Wake-Up Call: Here in Hick Town

George Hickenlooper has spent the last several months with Jack Abramoff, the jailed influence-peddler who'll be the focus of his next film, which stars Kevin Spacey.

For his last effort, the filmmaker used a much less experienced crew of actors: the staff of Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, who just happens to be George's cousin. But they didn't figure that out until 1991, when George was in town for the Denver International Film Festival, and happened by the Wynkoop Brewing Company, a brewpub run by a former geologist. Hickenlooper isn't a common name, and the people who wear it tend to take on colorful careers -- and it wasn't long before the two figured out the connection. "He was the only son of an only son," John Hickenlooper says. "He'd never met a Hickenlooper before."

The two stayed in touch -- John had a couple of bit parts in George's movies -- and last year, when the Democratic National Convention was coming to town, George decided that following his cousin as the city prepared to host that incredible event would make a good movie.

He was right. Hick Town got a sneak preview last Saturday night, before an audience that included many of the players in the film: Governor Bill Ritter, chief of staff Kelly Brough, former communications director Lindy Eichenbaum Lent. The film is both savvy and sweet, including the big moments of last August -- Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field at Mile High, the facility whose controversial naming process helped launch (John) Hickenlooper's political career -- and small ones. Among the latter: the race up City Hall stairs that the mayor has with his security staff, and Lent playing with the then-twenty-month-old daughter she hadn't seen in days.

For Denverites, Hick Town offers an intimate explanation of what it takes to make this city work, whether the task at hand is saving a pitbull or protecting the future president of the United States. But will it play in Peoria?

(George) Hickenlooper has cut a hundred hours of film following his cousin, (John) Hickenlooper into six discrete, 22-minute segments, suitable for viewing on TV -- cable or public television -- as a possible alternative to a movie release. And Hick Town deserves that wider audience. It's a remarkable look back at a remarkable time.

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