Take 31

In March 1978, I wrote a Westword piece about a group organizing “Ten Days in May,” the city’s first film festival, with a headline that asked, “Will It Work?” As answer, we have tonight’s opening of the 31st Starz Denver Film Festival, taking place at the Starz FilmCenter in the Tivoli Student Union and assorted venues through-out the downtown area.

Ron Henderson headed publicity for that inaugural festival. Although he retired as the festival’s director after last year’s thirtieth-anniversary celebration (which was technically a year too early, and “I was hoping no one would notice that,” Henderson says), this week he’s back at his desk, working as a programming consultant for the 2008 festival and thinking back on some of the highlights. “Five Woody Allen films opened the festival over the years,” Henderson recalls. “Those are enduring works that will remain.” As are the movies of Robert Altman, the first major tribute guest. Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue made its American premiere here; the late filmmaker is remembered with an award in his honor. So is Boulder’s Stan Brakhage, “who was never a household name and never will be, but was truly an artist of the highest rank.” This year’s Stan Brakhage Vision Award will be given to multi-disciplinary artist Carolee Schneemann. “This festival’s always been kind of a healthy mix of films that would go on to play in commercial theaters and films that would never have been seen outside the context of the festival,” he adds.

And thirty years from now, which films from the 2008 festival will we still be talking about? Henderson’s high on Slumdog Millionaire, Mommy Is at the Hairdresser’s, and Black Sea (Mar Nero), by Federico Bondi, who’s winning the festival’s first Italian filmmaker award. And then there’s tonight’s presentation at the Ellie, The Brothers Bloom. “I’ll be sitting out in the audience for the first time,” Henderson says.

We’ll be right there with you. For a complete festival schedule, go to www.denverfilm.org/festival; call the Denver Film Society at 303-595-3456 for information.
Nov. 13-23, 2008

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun