Editor's note: This year's Starz Denver Film Festival, November 12-22, features more than 200 films. To help navigate this cinematic abundance of riches, we asked fest artistic director Brit Withey to highlight some worthy selections off the beaten screening-room path. Look for Brit's Picks each weekday through the extravaganza's close.
For the final weekend of this year's fest, Withey has chosen a typically eclectic trio of films to recommend. The diversity of their origins (they were made in the U.S., Denmark and Uruguay) echoes the event's theme this year -- "Destination: Anywhere."
Friday's offering, 45365, screening at 6:30 p.m. at the Starz FilmCenter (it can also be seen on Saturday at 5 p.m.), gets its name from "the zip code for a small town in Ohio," Withey says. "It's very much cinéma vérité. There's no narration, no interviews. It's just people in town talking about what life is like there, from Friday night high school football games to the grocery store, from the local radio DJ to the postal-delivery guy."
Some filmmakers might treat such material condescendingly, but not sibling directors Turner and Bill Ross, Withey adds. He calls it "a really charming portrait of Middle America."
Applause, on view Friday at 9 p.m. and Saturday at 12:30 p.m., both at the Starz FilmCenter, demands different adjectives. This Danish film "is almost a one-woman show," notes Withey. Star Paprika Steen "takes over the whole movie. She plays a recovering, or maybe I should say attempting-to-recover, alcoholic mother who's trying to get her children back -- and she's not so successful on either count. But she's also an actor, and bits of the movie are interspersed with segments of her live on stage playing the role of Martha in a real performance of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." The juxtaposition is "just amazing," he says. Gigante, unspooling at 9:15 p.m. on Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Starz FilmCenter, hails from Uruguay, "which is nice in and of itself," Withey feels, "since we don't see many films from there."
However, Withey feels there's more to recommend the picture than the relative novelty of its homeland. "It's a really heart-wrenching story of a security guard who works night shifts. He sits in a little cubicle room at a grocery story and pans his camera down through the aisles looking for minor theft. Then, one night, this new cleaning woman appears, and he becomes rather transfixed with her. He's a big guy -- maybe not the most attractive guy in the world -- and she's this very shy young woman. And we wonder, 'Are they going to get together?'"
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Check out trailers from each of the films below: