Starz Denver Film Festival: Brit Withey picks Sister and other weekend must-sees

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Again this year, Starz Denver Film Festival artistic director Brit Withey is offering his must-see picks for each day of the fest -- including many flicks that movie lovers might otherwise miss amid the flood of silver-screen goodies.

Here, he shares his takes on Friday's Sister, Saturday's Consuming Spirits and Sunday's Evening with Stacey Steers.

Sister Directed by Ursula Meier 7:30 p.m. Friday, November 2 Denver Pavilions

"Sister is Switzerland's choice for Best Foreign Language Film for the upcoming Academy Awards," says Brit Withey. "It's a story about a brother (Kacey Mottet Klein) and sister (Léa Seydoux) who live alone at the foot of a mountain -- and there are amazing performances by these two young actors.

"They really have to fend for themselves," he continues, "and being in her late teens or early twenties, she does what someone that age does, which is date and drink and party. So he's left more or less on his own, and to keep things afloat, he ends up stealing lots of things from the resort -- skis and goggles and masks -- and selling them to his friends. It's a great story with a fantastic twist at the end."

Withey adds that director Ursula Meier is traveling to Denver from Switzerland to be present at the screening.

Consuming Spirits Directed by Chris Sullivan 7 p.m. Saturday, November 3 Denver FilmCenter/Colfax

"This is an epic piece of work," says Withey of Consuming Spirits. "It's a feature-length animated film, and the director (Chris Sullivan) has been working on it for almost fifteen years. He uses every conceivable form of animation. It's old-school animation -- no computer-digital -- with pencil on paper, stop motion, figurines cut out and hand-moved."

But the film is more than just an exercise of technique, Withey stresses. "It's an incredibly intense, dark story about several families that are interwoven in this very small town. You don't know exactly how they all fit together until the end, but when it does come together, it's in this very strange and interesting way. The characters are all incredibly compelling and incredibly sad. But it's an amazing thing to watch."

Sullivan, too, will be on hand for Saturday's screening.

Continue for Withey's pick for Sunday, November 4, and to see videos from all three of his selections. Film/Still: An Evening with Stacey Steers 7:15 p.m. Sunday, November 4 Denver FilmCenter/Colfax

The winner of this year's Stan Brakhage Vision Award, Steers "is an internationally known artist," Withey notes. "Her work has been shown in film festivals all over the world, but also in places like the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and galleries in Germany and New York. She's incredible -- and she just happens to be from Boulder."

Steers's pieces "are animated, and we'll be showing a collection of them," Withey goes on. "They're very surreal, but they're not as experimental as some of the past Stan Brakhage award recipients have been. They're very accessible, but also very dreamlike and surreal and based off myths and fairy tales and things like that. Although they don't necessarily have narration, they follow a story. They're very whimsical and fantastical and beautiful."

One example: "She does an installation piece where she builds a house, and you actually have to look through the windows of the house to see it. But we'll be showing it on the screen."

Of course, Steers will be on hand to accept her award, which will be given to her after the presentation of a new work, Night Hunter.

Below, see trailers for Sister and Consuming Spirits, as well as a brief clip featuring illustrations from Before the Fall, a book by Steers.

Click here for more information, and visit Show and Tell throughout the festival for more of Brit's picks.

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