Tuesday, November 8, 2011


One of the reasons to attend the Starz Denver Film Festival (or any film festival for that matter) is the serendipity factor: seeing films that surprise and delight you or move you or make you think or disturb you or....well, you get the idea. Film Festivals allow you to see films that otherwise would not be available to you; films that are not likely to have a commercial release where you live (or anywhere) or otherwise available.

I try to see such films. Big commercial product will make it to the movieplex, but documentaries, foriegn films, small indies probably won't - though the sleeper that gains an audience through the film festival circuit is a great delight.

Year after year at the Denver Film Festival I see films not knowing whether they will be good or bad (hopeful but not sure); whether they will surprise and delight me or leave me cold. And while I go into a film hoping for a gem, I can be disappointed. But I can also go into a film that I selected just because I had an open slot and the film looked sort of interesting but I was not necessarily expecting to see a gem, then it turns out to be one - that is serendipitous.

That happened last night with the Bosnian film "Cirkus Columbia".

Why would I think a film about a dysfunctional marriage/family situation, set in Bosnia at the beginning of the civil war would be an endearing romance - and more; a real gem?

But it is. I am so glad I saw the film.

It is the end of the Communist era in what was becoming the former Yugoslavia; the member states were breaking off. A husband and father returns to his Bosnian village from Germany after an absence of twenty years. He brings with him a younger woman he wishes to marry after disposing (through divorce, presumably) of his current wife. His first action is to unceremoniously evict her from her home and in the process having her arrested by his cousin, the mayor.

The story proceeds from there, with characters developing out of what could have been caricatures and unexpected romances evolving. All of this against the backdrop of ethnic Bosnians preparing to fight Bosnian Serbs; anti-communists preparing to fight the remnants of the Tito Communists. But nothing is black or white; people are neither completely evil or good and love prevails in unexpected ways. And sometimes one needs to capture the joys of the past to help navigate an uncertain future.

FYI, the title refers to a carnival ride that is a powered Merry-Go-Round Swing.

Films like this are why I do go to the Festival and seek out films not knowing what the screen will share with me.

Take chances with films at the Festival and hope for the gem, you will be greatly rewarded.

And see this film if you can.

And if you are able, then sometime afterward, find a swing or a merry-go-round or with any luck a merry-go-round swing and share that with someone you love.

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