Not too long ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences proposed eliminating the award category for short documentary film. You could argue that without exposure-generating events like the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival, that category would almost surely be gone.
And so would Karina Epperlein's hopes for an Oscar which recently ignited when her Phoenix Dance was short-listed for this year's short-documentary prize.
"As an independent artist, it [gives] me a chance," says Epperlein, who will show her film here this weekend.
The RMWFF features films that are beautifully rendered, yet easily left off the megaplex map. For instance, Phoenix Dance explores the work of a man named Homer who dances after losing one leg and most of his hip to cancer. Donna Musil's Brats: Our Journey Home documents the lives of military kids living all over the world. Unhitched, by Colorado College graduate Erin Hudson, is a documentary about a community of people who live in RVs full-time.
Now in its 19th year, the RMWFF is the longest continually running women's film festival on Earth. As usual, it promises a full schedule, kicking off with a Friday night gala and running through two days of screenings. Lunchtime forums give attendees a coveted chance to interact with the filmmakers.
As in the RMWFF tradition, featured films will uncover the intrigue in the lives of people who are not saving the world with semiautomatics, rarely deal with aliens and don't set off too many explosions; instead, each represents some thread in the fabric of our country.
For Epperlein, a German who has been a theater artist, teacher and filmmaker in the United States for 25 years, being invited to festivals like the RMWFF allow her to show her work to communities outside of Los Angeles and New York.
This year Phoenix Dance won the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival, the Madelyn's Choice Award at the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival and is now up for an Oscar. "For me, the dream is coming true," says Epperlein. "Homer is dancing all over the United States. In October, the film will be playing 32 times all over the country."
Phoenix Dance is hardly the first RMWFF film to be nominated for an Oscar. Perhaps most notably, in 2004, the festival screened Born into Brothels, a look at the triumphant spirit of several children born into Calcutta's red-light district, which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
One more advantage of the local film festival? According to Epperlein, it puts importance on the artist.
"What the festival does is treat the artist as somebody who's not a commodity but a human," she says. "We have that responsibility, as a community [to say], "This is an important role, the storyteller.'
Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival
Friday, Nov. 3, 6:30-9:40 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 4, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 5, 9 a.m. to 4:50 p.m. at the Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.
Saturday, Nov. 4, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Colorado College's Armstrong Theater, 14 E. Cache la Poudre St.
Tickets: $35-$95; call 634-5583 or visit rmwfilmfest.org for more information.