people to get inspired by it.”
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