The arrival of autumn in Denver brings its share of zombie crawls and pumpkin ales, but it also means the arrival of Denver Arts Week, with the annual Denver Film Festival (DFF) taking center stage. The 11-day festival begins October 31 and will screen more than 200 of the year’s best in foreign and American independent cinema—not to mention plenty of Academy Award hopefuls. From films featuring Colorado stories to the rich foreign offerings and potential Oscar winners, here’s a look at the can’t-miss screenings at this year’s Denver Film Festival.
Close To Home
Colorado connections have always been an important cornerstone in the DFF’s program, and this year is no exception. The most notable is Jason Reitman’s latest film, The Front Runner, about Colorado’s former U.S. Senator Gary Hart. Hugh Jackman plays the former presidential candidate who sought the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 1988, and the film chronicles his rise and subsequent fall from grace. “When a Denver audience watches this film and the Brown Palace is mentioned, that will mean something, which is why director Jason Reitman always planned on screening it here,” says Britta Erickson, festival director. The Oscar-nominated director will be in attendance for the screening, along with his co-screenwriters Matt Bai and Jay Caron. Thursday, November 8, 8 p.m.; Ellie Caulkins Opera House, 1385 Curtis St.
Another film that will resonate with Colorado audiences is We Are Columbine, a documentary from Columbine High School alumna Laura Farber. The film tells the story of one of the country’s first major mass shootings—and one of Colorado’s darkest days—from the point of view of the students, teachers, and administrators who lived through the tragedy and still grapple with it to this day. Saturday and Sunday, November 3–4, 1:30 p.m. Sie FilmCenter, 2510 E. Colfax Ave.
For Colorado’s adventure seekers, The Weight of Water is a must-see. This inspiring documentary chronicles the journey of Erik Weihenmayer, a Golden resident who was the first blind person to summit Mt. Everest and who kayaked the rapids of the Colorado River without his sight. Friday, November 9, 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, November 10, 1:30 p.m.; Sunday, November 11, 4:30 p.m., Sie FilmCenter
This year’s festival is particularly rich in foreign cinema. Many of the year’s most acclaimed films from the world’s top film festivals will be screening in Denver over the next two weeks. Most notable in the lineup is Roma, the latest film by Alfonso Cuarón. This black-and-white film, which won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival in September, paints a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy in Mexico in the 1970s, and it’s also the first Netflix film to ever screen at the Denver Film Festival. Roma will compete at the 91st Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category as the official submission for Mexico. Saturday, November 10, 2 p.m.; Ellie Caulkins Opera House
The festival will also screen 13 films that have been selected by their respective countries as their official submission for the Oscars. This list includes Cold War from Poland, Shoplifters from Japan, Capernaum from Lebanon, and Burning from South Korea.
Other Oscar Contenders
For festival-goers who are seeking awards-worthy performances, put Peter Farrelly’s Green Book on your list. The film, which is set in the Deep South during the early 1960s, offers a poignant road trip that gets to the heart of the horrors of racism. Viggo Mortensen (The Lords of the Rings trilogy) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) deliver two of the best male performances of the year. Thursday, November 1, 4 p.m.; Saturday, November 3, 10:30 a.m.; Sie FilmCenter
There are also some incredible female performances on display this year. Keep an eye out for Olivia Colman, who delivers a career-best as Queen Anne in The Favourite, this year’s opening night film (Wednesday, October 31, 8 p.m.; Ellie Caulkins Opera House). And with her performance in the new Peter Hedges’ film, Ben is Back, Julia Roberts is also sure to be in the running for the upcoming awards season. Friday, November 2, 9:30 p.m.; Ellie Caulkins Opera House