Earlier this week, for the first time in more than a decade, something novel happened in the world of Denver film: No films were programmed by Keith Garcia. The name may mean nothing to you, or you may not have much idea what it means to be a film programmer, but if you like horror film, science fiction film or weird, fucked-up cult film, chances are good you're well-acquainted with his work. And now, with his resignation as creative manager of the Alamo Drafthouse to work on his own film, a magnificent era of geek film in Denver has come to a close.
See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Keith Garcia
Garcia was the man behind the Mayan Midnights in the late '90s. He programmed an unreal amount of genre film at the Denver Film Society, especially in his signature Watching Hour series. For a little over a year, he's shaped the programming at the Alamo, including kicking off another fantastic genre series -- Channel Z -- there. Chances are good that if you sat down to some weird, wonderful film in any of those locations over the past decade and wondered how you were so lucky to be seeing this fucked-up brilliance on the big screen, Garcia is how.
I've covered film in Denver since just after joining Westword as an intern in 2007. Before that, I'd met him once or twice (we have a few friends in common) but I came to know him in my capacity as an arts and entertainment journalist trying to break into writing about film. I've done decently well for myself in that capacity, and I have him to thank for a lot of that. He once set up a private screening for me, with a borrowed film print, at 10 a.m on a Tuesday morning, and let me tell you, if you've never had the privilege of discovering Lucio Fulci's Zombie in an empty theater via a beat-up print, you are missing out. He's brought film screeners to my house on a Sunday, fielded my calls with zero notice when I forgot to set up a proper time to ask some questions, and he's helped set up most of the best film-related interviews I've done.
I can never repay him for all of that, but that's not what made his work so special -- any generic "go getter" could have done that. No, what sets Garcia apart is his incredible passion for and knowledge of genre film. As much as I appreciate all the help he's given me as a journalist, the reason I consider him a friend is all the late-night conversations we had after films he programmed. Whether I was enthusing about the movie he'd selected or telling him why I thought it was actually kind of shitty, he was happy to stand there and talk to me, and anyone else who happened to want to stick around, for what was often more than an hour. Those conversations revealed someone with a passion for gory zombie movies, weirdo psychedelic trash and out-there science fiction that matched or exceeded my own. And his knowledge? I have never met anyone whose knowledge of genre film exceeded his, and I know a lot of fans of genre film.
If it weren't for Garcia, I probably would never have seen Night of the Creeps in a theater. Nor Southland Tales or The Thing or any number of other classics. I never would have stumbled into Perfect Blue by mistake -- I thought it was Evil Dead that night and by the time my stoned ass got there and figured it out, I was like, "Eh, fuck it" -- and had my mind completely blown.
Now that's over. Garcia is shifting from programmer of other's people's films to creator of his own. His first project is a documentary on Denver's drag scene, a topic I am certain I will enjoy learning about via his film. I'm excited for him, and for what he does next, but I'm also a little sad because the local film scene just isn't going to be the same without him helping shape it. There are plenty of great programmers here, to be certain -- his replacement at the DFS, Ernie Quiroz, is great, as is Pablo Kjolseth at CU's International Film Series -- but none of them are Keith Garcia. I'm going to miss his passion, his idiosyncratic tastes and, maybe most of all, those late-night bullshit sessions where I kept him at work for an extra hour so I could ramble about the movie he picked and I watched. Denver's film scene is special to me, and no part of it is more special than the part he shaped.
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Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.