Since 2004, the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF), has showcased some of the most influential documentaries and movie releases of our time. This year will be no different.

From March 3 to 6, BIFF will not only bring a who’s who of national and international filmmakers stateside, but it will also stand up local talent. To wit: Three feature-length documentaries selected for the event were directed and produced by native Coloradans.

Here, we break down what those local directors hope audiences will take away, and how the Centennial State played a role in the films’ productions.

Imperfect feature documentary
Adam during rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Brian Malone

Imperfect, directed by Brian Malone and Regan Linton

An inside look at Phamaly Theater Production’s run of the musical Chicago, this raw yet heart-warming documentary follows actors with disabilities, such as autism and cerebral palsy, as they navigate the challenges of the show’s run. The film is co-directed by and starring Regan Linton, a Denver native who uses a wheelchair, and Brian Malone, an Emmy Award–winning filmmaker from Castle Rock. Winner of a People’s Choice Award at the Denver Film Festival in 2021, Imperfect challenges played-out notions of disability, such as the assumption of incapacity, and exposes the humanity and brilliance within this company of actors.

What do you hope audiences take away from your documentary?
Brian Malone: It’s an opportunity for everyone to kind of reexamine their own views of people with disabilities. There are a lot of reasons right now for people to have anxiety in this world, to feel depressed. Hopefully what this film offers is a departure from doom and gloom, and a little bit of reason to feel good about the human race.

How did Colorado play a role in your film?
Regan Linton: A lot of people are not aware that Denver was the center of a lot of disability rights activism and still is. It is one of the more accessible cities in the nation because of that. I think that very much plays a role in the film. You wouldn’t find the Phamaly Theater Company elsewhere because the [non-disabled] community has not allowed for a theater company like this to exist anywhere else.

Streaming: Available to stream from March 3 at 10 a.m. to March 17 at midnight
In person: Saturday, March 5, 10 a.m. at the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont, and Sunday, March 6, 12:30 p.m. at Boulder High School

This Is Not Who We Are documentary
Still photo of Zayd. Photo courtesy of Beret E. Strong and Katrina Miller.

This Is [Not] Who We Are, directed by Katrina Miller and Beret E. Strong

The city of Boulder prides itself on being a progressive safe haven for independent thinkers, free spirits, and people of all backgrounds. But is that really true? This Is [Not] Who We Are retells the story of two incidents of police brutality in 2019 against Black residents. Ultimately, the documentary, which was made by two Boulder natives, explores the gap between the city’s liberal veneer and its much more conservative reality and history when it comes to its Black community.

What do you hope audiences take away from your documentary?
Beret E. Strong: There are a lot of white people in Boulder who like to think that we’ve never really had a lot of Black people here. They even make jokes about it. That’s not funny to me at all. This community’s been here [and lived] through all sorts of adversity for 150 years. To not see who’s here is not cool. There’s beautiful historical imagery in the film. I want people to say, Oh, I don’t see my community the same, not just, Oh, we’re more racist than we thought. I want them to see there’s actually history here.

How did Colorado play a role in your film?
Katrina Miller: Boulder is what I know. Boulder in itself, though, is just so unique because of how it presents itself, and how the people here really carry themselves as if there are no problems and as if nothing is going wrong. It was just really important to break that myth apart about this particular place in Colorado.

Streaming: Available to stream from March 3 at 10 a.m. to March 17 at midnight
In person: Sunday, March 6, 10 a.m. at Boulder High School. There will be a call to action event after this screening, where audience members can hear from important leaders in Boulder’s Black community, such as Annett James, the president of NAACP Boulder County Branch.

Mighty Oak documentary
Dr. Oakleigh Thorne II in conversation. Photo courtesy of Pamela Hoge

Mighty Oak, directed by Pamela Hoge and Christine Anderson

For environmentalists, 93-year-old Dr. Oakleigh Thorne II is a figure of superhero stature due to his enduring passion for preserving outdoor spaces. The extraordinary Boulder resident, who goes by Oak, spent his life educating, inspiring, and advocating for the preservation of the natural environment here in Colorado and beyond. A documentary by two Colorado natives, Pamela Hoge and Christine Anderson, Mighty Oak profiles the legacy of a man who created several lasting nonprofit organizations—including Thorne Ecological Institute, an environmental education program for kids in Colorado—long before the conception of the Environmental Protection Agency.

