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|February 12-18, 2009
Kathy and Robin Beeck put Boulder on the big screen
by Adam Perry
Kathy and Robin Beeck, the founders and directors of the 5-year-old Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) have lived in Boulder for more than 30 years and grew up working at local theaters. As a 15-year-old “popcorn girl,” Robin once even found herself working alone at night in a theater that was showing a porn film called Beneath the Valley of the Ultra Vixens. “I wondered why there were so many single men in raincoats,” she giddily told me in a recent interview at the Beeck sisters’ downtown office.
In case you’re wondering, the point of Robin telling me that story was that, yes, long ago there were more places in Boulder to see movies than at Century Theatres and occasionally at the Boulder Theater or on the sides of buildings. “It’s gotten smaller and smaller, and now there’s just the cinemaplex,” Kathy mused. Which is part of the reason why local film festivals are so important.
BIFF is a non-profit organization that also participates in community outreach, such as free screenings for local youth and low-income seniors. But Kathy and Robin’s interest in starting BIFF really just came from their love of films and festivals, such as those in Aspen, Telluride and Toronto.
“It’s really all about the parties, the receptions and the Q&A’s… getting to be around the filmmakers and feel like the movies are alive,” Kathy said. “We’re not trying to grow so fast. We’ve only been around for five years, so we’re infants... and that gives us room to move, to try things, to figure it all out. We’re looking to put on a solid four-day festival, do it well, and grow slowly. And it gets better every year.”
This year, BIFF has a musical theme, but that wasn’t planned. “It kind of just happened,” Robin told me. “We looked at the films that were selected this year and noticed all these movies about Johnny Cash, Philip Glass, Youssou N’Dour... and realized music was the main thing going on this year as far as a subject.” There will also be films about barbershop singing, Russian fight songs, and even Anvil! The Story of Anvil, a hit documentary about the zany but massively influential ’70s Canadian metal gods Anvil, who are kind of like the real-life version of Spinal Tap.
The 2009 BIFF has drama, comedy, international documentaries and even an epic, prize-winning film about a London neurosurgeon who travels to Kiev in an attempt to almost single-handedly develop technologically advanced medicine in the Ukraine. Plus, for the first time, BIFF will have a tribute. As part of Saturday’s Valentine’s Gala, legendary actor, comedian and writer Chevy Chase will appear at the Boulder Theater to receive a lifetime achievement award in a ceremony preceded by a concert featuring the Hazel Miller Jazz Trio.
The inclusion of so much music and comedy, says Kathy, is “to lighten things up. Music and theater were a big part of how people coped with the [Great] Depression, and we’re living in hard times now, too.”
But what’s most interesting to me about this year’s BIFF — aside from Sita Sings the Blues, a brilliant Hindu cartoon version of the Indian epic Ramayana with 1920s blues recordings as its soundtrack — are the many local filmmakers who will be featured. Among them are Stage IV: A Journey Into the Unknown, a documentary about a Boulder woman named Anne Bermingham who is given nine months to live and agrees to allow the ensuing experience to be recorded on film; and American Outrage, the stunning story of two elderly western Shoshone women who are being viciously pursued by the American government (and hungry gold companies) for grazing horses on valuable land that was treatied to the Shoshone in the middle of the 19th century. The film was directed by Colorado filmmakers Beth and George Gage, and one of the Shoshone sisters will even be in attendance this weekend to speak after the film.
However, perhaps the most intriguing Boulder story is 22-year-old former Channel 54 talk show host Luke Eberl, whose feature film Choose Connor (a Steven Weber-led thriller about a teenager’s role in a heated Senate race) is showing Friday afternoon at the Boulder Public Library.
“I remember several years ago me and my sister (the producer of Choose Connor) Karuna were walking up Skunk Canyon with our dogs and talking about how great it would be if Boulder had a film festival that was not a niche festival like Moondance,” said Eberl. “We were fans of the movies the Beeck sisters made, like Grandpa’s in the Tuff Shed and Free Boulder, so we talked to them about the idea, and they were very enthusiastic. Karuna and I eventually became too busy to keep working on it, but Kathy and Robin continued on with BIFF and have done a brilliant job. It’s a world-class cultural event that is good for the community, and it’s all thanks to the hard work, talent, perseverance and good taste of Robin and Kathy.”
On the Bill:
The Boulder International Film Festival will take place February 12-15 at various locations around Boulder. For more information, go to www.biff1.com or call 303-449-2283.
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