April showers bring May flowers, but you don’t have to wait until next month for cinematic roses, because we’ve got a bouquet of the best film events in our city right here. And if you’ve yet to visit the Sie FilmCenter, which just took home our Best Movie Theater — Programming award, then here are four captivating reasons to check it out. In chronological order, here are April’s ten best film events in Denver.
1. Women + Film Festival
Leading out Women’s History Month – and reminding us that we should celebrate it every month – the Women + Film Festival programmers have assembled a stellar deck for this six-day celebration of women in film, showcasing sixteen features and six short films by and about women. Along with the movies, the Women + Film Festival is also hosting a Skype discussion with Vagina Monologues creator Eve Ensler about her play and movement, and labor-rights organizer Dolores Huerta talking about Dolores, the documentary about her life and work. Buy individual tickets and festival badges at denverfilm.org.
Not in the mood to invest in characters, themes, locations and stories for ninety-plus minutes? Don’t fret! Film’s most underrated category, the short, is for you. The brains behind the Aspen Shortsfest have been clued into this little secret for 26 years, and based on the 2017 program, short films are still in great supply. With over 63 movies parsed out over a handful of programs, opportunity is ripe to see not just great works, but potentially the next Oscar nominee, as many an Academy Award winner first screened at this festival. The Aspen Shortsfest has the perfect bite-sized creations ready for your viewing pleasure. Buy individual program tickets and fest badges at aspenfilm.org.
3. Ben Wheatley Retrospective
April 7, 8, 14, 15
Among the U.K.’s most entertaining imports are the films of director Ben Wheatley. This modern-day filmmaker has built a quick career on indie movies that manipulate the expectations of genre to become thrilling, gory and often hilarious hybrids. To celebrate the release of Wheatley's highly anticipated new feature, Free Fire, the Sie FilmCenter is spotlighting four of his best films – Down Terrace, Kill List, Sightseers, A Field in England – to introduce the director to audiences that may not be aware of his originality, fun or talent. Attend any of the films in the Wheatley series, and you’ll get a VIP pass to attend an exclusive advance screening of Free Fire on April 18. All screenings take place at 10 p.m. Get your tickets now at denverfilm.org.
4. Time + Space: A Process Reversal Fundraiser
Things are changing for many arts organizations, and nowhere is this more evident than in the world of DIY filmmaking. Artists who still work with photochemical film are finding fewer film stocks to work with and fewer labs to process newly shot works. But freshly minted nonprofit Process Reversal aims to remove those obstacles, finding new ways for artists to create and develop film and helping to revolutionize the experimental-film community around the globe. All revolutions require money, though, so the local organization is hosting its first fundraiser, called Time + Space. The event will include screenings of works by members of Process Reversal, as well as performances by Kevin Costner Suicide Pact, Entrancer and more. The event takes place at 7 p.m. Pre-order your tickets and learn more at processreversal.org.
5. Basquiat Weekend
This is not a drill: Fab Five Freddy is coming to town! In conjunction with the MCA, and as an expansion of its Basquiat Before Basquiat exhibition, the Sie is presenting two days of films and one special roundtable at the MCA with Alexis Adler, hip-hop pioneer Fab Five Freddy, Michael Holman and Carlo McCormick, for a discussion with curator Nora Burnett Abrams. The conversation will explore Basquiat, his art and his fame. Screening as part of the Sie program is Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat, Ivan Kral and Amos Poe’s The Blank Generation, Poe’s The Foreigner and cult classic Wild Style, which will be introduced by Fab Five Freddy himself. Buy your tickets at denverfilm.org.
Read on for more of the best film events in April.
6. The Fate of the Furious
Opens April 14
Hard to believe that sixteen years has brought us a new Fast and the Furious film roughly every two years. Now we’re staring down the eighth installment, The Fate of the Furious, or F8, if you’re nasty. But boy, oh boy, some of us are excited about it! Hollywood’s most racially diverse franchise has brought on director F. Gary Gray (Set It Off, The Italian Job, Straight Outta Compton) to craft this newest entry, in which our hero, Dom (Vin Diesel), seems to take turns as a good guy and a bad guy, wrapped up in the string-pulling of cyber-villain Cipher (Charlize Theron). What’s his family of car thieves and masterminds to do but pack up a set of new wheels, toys and players to set things right. Oh, and at some point, a submarine pursues the gang on a giant, frozen mass of water. Take our money now, please. Find showtimes and tickets at fandango.com.
7. Pom Poko
Landmark Esquire Theatre
There are many animated masterpieces that drip out of master animator Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli like sweet honey: Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa, My Neighbor Totoro. But none of those fabled stories feature racoons with giant, aerodynamic ball sacs. Isao Takahata’s film Pom Poko is an environmentally minded tale about an expanding human population threatening wildlife in a nearby forest inhabited by enchanted racoons protecting their home. These creatures can shape-shift into anything they want and even fly via their balloon-like scrotums. Before you think that detail was dreamed up by an adolescent animator, think again. The thousand-year-old original legend that Pom Poko is based on treated those testicle parachutes like the grand, original tool they probably were. Sadly, no Pom Poko merchandise exists, so no flying-ball-sac figurines for you. Get your tickets for these midnight screenings at landmarktheaters.com.
Ben Wheatley, getting the retrospective treatment at the Sie April 7-15, rose from the foothills of his unique indie filmmaking to the elevated cliffs of bigger-budgeted fare like last year’s J.G. Ballard adaptation High Rise. Free Fire is equally funded, but it shows off Wheatley’s original, dark and humorous storytelling, which has delighted arthouse audiences for the past seven years. His latest is a thrilling period piece about a discreet arms dealer (Brie Larson) trying to broker a deal between two sets of strangers (Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Sharlto Copley among them) in an abandoned warehouse. When shots are fired in a meeting, all bets are off, and with everyone in the room armed, it’ll be a long fight for anyone to make it out alive. As the film’s tagline boasts: “All Guns. No Control.” Find showtimes and tickets at denverfilm.org and drafthouse.com.
9. My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea
Opens April 28
TBD Landmark theater
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My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is the most dizzyingly ambitious piece of animated film you will see this year. Cult graphic novelist Dash Shaw (New School) sweeps together drawings, paintings and collage in this twisted animated tale. A pair of nerds (voiced by Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts) are rolling away their days at Tides High School when catastrophe strikes. A giant school coverup threatens the building and all inside of it. It’s up to the nerds and their friends – voiced by Maya Rudolph, Lena Dunham and Susan Sarandon (who plays a lunch lady with a few secrets under her apron) – to save the day. With a quirky and addictive synth-music score, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea amounts to a giant film party. Get your tickets at landmarktheaters.com.
10. Denver Silent Film Festival
Alamo Drafthouse Littleton
Howie Movshovitz has worked for years to ensure that silent films remain at the front of every movie lover's lips. To Movshovitz, these movies are not just interesting artifacts, but some of the most creative, original productions in history. For his Denver Silent Film Festival, he has spent the past few years putting together a top-notch schedule full of silent-film classics along with obscure films, fascinating guests to discuss them all, and grand musical scores to boot. This year's three-day fest kicks off with one of the greatest films by one of the era's masterminds, Steamboat Bill Jr., by Buster Keaton, and closes with a bizarre, rare Lon Chaney great, He Who Gets Slapped, about a clown who can't stand the career he's chosen — and for a good, albeit weird reason. This 1924 film will be projected from a 16mm print struck from the original nitrate film strip. At this festival, you'll be reading title cards and flying back to an era when film was a pure, new entity and the possibilities were endless. Enjoy the quiet time. Reserve your seats at drafthouse.com.