The twenty-second Denver International Film Festival opens this week with a showing of Sydney Pollack's Random Hearts at the Buell Theatre. Director Pollack (Tootsie, Out of Africa, The Firm) will introduce the romantic drama, which stars Harrison Ford and English Patient leading lady Kristin Scott Thomas.
This year's festivities also include a salute to Pan African cinema, a presentation of the annual John Cassavetes Award to documentarian Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, U.S.A., Wild Man Blues) and the Lifetime Achievement Award to actor James Coburn, whose performance as an alcoholic father in 1997's Afflictionwas widely hailed as the finest work of his forty-year movie career. Coburn will appear at two screenings and accept the award following a showing of memorable Coburn clips and his new thirty-minute film, The Good Doctor, on October 9.
Some other highlights:
The Knot(October 8, 6:45 p.m.), directed by Russia's Alexander Sokurov, is a highly personal exploration of the life and work of the Nobel Prize-winning novelist and former political prisoner Alexandre Solzhenitsyn. Two years ago, festival-goers exulted over another Sokurov film, the painterly and profoundly beautiful Mother and Son.
Eric Styles's Dreaming of Joseph Lees (October 10, 6:15 p.m.) gets inside the romantic fantasies that a young Englishwoman harbors for her worldly second cousin, while Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (October 8, 6:45 p.m.), directed by Patrice Chereau, explores what happens when a celebrated Parisian painter arranges for all his friends, loved ones, admirers and students to attend his funeral in his hometown of Limoges.
Polish filmmaker Dorota Kedzierzawska will receive a festival tribute and introduce three of her films, including Crows (October 9, 9 p.m.), an intimate look at the loneliness of a nine-year-old girl, and Nothing (October 10, 4:15 p.m.), which explores the tensions between a pregnant young mother, her three endangered children and their brute of a father.
From the Netherlands comes Jos Stelling's comedy No Trains, No Planes (October 11, 6:45 p.m.), which highlights a day in a single rundown cafe, and Congolese filmmaker Mweze Ngangura brings I.D. (October 12, 6:30 p.m.), which addresses the strange tale of a young woman, the daughter of a Bakongo king, who travels to Belgium to get an education and then vanishes from her father's life. In Kurt Gerron's Karussel (October 13, 9:15 p.m.), German documentarian Ilona Ziok looks back on the life of a celebrated filmmaker and cabaret star whose life was tragically cut short at Auschwitz in 1944, while in Photographer (October 11, 6:30 p.m.), Polish filmmaker Dariusz Jablonski uses 400 color slides shot by a Nazi SS accountant in the Lodz ghetto as the starting point for a moving examination of life in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Denver independent filmmaker Dick Alweis is bound to stir up nostalgia and old fervor with Rebels Remembered: The Civil Rights Movement in Colorado(October 13, 6:15 p.m.), which examines emerging political activism in Denver, whose surface appeared calm and complacent as the 1960s began. -- Bill Gallo