Matt Campbell, who was named interim artistic director of the Denver Film Festival after the death of his predecessor, Brit Withey, earlier this year, is our guide to the cinematic event's 42nd edition, which continues through November 10. Campbell has chosen a must-see film for each day of the fest. Keep reading to get his take on the November 7 selection: Waves.
Directed by Trey Edward Shults
Thursday, November 7, 8 p.m., Ellie Caulkins Opera House
In her preview of this year's fest, DFF director Britta Erickson called Waves her favorite film among the dozens upon dozens on the schedule, and Matt Campbell understands why. "It's really a powerhouse — a true tour de force."
Shults's first feature, 2015's Krisha, "was in the festival, and it won our American Independent award," Campbell points out. "It was huge in the indie film world that year, and when A24 picked it up, they gave him a three-picture deal. And this one is amazing."
Here's the trailer for Waves:
Starring a mix of familiar faces and rising talents (the cast includes Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Alexa Demie and Lucas Hedges), Waves concentrates on "an upper-middle-class African-American family living in Miami," Campbell begins. "I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but events happen that sort of lead to the family's downfall. To say they have hardships is an understatement. Something very tragic happens, and the family has to grapple with the bottom dropping out — figuring out how you pick up the pieces."
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This material is presented in an unconventional way.
"It's almost two films in one," he says. "Halfway through, the narrative shifts dramatically, and there are shifts in the focus of the characters and the story you're following. And the film also experiments with aspect ratios" — the actual dimensions of the image on the screen. "The aspect ratios become more and more constrained as the tension builds within the film. It's really interesting how the technical aspects of the film itself are influenced by the narrative."
Campbell reveals that Shults "got his chops working as a camera assistant for Terrence Malick," a revered director whose latest work, A Hidden Life, can be seen on Sunday, November 10. "So visual storytelling was a big part of what he learned through his experience working with Malick. But this is grounded in a more gritty realism. It doesn't look or feel like a Malick film. It looks like a Trey Edward Shults film."