Watching a movie in which you know someone or recognize a location often causes a case of fame by proxy. That feeling will hit Denverites in spades during the premiere of Colfax Ave, a new documentary that explores a grand stretch of U.S. 40, most notably in the environs of East Colfax Avenue.
The film, eight months in the making, was produced and directed by Michael Jacobs, manager of development for Warren Miller movies, and Dan Silverstein, a Denver social worker. Jacobs and Silverstein will both be at the movie's premiere, Friday, November 5, at the Bluebird Theater. The two initially planned to make a documentary based upon the street's evolution from the Kerouac days to what it is today, but the project turned into something much different.
"We set out to make a movie about the culture of Colfax, and what we found out is that the people are losing out," says Silverstein.
The finished product takes an in-depth look at economic development of the thoroughfare and how it has impacted, and even increased, homelessness in the area. Along the way, viewers encounter crime, hookers, Guardian Angels and the music scene in all their gritty reality.
"We shot forty hours of footage for a 45-minute film and walked away with something different than we intended," says Silverstein. "Ten different film crews could have gone out on Colfax and wound up with ten different movies. It was overwhelming."
In addition to providing a mosaic of Colfax street life, the film features local personalities, including theater manager Jim Norris and District 6 police commander Deborah Dilley, as well as a homeless man and a prostitute. Singer-songwriter Nina Storey notes that "Playboy called Colfax the longest, wickedest street in America."
"The greatest thing about Colfax," offers Dallas Malerbi, of the Save Our Section 8 advocacy group, "is that it's the last spontaneous strip of Denver that exists."
Still, it falls to a former drug dealer identified only as Mark to sum up the 26-mile artery: "All being said, Colfax sucks."