The 45th Denver Film Festival concludes this weekend with a full slate of features and shorts, documentaries and narratives, and even a party or two. You can find the full lineup at denverfilm.org, but here are three offerings that oughta make your dance card.
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‘Gods of Mexico’ (2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 – Sie FilmCenter: H1)
Free from narrative and dialogue, Gods of Mexico is more a sensory experience than a story. It is a silent observation of Mexico’s Indigenous men and women, identified only by title cards notating the region.
The documentary is divided into three sections. In the first, two men dig a deep hole in the ground and then methodically fill it with rocks. Then the rocks are destroyed under the watchful eye of an old timer in aviator sunglasses and a straw hat. Why? The answer to that question intersects with another group of workers silently harvesting salt from nearby plots.
From here, director Helmut Dosantos breaks into a section of pure portraiture before picking up with a group of miners tunneling deep below the surface. At no point does Dosantos ground the viewer or pause to explain his intentions. Instead, he leaves audiences with stunning cinematography and a wonderful exercise in imagination.
‘Close’ (6:45 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 – Sie FilmCenter: H2)
Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele) are close. And since they’re both 13 years old, they have no qualms when it comes to showing their affection for each other. But they won’t be 13 forever, and as their emotions begin to close off, social pressures and playground bullying quickly shift them to a familiar emotional place.
Writer-director Lukas Dhont used non-professional actors for Close and struck gold in Dambrine. His ability to express everything while withholding just enough matches Dhont and cinematographer Frank van den Eeden’s camera — which stays close but can’t help but look away during tragic moments. It’s a powerful movie that would feel utterly crushing if not for the happy ending. Maybe it’ll feel contrived to you, but after this much sadness, contrivances might be all we got.
‘Wildcat’ (3:45 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13 – AMC: H2)
That leads us nicely into Wildcat, a documentary about a young British soldier struggling with PTSD in the Amazon rainforest. He is Harry Turner, an Afghanistan vet who travels to South America to help his girlfriend, Samantha Zwicker, rescue and relocate ocelots from Amazonian deforestation.
Directed by Trevor Beck Frost and Melissa Lesh, Wildcat is a sweet movie with all the depth of a car decal. You know the one — it’s in the shape of an animal’s paw and asks: “Who rescued who?” That might seem like a mean swipe at an otherwise genuine doc, but Wildcat raises as many questions about ethics in documentary production as it provides insight into Turner’s ongoing struggles with depression and PTSD.
But the film’s heart is in the right place and, at the very least, has one of the cutest stars of the whole festival: Keanu, a baby ocelot with a beautiful pumpkin-colored coat and black ink splotches.
ON SCREEN: The 45th Denver Film Festival, Nov. 10–13, multiple venues. Tickets here.