Thirty years of the International Film Festival in Denver

Opening Night at the 30th Starz Denver International Film Festival (SDIFF30) was a time marker for Denver and for International Film. The galvanized politics of the times has created an upsurge of interest in documentary films on social and environmental causes. Meanwhile, Denver has made a major push in the arts and culture. The festival showed maturity in its organization, conception and film selection. Promoting green incentives and offering a deep selection on documentaries with difficult subjects from Liberian politics (made by Denver filmmakers) to Austin land development politics underscored the Festival’s consciousness. Filmmakers such as Norman Jewison, in attendance to receive the Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement Award were not necessarily chosen from the A List of 2007 pop Emmies, but instead displayed and discussed a social mindfulness.
Norman Jewison, known for his films on racial and ethnic struggle from In the Heat of the Night to The Hurricane and Fiddler on the Roof told Enfuse that many of his films have been made with an awareness of the filmmaker’s social and political responsibility. Bob Rafelson, Director of everything from numerous crime caper collaborations with Jack Nicholson to such historic cult treats as the Monkees said unequivocally that filmmakers have a responsibility to society, even if they themselves are not aware of it. “They are responsible even in their indifference.”

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On the subject of the new challenges and opportunities the Web and digital culture afford cinema artists independent artists spoke enthusiastically. Director Zachary Fink, a Colorado filmmaker promoting “Last Hat in Town” made in the Aspen / Carbondale area had much to say. “Salon Viewings” – screenings at individual’s homes – and online democratic communities for posting and discussing video have had a major impact and have created new distribution and promotion opportunities said Fink.
The locally made “Skills Like This” by Monty Miranda, a South by Southwest audience favorite with prospects at the Amsterdam Film Festival later this year had another director making a happy homecoming to Denver on his festival touring schedule. Denver based director James Seale and actress Kristine Blackport of Juncture agreed with Miranda that the city made it easy to shoot independent films with a “large scope”. Permits were not especially difficult to obtain and resources were made available. While Denver was getting exposure from local filming and casting efforts director Daniel Junge was busy shooting Iron Ladies of Liberia half way across the world.
SDIFF 30 will also mark a major milestone for the Denver Film Society as Founder and Artistic Director Ron Henderson steps down from daily duties. Henderson’s semi-retirement after thirty years prompted Film Society leadership changes: Britta Erickson has been appointed director of festivals, Brit Withey, who has served as program director for the Society, has been appointed artistic director of festivals. Scott Rowitz, executive director of the Denver Film Society since 2001 will also be taking on new responsibilities and titles. Henderson told Enfuse it is an emotional moment for him as he thinks of how the festival has grown and recalls major achievements – the establishment of the Krzysztof Kieslowski and John Cassavetes Award awards and unique moments such as when both Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray were in town the same year. Henderson was honored with the John Cassavetes Award at a special presentation on opening night.
The film festival runs through November 18th. Centered out of the Starz Film Center, there will be reception events, discussion panels ranging in theme from women in film to the Iraq war and screenings around town throughout the week.