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After a season of controversy, the Denver Film Society's new executive director looks ahead.
When twenty-plus staffers, including top management, quit the Denver Film Society (DFS) in June because of unresolved tension with a new executive director and the board of directors, anxious questions arose among local movie lovers. What about Film on the Rocks? Will there still be a Denver Film Festival this year? Do we have to catch our movies at—gulp—the local multiplex?
A little less than a month later, the organization replaced its director, Bo Smith, with a new boss, Tom Botelho; all the departed employees returned to their posts; and festival planning resumed. Botelho was far from an outsider. He's been on the Film Society's board for 13 years, has more than 20 years in the advertising business, and spent 11 years in marketing positions at the Denver Post and Denver Newspaper Agency. What compelled him to take on the DFS full-time? "There wasn't a lot of convincing to be had," he says. "I love this place. We live in a very evolved city. [Mayor John] Hickenlooper is really a big believer in the culture class."
Botelho says the Film Society's 2,000-member core audience is 40 to 60 years old, so his first priority is to diversify. The DFS plans to lure students with free screenings and hip film programs, plus a partnership with the University of Colorado Denver's College of Arts & Media. The group is creating an enhanced WomenPlus film program to attract movies by, for, and about women, and DFS is also hoping to draw more Hispanic interest for this year's Starz Denver Film Festival by focusing on Mexican cinema and collaborating with Aurora's Cinema Latino, which will provide Spanish-language films.
With presales putting the Starz festival on target to follow last year—the most well-attended festival in its history, with more than 42,000 attendees—and other international cinema programs lined up, such as December's highly stylized Japanese screenings, a Film Society that seemed to be teetering on the edge a few months ago has righted its ship. The multiplex, thankfully, can wait. (Nov. 12-22, www.denverfilm.org)