Denver's Design OnScreen heads to Italy with the Milano Design Film Festival 2013

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Having already made its name globally by putting on a film festival as part of last year's Venice Biennale, Denver's Design OnScreen is at it again. The first annual Milano Design Film Festival kicked off today, and the local non-profit is showcasing a wide variety of design-oriented films over the weekend in Italy.

"This is definitely a festival for Italians," says Heather Purcell Leja, Design OnScreen's executive director. "Our model is always to partner with a local entity, often a local non-profit. We don't do a cookie cutter-type thing -- we curate and design a festival to really fit the interest of the place where we're putting it on."

See also: Best of Denver - Best International Film Organization Based in Denver - 2013 Design Onscreen

Design OnScreen's participation in the 2012 Venice Biennale was key to securing this year's festival. It was there that the organization connected with Antonella Dedini, founder of MiCue Milano Design, an architectural firm in Milan. Dedini's work and enthusiasm was just what Design OnScreen was looking for -- plus, she was well-connected in the design community there, making it a perfect place for the type of documentary film festival that the Denver non-profit puts on.

And while Design OnScreen's work often centers on architecture, Purcell Leja explains that addressing all aspects of design was key to tapping into Milan's personality. "At many of our festivals, people are interested mainly in architecture," says Purcell Leja. "But Milan is such a design capital that we're featuring films on graphic designers, fashion designers, product designers and on the creative process in general. It has a broader scope than some of our other festivals."

Films like Fallingwater: Frank Lloyd Wright's Masterwork, Contemporary Days: The Designs of Lucienne and Robin Day, Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delightand David Chipperfield: My Biennale will play throughout the four-day exhibition, which will also feature live conversations with filmmakers and industry experts.

The Milano Design Film Festival is in its first year, but Purcell Leja says it will return as part of Expo Milano, the 2015 world expo held in Italy.

As Design OnScreen continues to promote architectural preservation around the globe, the non-profit looks for partners interested in creating events open to anyone interested in attending. "We don't charge admission, which makes it more accessible to young designers and students," says Purcell Leja. "I really like that model because you're not excluding people."

After Milan, Purcell Leja will head to the Netherlands for AFFR -- Architectuur Film Festival Rotterdam, the biggest architecture-based film festival of its kind. Purcell Leja says that trip is important for the work that Design OnScreen does during the rest of the year, because she picks documentaries there that will go on to be part of other fests.

"I see the bad films so you don't have to," says Purcell Leja with a laugh. "In a place like Denver -- where we're in our fifth year of our film series -- we've kind of built up credibility with people, so the films we've selected are probably ones you're going to like."

For more information on the Milano Design Film Festival 2013 and other projects Design OnScreen has in the works, visit the non-profit's website.

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