In March 1978, I wrote a Westword piece about a group organizing Ten Days in May, the citys first film festival, with a headline that asked, Will It Work? As answer, we have tonights opening of the 31st Starz Denver Film Festival, taking place at the Starz FilmCenter in the Tivoli Student Union and assorted venues through-out the downtown area.
Ron Henderson headed publicity for that inaugural festival. Although he retired as the festivals director after last years thirtieth-anniversary celebration (which was technically a year too early, and I was hoping no one would notice that, Henderson says), this week hes back at his desk, working as a programming consultant for the 2008 festival and thinking back on some of the highlights. Five Woody Allen films opened the festival over the years, Henderson recalls. Those are enduring works that will remain. As are the movies of Robert Altman, the first major tribute guest. Krzysztof Kieslowskis The Decalogue made its American premiere here; the late filmmaker is remembered with an award in his honor. So is Boulders Stan Brakhage, who was never a household name and never will be, but was truly an artist of the highest rank. This years Stan Brakhage Vision Award will be given to multi-disciplinary artist Carolee Schneemann. This festivals always been kind of a healthy mix of films that would go on to play in commercial theaters and films that would never have been seen outside the context of the festival, he adds.
And thirty years from now, which films from the 2008 festival will we still be talking about? Hendersons high on Slumdog Millionaire, Mommy Is at the Hairdressers, and Black Sea (Mar Nero),by Federico Bondi, whos winning the festivals first Italian filmmaker award. And then theres tonights presentation at the Ellie, The Brothers Bloom. Ill be sitting out in the audience for the first time, Henderson says.