Directors Ryan Demers and Suzan Beraza on Their Colorado-Based Starz Festival Documentaries

November 2010

This year's Starz Denver Film Festival is screening a record number of Colorado-produced flicks, and I caught up with a couple local filmmakers this week to talk about their works.

Denver-based producer/director Ryan Demers' first full-length feature, Battle for the Boot, is a documentary about a hyper-competitive, rogue kickball league made up of barfly regulars from Sputnik. These aren’t “the people who pay a $75 entry fee for matching T-shirts,” Demers says. The league in the film was free and grew to more than 200 participants.

"Nothing in this film is contrived," he points out—grown men in luchador wrestling masks delivering inspirational speeches, fights over a spray-painted ski-boot trophy, and "a lot of newbies dropping out after the first few games because they couldn't handle the heckling.... It was easy to film these characters candidly because most of them thought we were never going to actually get this film edited. Now a few people are like, oh shit, I wonder what I was doing on camera.”

Battle for the Boot earned rave reviews from 13-year-olds in the Young Filmmakers Workshop, who composed more than an hour’s worth of questions for the crew. “I’m not really sure this was a kid’s movie or what I introduced them to, but they were awesome and loved the film,” Demers says. A clip of their reactions will be shown before the movie on Saturday night.

Director Suzan Beraza found Telluride, the town she calls home, to be the perfect entry point for her documentary, Bag It, a quirky exposé on the ubiquity of plastic—particularly plastic bags—in our lives. It’s an environmental film akin to Food, Inc., surveying the landscape from the typical consumer’s point of view. The script is narrated by the approachable everyman—and George Costanza lookalike—Jeb Berrier, who is on a mission to stop using plastic bags.

“Part of why this film works is because we’re learning along with the audience,” Beraza says. “The scientists we interviewed had to break down their studies for the average person.” Her plans beyond the festival include screening the film at schools across the nation, and a deal is also on the table with Rocky Mountain PBS.

Keep an eye out for Berrier around the festival. He’s been swishing around in a suit made from thousands of plastic bags.

Check the Starz Festival website for showtimes.