What do you hope audiences take away from your documentary?
Pamela Hoge: I hope that everybody leaves this film feeling like, I can do something. It’s so easy to feel like, Oh I can’t, I’m not smart enough or good enough. Hopefully they’ll come away with knowing they can be a part of helping repair this world. Oak is not an abnormal human being. He is not a superhuman, but he is mighty.

How did Colorado play a role in your film?
Christine Anderson: Oak’s legacy through the Thorne Ecological Center and then Thorne Nature Experience has inspired many others to care for the environment in Colorado and beyond. When he first came to Colorado, he helped start many national environmental organizations that have directly impacted Colorado. His efforts in environmental preservation in Colorado led to the very first environmental impact statement, [a legal tool that outlines environmental impacts of actions taken by the state] in the United States.

Streaming: Available to stream from March 3 at 10 a.m. to March 17 at midnight
In person: Friday, March 4, 12:30 p.m. at the Grace Commons

Shorter Documentary Selections from Local Directors

1-2-3 The Len Barry Story, directed and produced by Tom Parkin
Len Barry, or Leonard Warren Borisoff, was an American rock star, producer, author, and poet known best as the lead singer of The Dovells in the 1960s. This film takes the audience through his musical journey as the group’s frontman and acclaimed solo artist.
Streaming: Available to stream from March 3 at 10 a.m. to March 17 at midnight
In person: Friday, March 4, 12:30 p.m. at the Grace Commons

Link Star, directed by Graham Zimmerman and produced by Jim Aikman
In 2019, elite American alpinist Graham Zimmerman set out to climb one of the world’s most challenging unclimbed peaks, Link Star in northern Pakistan, alongside Steve Swenson, Chris Wright, and Mark Richey. This short documentary captures their assent into the unknown.
Streaming: Available to stream from March 3 at 10 a.m. to March 17 at midnight
In person: Sunday, March 6, 12:30 p.m. at the eTown Hall, and Sunday, March 6, 8 p.m. at the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont

Girls Gotta Eat Dirt, directed and produced by Elliot Wilkinson-Ray
This film follows avid mountain bikers and adrenaline junkies Avra Saslow, Clare Hamilton, and Delilah Cupp across some of the finest dirt trails in Silverton, Colorado.
Streaming: Available to stream from March 3 at 10 a.m. to March 17 at midnight
In person: Saturday, March 5, 5:30 p.m. at the Grace Commons, Sunday, March 6, 12:30 p.m. at the eTown Hall, Sunday, March 6, 8 p.m. the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont

From My Window, director Frank Pickell
Since she was a child, Melissa Simpson has gazed longingly at Colorado’s impressive mountain ranges from her bedroom window. Born with cerebral palsy, summiting these peaks symbolizes both her biggest dream and greatest obstacle. With the help of her friend and mentor, blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer, Melissa sets out to accomplish her lifetime goal and join a community of outdoor explorers.
Streaming: Available to stream from March 3 at 10 a.m. to March 17 at midnight
In person: Saturday, March 5, 5:30 p.m. at the Grace Commons, Sunday, March 6, 12:30 p.m. at eTown Hall, and Sunday, March 6, 8 p.m. at the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont

Goal Zero Power Moves, directed and produced by Justin Boyer and Andy Earl
Quinn Brett, an Estes Park native, became the first adaptive hand-bike cyclist to complete the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route this past June. Goal Zero Power Moves chronicles Brett’s personal achievement.
Streaming: Available to stream from March 3 at 10 a.m. to March 17 at midnight
In person: Friday, March 4, 5:45 p.m. at the Grace Commons, and Saturday, March 5, 12:30 p.m. at the Stewart Auditorium in Longmont

Learning to Drown, directed by Ben Knight and produced by Travis Rummel
When personal tragedy struck at the peak of her career, professional snowboarder Jess Kimura went through a difficult time. Learning to Drown documents the determination and perseverance of an athlete who refuses to be defined by her failures.
Streaming: Available to stream from March 3 at 10 a.m. to March 17 at midnight
In person: Sunday, March 6, 3 p.m. at the Grace Commons

If you go: Tickets to the festival are available at the online box office. A festival pass is $495. BIFF Gift Packs are available at $34 (two film tickets), $68 (four film tickets), and $100 (six film tickets).