Festival Director Kathy Beeck's top picks for the Boulder International Film Fest

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For film buffs looking for something a little fresher than the traditional Oscar fare dominating film talk this season, the Boulder International Film Festival offers a meticulously curated batch of movies Colorado audiences have likely never seen before, many coming straight from festivals like Sundance to make their local debuts. From celebrity appearances by James Franco and Oliver Stone to workshops teaching participants how to make their own short film or animation, the festival, which starts tomorrow, has lots to offer to anyone who'd rather catch something new than see The Social Network a fifth time. In preparation for the four days of film, Festival Director Kathy Beeck picked her five favorites that will screen during the fest.

The Boulder International Film Festival runs February 17-20 at various locations near the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. Admission to films is $12 general, $10 for students and seniors, and $18-65 for special events.


Thursday, February 17, 6:30 p.m., Boulder Theater

Documenting the music scene surrounding the Troubadour Club, this documentary screens at the festival's Opening Night Gala and is, as Beeck explains, "a really interesting look at the early days of this club in L.A. that really was the reason for the successful starts of the careers of James Taylor and Carole King and all these fantastic singer-songwriters." The film features performances by and interviews with early '70s artists like Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne, in addition to, as Beeck says, "Steve Martin and Cheech & Chong in it talking about their early time at the Troubadour." One of the highlights of the film is Elton John's first U.S. performance. "He basically got off the plane and went to the Troubadour club, and the film critic in the local paper at the time happened to be there that night," Beeck says. "He talks about that performance and then they have footage of it. It's really outstanding." Director Morgan Neville will answer questions after the film and local a cappella group Cool Shooz will provide tunes.

These Amazing Shadows

Friday, February 18, 5 p.m., First United Methodist Church

"Each year, they select 25 films that are entered into the National FIlm Archives to serve as sort of historic reference for the film industry and what films we as American people value," Beeck explains. This documentary follows the process of how films from Casablanca to This is Spinal Tap to The Rocky Horror Picture Show are selected for preservation. "It's really a celebration of film," says Beeck, and for that reason it's such a perfect film for the festival."

The Green Wave

Friday, February 18, 7:15 p.m., Boulder Theater

Combining live footage with animation, this film follows the political protests of the Iranian people against their oppressive government. "It's a timely film right now with everything going on in Egypt," says Beeck. "This is a story of people coming together in a traditionally repressed society to make change in their society and using social media to do it." The film is also part of the festival's Call 2 Action program, designed " to bring community groups in to address the issues that are brought up in some of these powerful films that we have and really help mobilize people into action on certain issues," according to Beeck. "One of the things we love to do at the festival is bring a picture of the world to people here that they might not see anywhere else. You can't always travel to Iran, but this will give you a little snapshot of the tumultuous things that are going on. "

Punching the Clown

Friday, February 18, 9:15 p.m., First United Methodist Church

While independent festivals can often be bogged down by scores of depressing films, the comedy of Punching the Clown is sure to lighten the mood. Beeck laments that "It is difficult to find good comedies; there aren't a lot of them out there." But she assures that she laughed throughout this whole film. Writer/producer/composer/star of the movie Henry Phillips plays himself in this semi-autobiographical film that follows his character as he tries to make it as a songwriter in Hollywood. "The humor really revolves around the fact that he's a fish out of water in L.A. and he's trying to break into the music business," Beeck says, "It's a parody of agents and the things that can happen when you're trying to break into either the film or the music industry."

The Last Circus

Friday, February 18, 9:30 p.m., Boulder Theater

While this Spanish film features circus imagery of clowns and acrobats, Beeck wants to make it clear to audiences that The Last Circus is a horror film. "It's really a metaphor for the Spanish Civil War and the horrors and atrocities that happened during the war," Beeck says, "It centers on these three characters in the circus, which makes it even more bizarre." While Beeck predicts that there will be people that don't like this film, she says it is the kind of film that will stretch the audience. "You want to give them something they won't see somewhere else and stretch their minds a bit and stretch their tastes." It's sure to feature the creepiest clowns since It with way more artistic integrity.

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