Vail may sing a siren call to skiers and snowboarders, but this week the mountain town will be humming a different tune as the Vail Film Festival returns on Thursday, April 7. The four-day fest, which is celebrating its thirteenth year, will screen over sixty films — narrative, documentary and shorts packages aplenty —while also offering nightly concerts and hosting enough filmmakers to give Sundance a run for its money.
In fact, filmmakers have always been the focus of the Vail fest. “My brother and I started out as filmmakers,” says co-director and founder Sean Cross, “and we found that many of our indie filmmaking friends didn't have a place to showcase their work.
“The already established film festivals, such as Sundance, were focused mainly on films with bigger-name directors and actors," he continues, "and there wasn't a lot of opportunity for new voices. So we founded the Vail Film Festival in 2004 as a way to foster new filmmakers. We're really proud of the filmmakers who have come through the festival and gone on to great careers, including directors such as Roman Coppola, Tao Ruspoli, Valerie Weiss and Kat Coiro, and actors such as Jesse Eisenberg, Olivia Wilde, Aaron Paul, Krysten Ritter, Kate Bosworth and Sophia Bush. Our primary focus is to continue to shine a light on great independent films and filmmakers.”
We asked Cross, also a programmer for the festival, for five best bets this year. Here they are, in chronological order: 5. Epiphany
April 8 at noon (filmmaker in attendance)/April 9 at 6:30 p.m.
A mother and photographer navigates her family through life in a story about conquering fears, spending time with sharks in the ocean and reinventing life at every turn. “I really like the dual journey of her facing her personal fears and challenging herself as an artist,” says Cross. 4. Monitor
April 8 at 2:30 p.m. (filmmaker in attendance)/April 10 at 11 a.m.
In an alternate present, Paolo's job is to anonymously counsel the employees of his company. He's the best at what he does, but an employee's suicide attempt might call into question his life as he knows it. “This is an Italian film with a great love story and strong lead performances,” says Cross. “You really feel the world they're creating. We’re excited to welcome director Alessio Lauria all the way from Italy to celebrate this one.” 3. Cut to the Chase
April 8 at 4 p.m. (filmmakers in attendance)/April 9 at 9:30 p.m.
Max has always been on the wrong side of the law, but his sister Isobel always bails him out...until the day she disappears. Now, with the help of a mysterious stranger, Max searches for his sister through the underbelly of a Louisiana town while pursued by the notorious crime boss known only as "The Man" (genre film legend Lance Henricksen). “This film is unique in that it's an action film, which is not something you usually see in the indie film world, and it's a fun ride, too,” says Cross. 2. Finding Her
April 8 at 9 p.m. (filmmaker and cast in attendance)/April 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Christian Baker, a well-known New York City journalist, gets assigned a story about a missing twelve-year-old Brooklyn girl. Trying to get the assignment behind him, he quickly — and poorly — researches the situation and goes with the first lead, which begins a series of unfortunate repercussions, leading Baker to reevaluate the story and wind up face to face with the girl’s devastated family. “This film stands out for great acting across the board,” raves Cross. 1. Fools
April 9 at 2 p.m. (filmmakers in attendance)/April 10 at 1 p. m.
Two strangers brush hands on a crowded Chicago train and move in together a week later, without having exchanged a word. Together, they fabricate the history of their romance as they go along. When reality intrudes, they must decide if their love is true or just a fantasy. “Fools is not your average romantic comedy,” says Cross. “The film is quirky, edgy and touching.”
The Vail Film Festival runs Thursday, April 7, through Sunday, April 10, at the Vail Cascade and Cinebistro in Vail. Individual tickets are $10; special festival passes available for $59 to $259, with extra perks throughout. Browse the entire schedule and get your tickets at vailfilmfestival.com.
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Keith Garcia is a filmmaker, writer and secret agent looking for love and the perfect slice of pizza. If he looks familiar, it's probably because he introduced a film you watched in Denver sometime between 1996 and 2014.