Having followed film trends for the Washington Times prior to moving to Colorado, I’ve been gushing over the Starz Denver Film Festival as if it were a successful first date. It’s nearing an end, but there’s still time to catch tense dramas, heady documentaries, and witty shorts. Even at this late date, the schedule can be dizzying, so I’ve rounded up three must-see films for this weekend, as well as a handful of other favorites. Tickets start at 12 bucks, and directors are often in the audience to explain the movie magic.

Carancho is a drama that surveys the million-dollar market resulting from the 8,000 car-accident deaths that occur annually in Argentina—from lawyers preying on clients in hospital beds to cops lining their wallets with cash from backdoor deals. Argentinean filmmaker Pablo Trapero uncovers the layers behind this corruption in Buenos Aires similar to the way David Simon makes criminal connections in Baltimore for The Wire. The romantic storyline between a doctor and a lawyer keeps this film upbeat and sexy between scenes of burning cars and bloody hospitals. Click for showtimes and locations.

Tiny Furniture had a great showing at South by Southwest 2010, winning Best Narrative Feature and national street cred for 23-year-old director, writer, and star Lena Dunham. It’s about post-college angst: moving back to her mother’s house, her film-theory degree versus her restaurant job, and romantic attempts with a guy who makes “Nietzschean cowboy” YouTube videos. Dunham is like the charming over-sharer at a dinner party: You’ll be cringing at the candid honesty but be won over by the wit of her storytelling. Click for showtimes and locations.

The emotional documentary One Lucky Elephant explores questions of animal captivity through its star, Flora the elephant. Her trainer faces the difficult question of what to do with Flora when she retires from the circus. As he attempts to find her a home, the 16-year relationship between elephant and trainer creates the heart of this film. That personal lens—as opposed to agenda-driven politics or 20-minute endangered-baby-seal closeups—is an effective tool for engaging in a thoughtful discussion of animal rights. Click for showtimes and locations.

3 More Quick Picks

Leading Ladies: This ballroom-dance comedy about familial relationships and frantic stage moms is directed by married Coloradans Erika Randall Beahm and Daniel Beahm. Times and locations.

Armadillo: This intense documentary chronicles Danish soldiers on a humanitarian mission in Afghanistan, bringing to life the realities of war. Times and locations.

A Screaming Man: Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2010 Cannes International Film Festival, this film follows an aging, former swim champion of Africa as he’s reduced to working at a hotel pool—until his boss gives the job to the man’s son. Times and locations.