Two film festivals return this weekend, both celebrating milestone anniversaries.
Let’s start at the Dairy Arts Center, with the 10th annual Boulder Jewish Film Festival. Screening 18 international movies from Nov. 3–13, the BJFF opens Thursday with the Boulder premiere of Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song. You know the song. You probably know John Cale’s version, maybe even Jeff Buckley’s. You’ve heard it in movies like Watchman and TV shows like Scrubs. We’re not talking just iconic, but ubiquitous. But you might not know the number of revisions Cohen went through while writing and performing the song and the reasons — personal, spiritual and commercial — that went into the song’s composition. Directors Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine assemble an impressive collection of interviews, a slew of archival material and more renditions of “Hallelujah” than you ever knew you needed.
And as long as we’re talking docs, make sure to carve out time for Speer Goes to Hollywood (Nov. 4), Israeli director Vanessa Lapa’s excoriation of Albert Speer. Speer was Adolph Hitler’s ally and chief architect, but unlike Hermann Göring and Alfred Jodi, he was not sentenced to death at the Nuremberg trials. His excuse: He did not know about the crimes being committed — though he had no qualms claiming that upwards of 12 million toiled under him as slave labor.
In 1969, Speer wrote a bestselling memoir, Inside the Third Reich. Paramount tried to adapt the book into a feature film, and Lapa uses the meetings between Speer and Hollywood screenwriter Andrew Birkin as the framing device to explore Speer’s life, his complicity and Hollywood’s fascination with trying to find men among monsters. It’s a powerful and troubling documentary that won’t leave you any time soon.
Down south, the 45th Denver Film Festival (DFF) unspools across the Mile High City over the next two weekends. Sticking with the documentary theme, DFF offers quite a few worth your time, including Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter (Nov. 3 and 8).
A driven perfectionist and a kitchen tyrant, Trotter was known for putting Chicago on the fine dining map in the 1990s and for never serving the same dish twice — and that’s over 25 years of service, 10 courses a night. Trotter was among the first wave of celebrity chefs and gave vegetables their due on the dinner table. Both of which director Rebecca Halpern highlights in this fascinating and engaging doc that falters at the finish line by papering over one of Trotter’s demons.
That’s not the issue in All That Breathes (Nov. 9 and 10), Shaunak Sen’s documentary about two Muslim brothers rescuing and rehabilitating kite birds from New Delhi’s smog-choked skies, and Good Night Oppy (Nov. 3), Ryan White’s crowd-pleasing look at NASA’s Mars rover mission, Opportunity. All That Breathes is quiet and contemplative — like a chamber piece. Good Night Oppy is bombastic and direct and loaded with pop-fueled needle drops. Both are family friendly, and depending on what field of study your little ones are interested in, they’re sure they’ll find inspiration here.