Film fest transforms movie entertainment


Some say Hollywood films can be pretty terrible and even seem to be getting worse. Filmmakers seemed to run out of ideas when remakes of already remade films were being released such as “The Thing,” which was first produced in 1951, and remade in 1982, and then remade again in 2011. A weekly arts and cultural publication in Philadelphia called “34th Street” magazine reported 30 sequels and remakes will be produced by Hollywood this year.

The 5th annual DocuWest Film Fest instead offers 46 documentaries including genres such as drama, comedy, action, music and horror.

The fest took off on Sept. 11 at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden with the screening of its opening night film “Good ol’ Freda” by director Ryan White. The film featured Freda Kelly who worked as a secretary to The Beatles. Kelly shares her insight into the band for the first time in 50 years.

“This film itself is really starting to pick up some momentum,” said Wade Gardner, co-founder and artistic director for the DocuWest Film Fest. “It’s just a marvelous film.”

The film was followed by a surprise performance by FourEver Fab, a Beatles tribute band from Denver.

The fest runs until Sunday, Sept. 15, with a free screening to “Mile … Mile & A Half” as a conclusion to the fest. The film by Jason Fitzpatrick and Ric Serena follows five friends as they conquer California’s historic John Muir Trail over the span of 25 days during a heavy snow year.

“One of the themes for us internally is to really have the festival be a place of gathering and of community for folks to come,” Gardner said. “We just try to do our best to try and set the table for that.”

Golden’s own American Mountaineering Center which will house some of the film presentations this year is coincidentally tied to one feature short “Keeper of the Mountains,” by Allison Otto and sponsored by the American Alpine Club. The documentary profiles Elizabeth Hawley, who has recorded and archived every climbing expedition to the Himalayas for the past 50 years of her life.

It’s a “prime example of what document films can do and that’s give us the unexpected,” commented Gardner on the film short.

When Hawley passes away, her archives will come to Golden and be stored at the American Alpine Club library located at the American Mountaineering Center and will be available to the public for research.

“This is a phenomenal addition to our collection,” said Elizabeth Surles, American Alpine Club library director. “She’s a remarkable woman,” said Surles about Elizabeth Hawley.

“She’s kind of a singular figure in mountaineering history because I can’t think of any other person who has spent their entire life documenting this and devoted so much energy to supporting this community,” she said.

There are a total of 21 shorts films that will be packaged together instead of shown separately.

Included in these packages are exclusive documentaries written and directed by University of Denver students.

The DocuWest website provides a list of films from feature to shorts that will be played during the 2013 festival at various locations. Some films to note include State of Control for those seeking a political suspense thrill and insight in cyber security, the latest threat posed to U.S. national security. Directed by Christian Johnston of Evergreen, and Darren Mann, the film captures their intent to record protests against the Chinese government in China and Tibet.

They soon become the targets of China’s invasive secret police who follow them through China, and eventually back home to the U.S. “A Will for the Woods,” is a touching and inspiring portrait of psychiatrist Clark Wang’s battle with lymphoma and his preparations for death and a funeral through his wish of a green burial, a popular topic and method of burial today sparked by the green burial movement. “The Castle Project” is a ghostly thriller by Brian Higgins, Denver filmmaker and architect, who records his renovation to a notoriously haunted hotel.

If pressed for time and unable to attend any of the films that will be featured at the DocuWest, their website is still worth checking out to write down some film titles. According to Gardner, contact info for filmmakers at the documentary’s website is easy to get, and they will usually send you a copy of their movie.

“That’s actually how I find their film a lot of the times,” Gardner said.


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