Like so many birthdays this year, Crested Butte Film Festival’s 10-year celebration looks a bit different than expected. Instead of its usual four-day, in-person fest, participants can view the 100 films featured this year over the span of 10 days from the comfort of their couches.
Alongside 12 films with Colorado ties, six films at this year’s event speak to the current state of race relations in the nation, according to festival spokesperson Maria Hennessey. The festival normally kicks off with a bike parade and giveaways, but the recent buzz in the “wacky, fun” town stems around a newly commissioned Black Lives Matter mural, Hennessey said.
“The Crested Butte community is a fairly non-diverse white community; there aren’t that many people of color here…but it’s a really progressive and open-minded community,” Hennessey said. “Anytime you have a platform like this, and you have the option to showcase certain film topics … that’s always been a focal point for the festival, and it seems like it’s important now more than ever.”
The six race-related films touch on multiple topics: Activized follows seven Americans who get involved in political issues, like gun violence, voting rights, and immigrants’ rights. Mossville: When Great Trees Fall highlights a town in Louisiana where residents are forced from their homes. That’s Wild follows three underprivileged teens as they climb four of Colorado’s snow capped mountains. Us Kids dives into the aftermath of the Parkland shooting and gun laws in America. The Usual Route highlights Blackness in West Virginia and follows a man’s daily route between collecting garbage and selling drugs. Burden shows the true story behind Mike Burden’s exodus from the Ku Klux Klan.
“Simply put, at Crested Butte Film Festival we believe that film can change lives,” wrote Michael Brody, the festival’s artistic and programming director, in an email to 5280. “Through the transformative power of film, Crested Butte Film Festival fosters connection and inspires creativity, cultural awareness, and social action. Our organization harnesses stories to bridge divides, providing an opportunity to view different perspectives and create life-changing experiences.”
Tickets to access the entire film collection cost $75 (compared to $250 last year), but on September 30 at 7 p.m., the festival is hosting a free and open panel to encourage discussion around racism and inclusion. The panel, titled “An Unusual Route: Dialogues Around Systemic Representations,” includes activists, professors, and creatives who incorporate equity and diversity into their everyday work.
Steven Dunn, one of the film’s panelists, is the author of Potted Meat, the book on which The Usual Route is based on. Dunn, a creative writing professor at Regis University, said that it’s rare that a film festival hosts a space to have self-reflective conversations.
Dunn said he was skeptical at first as he is usually the only person of color on panels like this. “But the organizers went into it, listening very much to everybody on the panel, and let us plan what we want to talk about and discuss,” Dunn says. “They didn’t guide it or anything, they totally gave it to us like, This is your space. Talk about what y’all want to talk about. We just want to provide this space.”
Dunn hopes those tuning in to the discussion walk away with a desire to take action—the way the panelists have continually been taking action in their personal and professional lives.
“We all must try harder to understand and overcome racism and social injustice in our world,” Brody wrote in an email. “We commit to being part of the solution, to listen, to learn, and evaluate the ways we can be better allies.”