The Starz Denver Film Festival presents high-brow cinema

Actor Ed Harris will be honored at the Starz Denver Film Festival.

November is already upon us, so it’s time to put away the Halloween gear, recover from the candy hangover, and get the popcorn ready. A local cinematic holiday is just around the corner, as this month marks the 32nd year of the Starz Denver Film Festival (SDFF), bringing a slew of indie and art-house films to the Boulder and Denver area.

The 10-day festival begins Nov. 12 at the Starz FilmCenter at the Tivoli Student Union in Denver. The festival is a rare opportunity for general audiences to explore feature films heavy with artistic merit but light on commercial distribution. The audience will also vote on the best short films of the festival, several of which will be shown before each full-length film.

Among the highlights for this year is the annual Red Carpet Gala Event, which will take place prior to the premiere of Precious (based on the novel Push by Sapphire).

As part of the festival’s international focus, this year brings the Festival de Cine Mexicano, a program that features many of Mexico’s most recent and influential films.

“Our festival is known for its annual focus on a national cinema, and this year, Festival de Cine Mexicano will bring to Denver eight new films, as well as a number of directors from Mexico,” says Brit Withey, SDFF artistic director. “These reflect the wide-ranging styles and themes of contemporary Mexican filmmaking.” Notable films include Ariel Gordon’s Caja Negra, Mando Alvarado and Michael Ray Escamilla’s Cruzando, and Julián Hernández’s Rabioso Sol, Rabioso Cielo.

Actor Ed Harris, who will be presented with the 2009 Mayor’s Career Achievement Award for Acting, highlights the celebrities scheduled to appear at the festival. Hal Holbrook (All the President’s Men, Into the Wild) will receive the festival’s Excellence in Acting award.

“We are honored to present the award to the talented and prolific actor Ed Harris,” said

Ron Henderson, SDFF founder and senior program advisor. “His long and impressive career is marked by all the right stuff: dedication, versatility, integrity, keen instinct and courage.”

Since Landmark Theatres closed in Boulder, the only viable alternative to mainstream cinema has been the Boulder International Film Series, which for the 10th straight year will run a Boulder-based preview of some of the SDFF events, beginning Nov. 13.

“These are the same festival prints that screen at the Telluride Film Festival or Cannes, where people pay anywhere from $20 to much more, and yet we keep the price affordable,” explains BIFS Program Director Pablo Kjolseth. “It’s definitely something that the Boulder community should be excited about.”

Friday will kick off with Gustav Deutsch’s Film Ist. A Girl & a Gun. This experimental and psychedelic venture into human mythology and cinema attempts to illuminate Jean-Luc Godard’s quote, “All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun.” Following that will be Leaves of Grass, a dark comedy starring Edward Norton. He plays twins scheming to take down a local drug lord in a performance lauded by many critics as his best.

Saturday opens with Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, another pitch-black comedy directed by legend Werner Herzog.

“This has my vote for the most delirious and entertaining cinematic romp of the year. It’s utterly bizarre and unexpectedly hilarious,” Kjolseth says. “Nicolas Cage ‘really lets the pig loose,’ to use Herzog’s words, which is saying something, because Cage’s methodacting mania is always chewing up the scenery. But what’s more fascinating is how the intertwining of over-the-top, campy black comedy with Herzog’s instinctive filmmaking for transcendental moments makes for a truly unique cinematic experience.” Portuguese film Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl, an atmospheric and romantic tale adapted from a short story by 19th-century “realist” Eça de Queiroz, will follow.

Best Worst Movie, showing Sunday, documents the legacy of treasured cult classic Troll 2, which has been prized as the “worst film of all time.” Appropriately shown after will be the masterpiece itself, in a rare 35mm print about which raves, “Some films are so bad, they’re great. Troll 2 is so bad it’s a life changing experience.”

Don’t forget the milk duds — or your sense of irony.

On the Bill:

The Starz Denver Film Festival begins Nov. 12. To download the full schedule, visit


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