Again this year, Denver Film Festival artistic director Brit Withey is offering his must-see picks for each day of the fest — including many flicks that movie lovers might otherwise miss amid the flood of silver-screen goodies. Today he spotlights a selection for November 9: Under the Tree.
Under the Tree
Directed by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson
9 p.m. Thursday, November 9, 7 p.m. Friday, November 10, and 9 p.m. Saturday, November 11
"This is one of my favorite films in the festival," says DFF artistic director Brit Withey about Under the Tree. "It's an Icelandic and Danish co-production by the same producer who made Rams, which won our Best Feature Film award in 2015."
The story revolves around "two neighbors," Withey explains. "One of them has a gigantic tree in the back yard that's literally throwing shade on the next-door neighbor's back porch and patio area, and the people who live there would very much like it if the people with the tree would trim it back. But the first family is absolutely not going to do that."
Here's the trailer for Under the Tree:
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The refusal to trim "causes a very serious rift between these two families," he goes on, "and it escalates from some very easy name-calling and grumpiness to some serious pet-harming — and by the end of the film, people are harmed, too."
Withey sees humor in the way the dynamic plays out, though he admits this element may not be readily evident to all viewers.
"A lot of people take umbrage when I call something like this a comedy," he concedes. "They'll say, 'You called it a comedy, but it wasn't funny at all. It was really miserable.' But I'd still call it a dark comedy — or maybe a pitch-black comedy. These European dark comedies are very different from the sort of sillier dark comedies" along the lines of, say, Seth Rogen's Neighbors and its sequel. "We don't push the boundaries the way Scandinavian or Eastern European films do. They really take their gloves off when they're going down these roads. So unless you appreciate mayhem and think that can be funny, you might not like this. But I think people who attend this festival year after year know what I'm talking about and appreciate these sorts of films."
Click to access all of the film festival's selections and to purchase tickets.