Film and TV

Denver Film Festival Must-See Picks for November 2 to 4: Pity and More

A scene from Pity.
A scene from Pity. Denver Film Festival via Vimeo
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 selections for November 2, 3 and 4: Pity, Behind the Curve and Cold War.

Directed by Babis Makridis
3:45 p.m. Friday, November 2, 9:15 p.m. Saturday, November 3, and 2:15 p.m. Monday, November 5
UA Pavilions

Efthymis Filippou, who co-wrote the Greek film Pity with director Babis Makridis, also penned The Lobster, a cheerfully bizarre 2015 film by Yorgos Lanthimos, the man behind The Favourite, the opening-night attraction at the 41st annual Denver Film Festival. "That might lead you to believe it's dark and weird," says DFF artistic director Brit Withey. "And it is."

The story revolves around "a guy and his wife — and they have a child, too," Withey divulges. "But the wife winds up in a coma, and everybody thinks she's going to die."

This situation would seem to portend terrible things for her husband, but Withey says he finds an unexpected upside. "Everybody in his life starts to treat him really well. The people at work are really nice to him. The woman downstairs at his apartment complex brings him a cake every day. His dry cleaner gets everything done within 24 hours and doesn't charge him because he's suffering so much."

Here's the trailer for Pity.

But then, Withey goes on, the protagonist's wife "gets better and everybody start treating him normal again — and he doesn't like that at all. He liked how he'd been treated when she was sick, and he's got to find a way to rectify what's happened — so he just tells everybody that she's relapsed and gone back into the hospital."

Unfortunately for him, "They find out that's not true," he reveals, "and everybody is mad at him. Things get really bad, and now he's got to take some really extreme measures to get the pity he craves."

No spoilers here. But Withey hints that "Things go wrong for his family. Really wrong."

The results are amusing, he emphasizes, but in a very twisted way. "I definitely found it funny. But it's a really, really black comedy."

click to enlarge
A scene from Behind the Curve.
Denver Film Festival via YouTube
Behind the Curve
Directed by Daniel J. Clark
4:15 p.m. Saturday, November 3, 7 p.m. Sunday, November 4, 4 p.m. Tuesday, November 6
UA Pavilions

Simply put, Behind the Curve, a documentary, "is about people who believe the Earth is flat," Withey points out. "The filmmakers do a really good job of not taking a stand; they don't make their views known. So what's funny about the film is that these people are crazy. The director just points the camera and asks them why they believe what they believe, and how they go about trying to prove it is just nuts."

For Withey, one of the big takeaways from the film was "just how large a community this is. It's large enough that there are factions within the community that argue with one another over who is the leader of the flat Earth community and who has the right method of showing and proving that the Earth is flat."

Here's the trailer for Behind the Curve.

The on-screen players include folks from Denver, which makes sense, since the Flat Earth International Conference 2018 is coming to town.

The second such gathering of its type, the event will take place November 15 and 16 at the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center, 15500 East 40th Avenue. Click for more details.

The conversations of the flat-Earth faithful "are really funny," Withey feels. "But they don't just talk and try to explain why this is. They also do a series of tests, setting up lasers some distance apart from one another and then try to explain why they're not lining up right."

The reasons the experiments fail "aren't because the Earth isn't flat," he stresses. "Because they're still sure it is."

click to enlarge
A scene from Cold War.
Denver Film Festival via YouTube
Cold War
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
8:45 p.m. Friday, November 2, 1:45 p.m. Sunday, November 4
Sie FilmCenter

Pawel Pawlikowski is the Polish filmmaker "who won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film three years ago for Ida," Withey says. "Cold War is his latest film, and it's a beautiful black-and-white relationship drama."

The title wasn't chosen at random. "Cold War refers to post-World War II, because it begins in Poland in 1949," he continues. "But it's also a reference to the relationship between the main characters."

At the outset of the film, "the government is putting together this very folksy, back-to-the-country sort of troupe of musicians, singers, dancers and whatnot, to show that the country's youths are pure and vibrant and strong and beautiful, à la the Soviet Union at the time," he notes. "They're out touring the country, and this relationship forms between one of the young, blond girl singer-dancers and the conductor. They fall in love as they're touring, and after they've gotten popular enough to perform in France, they make a plan to escape."

Here's the trailer for Cold War.

Yes, the scheme goes awry, Withey says. "When the time comes, he runs away, and she doesn't meet him. They split up and the troupe returns to Poland."

The pair isn't permanently separated, however. According to Withey, "She shows up at his place in France several years later. He's got a girlfriend, but they get back together anyway, and it's a really fraught relationship. They fight and break up again, and she goes back to Poland. But he can't take it living without her."

Problem is, "He's wanted in Poland, and if he goes back, he's told they'll arrest him," Withey recounts. "He goes back anyway and is arrested and put in prison, but she goes to visit him there. And it just keeps going back and forth, back and forth.

The result is "a very tough love story," Withey contends. "But a lot of the love stories that are most interesting are the toughest ones. These two characters cannot live with one another, but they love each other. It's the driving force in both of their lives, and it drives them to ruin."

Click to access all of the film festival's selections and to purchase tickets.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts