Colorado has its share of notable Film Festivals and the Festivus Film Festival is cementing its place among them. The Festivus Film Festival was born of the same "Seinfeld" sentiment most people associate to the phrase: "A Festivus for the Rest of Us."
Denver Indie filmmakers Johnathan McFarlane and Tim DeMasters got the ball rolling 4 years ago after putting their film "Project Canada" on the Festival circuit. Like the Festivus holiday, the filmmakers wanted to do something in reaction to their equally exciting and frustrating journey.
Making lemonade from lemons? McFarlane and DeMasters have mixed up an Arnold Palmer-Wild Blueberry-Vodka-Spiked toast to that sour taste left in the mouths of many indie filmmakers. That cocktail is a personal favorite I indulged at the after-party festivities of Festivus and I toast it to one of Denver's best events.
As McFarlane said of the 2011 Festivus, "Everything was bigger and better. We feel like we've had a great festival since year one, but this year it really exploded." The Festival's top-notch programming was well attended by audiences and filmmakers alike, including filmmakers from London and even Australia.
Of the screenings I saw, the documentary "Problema" was consciousness raising, the documentary "David Wants to Fly" hilariously enlightening and the "Colorado Shorts Showcase" a blast of fresh Denver talent. The 2011 Festivus Award winners exemplify the exceptional programming as well.
The award for Best Editing went to the short, but inspirational Surf Documentary set in Bali "Calling on Others" from Scott LeDuc and Andrew Matthews and Best Cinematography was awarded to Brant Hadfield's expressively enigmatic short "The Last Legend." Screening at the Twisted Tales Short program, Noella Borie's adorable creepy film "The Face Shop" garnered Best Animation. Twist Tales also screened the winner for Best Experimental Film, Adam Badlotto's "Only in Dreams."
At Saturday's Awards Blow Out party, German Synthpop duo Total Ghost tore up the dance floor, also providing Evan Nix the Best Music Video award for his visualization of their "Tour Life." Careening into darker corners of Festivus was the award for Best Short, which went to Joe Petrilla's existential piece "THE LINE." Transcending its way into the lighter side of existentialism was the magical realism of Marisa Brown's "Rain for Morgan", which won Best Narrative Short. Robert Sickels smacked a home run to audiences with his briefly epic wiffle-ball doc, "Walla Walla Wiffle" taking Best Documentary Short.
In the feature length Festivus programming the award for Best Narrative went to Michael Morrissey's psycho-thriller about the duality of heroism, "Boy Wonder." The award for Best Documentary Feature went to Andrew Eddy's profound look at a human's place in nature, following a woman's month-long swim down an at-risk river in "Awakening the Skeena." The Festival's Image Award went to their Hospitality Liaison Trever Alters, who made Denver a home away from home for visiting filmmakers.
Much of the programming at Festivus harbored the ability to leap off the screen and truly affect receptive audiences. It ran the gamut from the absurdly hilarious and emotionally triumphant, to the vicarious darkness that filmmakers shelter us from by keeping it on the screen. This is indie off the mainstream grid, where feats of cinema come from truly independent filmmakers sacrificing everything to get that movie in your mind.
As McFarlane said, "Filmmakers were thrilled about the festival and several told me personally it was the best fest they'd ever been to. I received just as many comments from the audience about how much they loved the film and loved being able to meet the filmmakers themselves."
Festivals are all about recharging that energy lost through distribution channels, where the umbilical cord of experience is cut between creator and audience. Festivus provided that unpretentious environment where one big melting pot of energy simmers between the movers and those they leave shaking in their seats.
Hopefully 2012 will bring on the indie even more, as McFarlane promises, "the day after the fest ended...we've already begun prep for next year. It's crazy to think about it right now, but this is our passion, so it feels weird to not have to think about it."
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