Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Denver Film Festival, Final Thoughts.

On the whole, the 35th Starz Denver Film Festival was a success. The first year away from the screens at the Tivoli could have proved problematic but wasn’t. The use of screens at the UA Theatres at the Pavilions worked fairly well. Certainly the seats were more comfortable.

The newly named Sie Film Center (and permanent home of the Film Society) continues to be a terrific venue not only during the Film Festival but year-round. The use of L2, across the street however is not a good venue to screen films. One thing about not being at the Tivoli anymore is the inability to use the King Center. I don’t know that there is an alternative to L2 but going forward, the Film Society needs to take a serious look at the viability of this venue. If an alternative cannot be found make certain the schedule does not require its use.

Another positive is the expansion of the schedule to include weekday matinees. The ones I attended had reasonably good sized audiences. Final tallies by the Society will show how well they were actually attended and indicate whether continuing with weekday matinees makes sense. From my personal standpoint, I hope it is possible to keep them. Among other things it eliminates some viewing dilemmas: do I see this film or that?

Volunteers. The Festival has always relied on a good core of volunteers – producing an 11-day festival is just not possible without them. I saw a lot of newer and younger faces in the volunteer core this year and that is a good thing, however it seemed to me that volunteers were in shorter supply than in past years (I have been attending the festival since 1990). Not sure if that is really the case or my perception.

The focus on Argentinean Film had one real high point for me: Family Law. This film was the 2004 Argentine submission for the Foreign Language Film Oscar. It was great fun and poignant with a terrific performance by Daniel Hendler as the University law professor struggling with family life and a relationship with his lawyer father.

I am a fan of eastern European film (in which I often include Germany). I saw another fine example in the 2011 Polish film Rose (or Roza). It is one of the films from this year’s festival that haunts me. I cannot get it out of my mind. Rose is a Masurian woman at the end of WWII. Masuria was a region of East Prussia that became part of Poland as a result of the Potsdam Agreements forged at the end of the war. There is tremendous animosity and outright hatred by the ethnic Poles and the invading Russians for the Masurians. This hatred takes the form of cruelty and the worst kind brutality to the Masurians. The worst kind of brutality takes the form of rape as a weapon of war. It was practiced by the Germans on the Poles and now is practiced by the Poles and the Russians on the Masurians.

This is a harrowing story of Rose’s attempts at survival. Her husband is dead, killed in the war and she is left on their farm trying to endure. A refugee, Tadeuz, a Pole from the Warsaw Uprising, arrives at the farm. He had been with her husband when he was killed and had brought pictures and other mementos to her. Wounded at the time, he had also watched as a German officer raped and then murdered his wife.

The two find common bond. The invading Russians are out to arrest and torture members of the Polish Home Army (part of the underground) instigators of the Warsaw Uprising. Stalin feared any nationalist movement (of which the Home Army was a part of) and wanted to destroy any elements in order to establish a satellite state in Poland. Thus Tadeuz is hunted and tries to hide his past.

Another film that is staying with me is the 2011 Chilean film Violeta Went To Heaven about the singer and artist Violeta Parra who died in 1967. It was Chile’s submission for the 84th Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film. It was not nominated. It did, however win the World Cinema Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. It is a terrific film with a terrific performance by Francisca Gavilan as Violetta.

So the 35th has come and gone. Here’s to next year.

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