Pony Up

FRI, 9/19

You don't have to be American to know about the Pony Express, but it's a saga that Americans, particularly Westerners, all grew up with: Nary an oater has flashed upon the silver screen in the past hundred years without making some reference to the mid-nineteenth-century version of express mail. It was an intrepid horsey relay race that galloped 2,000 miles across the godforsaken West, from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento. In truth, notes journalist-author Christopher Corbett, the Express lasted just short of two years before the intercontinental telegraph put it out of business. And, he adds, no one really knows much about it. Today we have only the glamorized version, a show-biz perpetual that began as a mainstay of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and was translated into art by Frederick Remington before Hollywood took it over and wrung it for all it was worth. But don't expect Corbett's new book, Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express, to go the opposite way: The Pony's true history, he contends, is as much about its romanticization as anything else. It's not that he hasn't meticulously researched the story (and its cast of real-life adjunct characters, from Wild Bill Hickok to Mark Twain). Corbett says he's traveled the route five times and read extensively on the subject in order to present the closest thing we might ever see to a true account.

"It's not really so much a serious work of history as it is a meditation on an American tall tale," the Maine-born journalist says of his work. "It's like a fishing story: No one will ever really know what the truth is." Like Paul Revere's ride, he notes, the Pony became an epic yarn built upon a shred of truth.

Corbett will muse on both aspects of Orphans Preferred tonight at 7 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble Book Store at 960 South Colorado Boulevard; for information, call 303-691-2998. -- Susan Froyd

Unspoken Word
WED, 9/24

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the Qatsi Trilogy is fluent in the language of silent imagery. Like visual prose, the Trilogy is a non-narrative and socially conscious cinematic trek taken through the eyes of filmmaker Godfrey Reggio and the ears of experimental composer Philip Glass. In conjunction with the University of Colorado at Boulder's International Film Series and Conference on World Affairs, Reggio will be at the school's Muenzinger Auditorium tonight only to present the trilogy's first film, Koyaanisqatsi, at 7 p.m., with a question-and-answer session to follow. "This is a rare screening of the director's personal print; it's a brighter, clearer picture in stereo," says IFS director Pablo Kjolseth. "This is the way it's supposed to be seen."

Powaqqatsi will screen on Thursday, September 25, with Naqoyqatsi completing the trilogy on Friday, September 26; admission is free. For showtimes, call 303-492-1531 or visit www.internationalfilmseries.com. -- Kity Ironton

Judge for Yourself
SAT, 9/20

All rise! Court will come to order at 1 p.m. today for The Trial of Molly Brown. The "Unsinkable" Ms. Brown faces thirteen charges, including smoking in a bar, wearing fur, standing up in a Titanic lifeboat and advocating women's suffrage. The real-life socialite, who died in 1932, will be played in this mock legal proceeding by Mary Lynn Grover. "The idea is to have fun with history," says Tom Noel, a professor at the University of Colorado at Denver who will play a prosecuting attorney. "We're using fun and games to get into some more serious issues."

Today's currently sold-out trial takes place at the Tabor Opera House, 308 Harrison Avenue in Leadville. For information, call 1-719-486-8409 or visit www.taboroperahouse.net. -- Julie Dunn

Compassion Play
The Gatekeeper puts a human face on illegal immigration
FRI, 9/19

John Carlos Frey, born in Tijuana and raised in nearby Imperial Beach, California, has the border in his blood. As a kid, he says, "We lived close enough that I could see the border fence from my window." And close enough to see U.S. Border Patrol agents chasing illegal immigrants through his back yard. Those migrants, and hundreds of thousands like them living in the United States today, shouldn't be here, Frey says. "But we're talking about desperate human beings. That's the story that always seems to get missed" in the rancorous debate over illegal immigration.

Frey decided to tell the story himself, by writing, directing, producing and starring in The Gatekeeper, which opens at 7 p.m. tonight at Starz FilmCenter on the Auraria Campus. In the role of Adam Fields, he plays a self-loathing Mexican-American agent with the border patrol, so obsessed with controlling illegal immigration in Southern California that he moonlights with vigilantes to trap and abuse hapless migrants. But when a clandestine sting operation goes violently wrong, he finds himself forced to live and work alongside the people he so despises. Trapped amid their squalid poverty and inhumane treatment, his sympathies change, and he ends up freeing the very people he had originally planned to capture.

Amnesty International and, in Denver, El Centro Su Teatro and LARASA, have voiced support for Frey's self-financed directorial debut, and Bruce Springsteen donated his song "Sinaloa Cowboys" to the soundtrack. Frey will be on hand at tonight and tomorrow night's screenings to answer audience questions. For more information, call 303-820-FILM or log on to www.starzfilmcenter.com. -- Hart Van Denburg

What the Heck?
Nan Desu Kan returns with all-Japanese fare
FRI, 9/19

What the heck is Nan Desu Kan, which translates roughly from Japanese as "What the heck is this"? It's Denver's seventh-annual three-day convention celebrating Japanese anime, art and culture. "We exist to help people find stuff that is not on TV or in the mainstream," says executive director Bacca Norman. "We have everything from serious literary discussion to an art show to a costume contest."

Starting at 3 p.m. today and running non-stop through 6 p.m. Sunday at the Holiday Inn DIA, I-70 East and Chambers Road, Nan Desu Kan will feature three continuous-screening video rooms and a comedy show with voice actor Bob Bergen. "Some of it is very serious, and some of it is extremely goofy. We try to keep our sense of humor," says Norman. "New people are always welcome," he adds.

Tickets to the event are $15 for Friday night, $25 daily for Saturday or Sunday and $45 for a three-day pass. For details, go to www.ndk.cc. -- Julie Dunn

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Hart Van Denburg
Contact: Hart Van Denburg
Julie Dunn
Contact: Julie Dunn
Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd
Kity Ironton