The 27th Starz Denver International Film Festival will get a soulful kickoff at 7 p.m. Thursday, October 14, with an opening-night showing of Ray, Taylor Hackford's startlingly candid biopic about music legend Ray Charles. Starring a perfectly cast Jamie Foxx as the blind, Georgia-born singer who became a star worldwide, the film celebrates Brother Ray's glories but never shrinks from his demons: heroin addiction and obsessive womanizing. Foxx and Director Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman) will attend the screening at the Buell Theatre.
A second opening-nighter, scheduled for 11:30 p.m. Thursday at the Starz FilmCenter, will be Team America: World Police, the new feature from South Park creators (and Colorado natives) Trey Parker and Matt Stone. This time, the satirists take dead aim at politics and Hollywood culture as a team of fearless wooden puppets go after the world's evil forces -- including international terrorists and washed-up domestic celebrities.
The rest of this year's festival runs at both the Buell and the Starz FilmCenter through October 24; it will showcase some 200 films, including eighteen world and U.S. premieres, and feature guest appearances by such luminaries as actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick (bringing their new feature The Woodsman), Laura Linney and Morgan Freeman, and directors Bob Rafelson and Margarethe von Trotta. Actor Bill Pullman will discuss his performance in Rick, a savage portrait of corporate corruption, and documentarians Peter Gilbert (Hoop Dreams), Jerry Blumenthal and Gordon Quinn (Golub) will talk about nonfiction filmmaking.
The festival's Focus on German Cinema component will feature more than a dozen new films from that country, a three-film salute to Rainer Werner Fassbinder and an evening with Ms. von Trotta, whose films include The Second Awakening of Christa Klages, Rosenstrasse and An American Soldier. The closing-night tribute to Morgan Freeman (October 24) will feature clips from Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, Unforgivenand Glory, among others. Freeman will also show excerpts from his latest work, the Lasse Hallstrom-directed An Unfinished Life, to be released in 2005. Laura Linney will appear with her two new films, P.S., about a May-December campus romance, and Kinsey, a portrait of pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey.
DIFF always has something special for hard-core movie buffs. This year, there's a three-movie tribute to the late Marlon Brando (Last Tango in Paris, The Wild One and A Streetcar Named Desire) and, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, a bow to Cary Grant via the new documentary Cary Grant: A Class Apart and screenings of three Grant classics: Holiday, Only Angels Have Wings and The Philadelphia Story. Struggling independent filmmakers and their supporters won't want to miss Overnight, a scathing portrait of a cocky Boston bartender named Troy Duffy who got a shot at Hollywood fame and fortune when Miramax majordomo Harvey Weinstein offered him a deal for his first script. Devotees of the late hard-nosed director Samuel Fuller will be interested in a reconstructed version of his World War II movie The Big Red One, which was savaged in the editing room by the distributor when it was first released 25 years ago. And Twin Peaks and Blue Velvetfans will want to attend a seminar called "David Lynch and the Creative Process."
Director Bob Rafelson, an original independent who's been rattling Hollywood cages for more than three decades, will appear with three of his most interesting works, Mountains of the Moon, the great Jack Nicholson vehicle Five Easy Pieces, and another Nicholson starrer, the unjustly forgotten King of Marvin Gardens.