Best Experimental-Film Series for Purists 2017 | First Person Cinema | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

Since 1955, First Person Cinema has brought some of the world's greatest experimental filmmakers to Boulder — and when we say "filmmakers," we mean it. The artists the group showcases often work entirely alone, sometimes painting or marking the film strip directly, other times crafting intricate, essay-style documentaries. Whatever these artists do, it's sure to be innovative. Most of the filmmakers use their own voice, as the name of the series suggests, and all are pushing the limits of what cinema can be. First Person Cinema has a couple of screenings left this spring and will resume at the start of the fall semester.

For nearly a century of filmmaking, 35mm film was the standard: a touchable and tangible material called celluloid that captures visuals at 24 frames a second and, when projected in front of a bright xenon bulb, shoots images onto a screen. Sadly, the advent of digital filmmaking has nearly put an end to this classic format, but there are still lovers of the medium — and movie houses that love to show it. At the Sie FilmCenter, the experienced projection team doesn't just show films; they love and respect the magical material on which they're made, and during screenings, they take care that every frame is in focus and the light and sound are perfect. As a result, the next time you watch something digitally, you may wish you were seeing it on film at the Sie.

Launched in 2012, Process Reversal is a nonprofit that has offered dozens of workshops in processing and developing motion-picture film by hand with chemicals, in DIY darkrooms and with hodgepodge gear. The group, which recently launched a screening series with the Sie FilmCenter, has taken equipment from now-defunct film laboratories and post-houses and has begun to use it in workshops; it hopes to ultimately open a community film lab where we can all process our own films.

Hands down, Collective Misnomer offers the best experimental film and media programming in Colorado. Screenings take place every few weeks, and despite the DIY nature of the endeavor, they're well-attended by punks and established artists alike. What makes each evening's lineup of shorts so strong is that programmer Adán De La Garza digs deep through online archives for the films he chooses, in the process creating programs that are both challenging and watchable — a coupling rarely found in experimental media circles. While other series scour familiar lists of filmmakers, De La Garza has a knack for finding up-and-coming artists and still managing to draw a crowd.

Drag is exhausting. You need to spend hours creating a look, an outfit, a number, and then even more time walking in shoes so high they'll give you nosebleeds. Anka Shayne, aka Jordan Gilbert, doesn't just display a willingness to do the work; she takes it to the next level. In or out of guise, you can see her wheels turning. What would happen if I poured this liquid latex on my face over my makeup? What would happen if my nails were five inches long? What if I came out wearing nothing but this sticker? Anka is a mover and a shaker who knows how to slay a stage.

Nina Montaldo, Denver's Grand Dame of Drag, will turn 68 this year. Back in 1968, a young James Martinez began to create Nina — borrowing her last name from a high-end department store that once graced our city — because it was the fierce thing to do at a time when being gay, much less a queen, was illegal. Nina's reign at the top of Denver drag has always stood for a few things: professionalism, beauty, glamour, joy and, most important, persistence. Today's drag babies may dismiss Miss Nina's aesthetics as "old-fashioned" — but there's nothing old-fashioned about fighting for your art for fifty years. If you see Nina Montaldo on a bill, do yourself a favor and take in the show.

For some performers, drag only runs skin deep. But for Ultimate Queen Yvie Oddly, aka Jovan Bridges, drag is about more than putting on makeup and a dress and lip-syncing to a pop hit, more than entertaining the masses. For Oddly, drag is a way of expressing your innermost personality, coloring outside the gender lines and using the platform to make a real statement. As a result, there's crackling electricity whenever Yvie takes the Drag Nation stage or leads her own Odd Hour show at Tracks: What you're about to watch is not only going to break the rules of everyday life, but the rules of what drag is supposed to be, as well.

The last few years have seen the drag population in Denver expand tenfold, which means that more and more queens are looking for a spot where they can lip-sync their hearts out. While Denver lost a few stages over the past year, it gained Blush & Blu, a cozy bar and coffeehouse that has been expanding its relationship within the gay community and offering its space for many different types of performances. And no one has embraced the place as much as this city's drag stars. Blush & Blu takes pride in its new role, and has secured a critical item any would-be drag stage needs to be legit: a spotlight to show off the faces and hard work of our fiercest performers. The future looks bright!

For nine years, RuPaul has turned every season of RuPaul's Drag Race into a gay holiday; viewers make a fourteen-week commitment to see who'll emerge as the next drag superstar. Here at home, that devotion inspired the Ultimate Queen Competition, which takes the best new drag talent in Denver and stages its own battle royale. If you want to take Denver's drag temperature, catch an Ultimate Queen night; you'll soon see who's polished and who's about to become polish remover. Gentlemen, start your engines — and may the best woman win!

"This is the top of the nation!" For eight years, Tracks has taken host Nina Flowers's clever tagline to heart when describing its Drag Nation show, a drag spectacle on the last Friday of every month. On this stage, a queen can realize the fantasy she's been dreaming of her whole life, complete with lights, stage decor and dancers — via the talents of the hot and nimble Denver Dance members. Most important, these performers get to share the spotlight with Nina and the talented cast members who've all earned their place on the showbill. While Drag Nation also celebrates the guest talents of RuPaul's Drag Race, our own homegrown hotties are the real stars of the show.

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