Boulder is already home to five established film series. We have a first-run theater dedicated to art films. And if documentary filmmakers Robin and Kathy Beeck (pronounced “Beck” — they made Grandpa’s in the Tuff Shed, among others) have any say, after this weekend Boulder will have a renowned international film festival, too.
“We’ve been to tons of film festivals,” says Robin Beeck. “Boulder is such a beautiful place. There’s so many wonderful elements to Boulder, we just thought, ‘this is the perfect place for a film festival.’ And I kind of grew up on the downtown mall. A really good festival has got a centralized location. All the events, all the parties, everything is in about a four-block radius.”
By The Numbers
The 1st-ever Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) opens on Thursday night, 2/17, (with a movie from Danny “28 Days Later” Boyle) and runs through Sunday, 2/20. In-between are 4 days of 55 films from 17 countries. 10 movies are from Colorado. 26 filmmakers will attend the festival.
There will be 3 workshops, including 1 for screenwriters on Saturday; a panel discussion on the future of film, also on Saturday; and seminar on documentary filmmaking on Sunday.
There will also be 1 big party from 7 to 10 on Saturday night at Rembrandt Yard, a block west of the Boulder Theater on Spruce.
BIFF movies show in two places: The Boulder Theater and the Boulder Public Library. As with most festivals, there are shows going on simultaneously at both venues, so you may not be able to see everything. Don’t let that faze you. Play it by ear. Drop in. Take a chance. Let serendipity play a role in your weekend.
You can buy tickets to individual shows for $10 ($8 for students and seniors, more for the big events like the screenwriting workshop or the opening night party and movie). If you want to soak it all in (and I mean all), buy a VIP pass for $295. The pass gets you in to any event, including opening night and all of the workshops. It also gains you entrance to the BIFF HQ on the East end of the Pearl Street Mall, where you can meet filmmakers and volunteers, grab a snack or a drink, or just relax between movies.
Not surprisingly, many of the films in the festival are short. There are officially 20 feature films in the lineup, but “feature” means “longer than 45 minutes,” which may not jibe with your definition of “feature.” Still, you’ll always get a good show for your $10. Shorts and shorter “features” are grouped into two-hour blocks, usually by theme. One block of films features movies about camping (Pee Shy, Tackle Box, Gay by Dawn). Another block includes The Soup Peddler and The Future of Food.
I was a member of the selection committee, so you might ask me for some recommendations. But to its credit, the committee was very selective. Only two of the movies I screened were, I thought, worth showing. And from the movies I screened, only those two made it into the festival lineup. That’s not much to base a recommendation on, but it is a good indication that anything you see is likely to be the cream of the crop.
Festival co-creator Robin Beeck says “The theme of the festival this year is great storytelling. No matter what the budget, the mainstay had to be a wonderful, great story. We’ve got great stories that were expensive to make, and we have great stories that were made on a shoestring budget.”
Most of these films can’t be seen anywhere else. And except for some very senior BIFF volunteers, almost nobody has seen all of them. So almost nobody is in a position to recommend one show over another. Nevertheless, I do have some recommendations based on my own expectations and word-of-mouth from other BIFF volunteers:
- Millions, directed by Danny Boyle, will get its Colorado premiere on Thursday night (formal attire, alas).
- Seoul Train, a documentary on the life-or-death decision made by North Koreans who try to defect, shows Friday at 7:00.
- Program 9 is a collection of short films on Friday at 5:45. Both of the short films I recommended are in this program.
- Alone Across Australia, showing Saturday at 6:00, is a documentary on one hiker’s trip across his continent.
- Lift and Hotel Lobby have both been praised by BIFF volunteers as gorgeous and entertaining. The former stars Dominique Pinon, a face you’ll recognize if you’ve seen any of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s films. They both show in Sunday afternoon’s program of short films at 3:45.
- The Liberace of Baghdad closes the BIFF. It’s a documentary about Iraq’s most celebrated pianist, who is scheduled to make a personal appearance after the movie.
You can see the schedule and buy tickets at the BIFF web site.
Time will tell whether the BIFF will catch on. But it’s not purely a matter of time. The energy and work contributed by the Beeck sisters and the rest of the BIFF volunteers will play a big part in the festival’s ultimate success.
But the biggest factor, by far, is whether you and I get downtown this weekend, not just to be entertained by movies and conversation, but to support art and film in this town.
If our support for the IFS, the Crossroads Commons, the Chautauqua Silent Film Series, and all the other film-related events is any indication, this may be the start of something big.