Thursday, August 30, 2018

CannaBus Culture Film Fest makes a CO stop to satisfy your senses

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2018 at 1:00 AM

2018 CannaBus Culture Film Fest, Aug. 31, 7 p.m., Speakeasy Vape Lounge, 2508 E. Bijou St., $20,
  • 2018 CannaBus Culture Film Fest, Aug. 31, 7 p.m., Speakeasy Vape Lounge, 2508 E. Bijou St., $20,
The third annual CannaBus Culture Film Fest, a touring showcase of cannabis themed films, is about to roll into Colorado Springs and Denver. Make no mistake; this isn’t just a casual get together of your best “buds” to watch Cheech & Chong for the 100th time. Rather, the CannaBus festival presents new and relevant films spanning genres and styles. You’ll find burnout comedies like Dude, Where’s My Ferret? of course, but also thoughtful explorations of individuals and communities like Beginning of the Road, a short documentary about veterans treating their PTSD with cannabis; and Dependence, a narrative film about a man who lives drug-free until he starts dating a girl with a self-medicated family. Drama, comedy, long, short (with some one-minute shorts on the docket), the film fest should satisfy all tastes. Plus, since it’ll be held at Speakeasy Vape Lounge, you’re welcome to partake as you watch. Word is you’ll be joined by a few “cannabis celebrities,” though organizers have so far kept their identities a surprise.
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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Paper Tigers screening offers an intimate look at schools addressing unhealthy and destructive behaviors

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2018 at 1:00 AM

Paper Tigers, Aug. 16, 5:30-8 p.m., InfoZone Theater at Rawlings Public Library, 100 E. Abriendo Ave., Pueblo, free, RSVP requested,
  • Paper Tigers, Aug. 16, 5:30-8 p.m., InfoZone Theater at Rawlings Public Library, 100 E. Abriendo Ave., Pueblo, free, RSVP requested,
Kids and teens face more challenges than many adults realize, and some youths start life by pushing a rock uphill, facing childhood issues that change the course of the rest of their lives. Lincoln Alternative High School in Walla Walla, Washington (a last-chance school for kids on the verge of dropping out), has increased graduation rates fivefold and dramatically reduced student fights, simply by addressing the traumas and personal/family issues that often drive kids toward unhealthy and destructive behaviors. Science teacher Erik Gordon says: “The behavior isn’t the kid. The behavior is a symptom of what’s going on in their life.” This intimate documentary follows five troubled teens at Lincoln Alternative, and provides an inside look at the methods used by teachers and staff to ensure that they address problems like addiction, violence and depression in a sustainable, healthy way. Afterward, stick around for an eye-opening panel discussion about the film and our own educational communities.
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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Rocky Mountain Women's Film Institute hosts rooftop film screening of Three Identical Strangers

Posted By on Sun, Aug 12, 2018 at 2:48 PM


The Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Institute may be best known for its massive, annual Film Festival (occurring in 2018 on Nov. 9-11), but this dedicated local organization hosts film screenings and special events of all kinds throughout the year. One new event, Rooftop Cinema, comes thanks to RMWFI's partnership with 333 ECO, a cool, new apartment building.

As it sounds, Rooftop Cinema is a film screening event, held at dusk on the roof of these downtown apartments (333 E. Colorado Ave.).

RMWFI’s next Rooftop Cinema, (Aug. 18), will present Three Identical Strangers, a documentary film about identical triplets who were separated at birth and coincidentally managed to find each other in adulthood. But in spite of the feel-good beginning of the triplets' stories, the reason for their separation comes to light, and the truth has some disturbing repercussions.

The film has been critically acclaimed, and Peter Howell of the Toronto Star called it: "A documentary with a story so outlandish it might well have been rejected by a Hollywood studio had a screenwriter pitched it as the basis of a fictional movie."

Tickets to Rooftop Cinema include food and drinks provided by El Taco Rey, La'au's Taco Shop, Pikes Peak Lemonade Company and more to be announced. There will also be live music by Ryan Flores before the screening.

Insiders say tickets are going fast, so folks are encouraged to register right away.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

CinemAddicts' Anderson Cowan brings Groupers film to Colorado Springs for private screening

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2018 at 12:44 PM

A still from the film Groupers, written and directed by Anderson Cowan.
  • A still from the film Groupers, written and directed by Anderson Cowan.

Anderson Cowan
, one of the voices of the podcast CinemAddicts and a filmmaker himself, has always dreamed of making a full-length feature film. Now, with Groupers, that dream has finally come to fruition.

“I’ve written a number of scripts,” Cowan says, “however this idea kind of came up, the absurdity of it all ... [and] was the cheapest script I had written, by far and away.”

It presented a good opportunity for a first-time feature filmmaker with a small budget. Now, less than two years after beginning fundraising, Groupers is complete, and Cowan has been holding private screenings in select cities. Colorado Springs is next on the list.

Groupers tells the story of a grad student who kidnaps a couple of teen homophobes who, the audience learns, have mercilessly bullied her gay brother. She straps them together in the bottom of an empty pool and conducts an experiment. If they believe being gay is a choice, they can simply choose to become attracted to each other, and she’ll let them go.

A Chinese finger trap-like contraption is involved, to, ah, study their reactions.

“I’ve always appreciated independent movies, because they’re the kind of movies Hollywood wouldn’t have the guts to make, a lot of the time. And the choices that a Hollywood studio would shy away from,” Cowan says. “And Groupers is definitely rife with choices Hollywood would shy away from.”

The subject matter is not Cowan’s only unique choice in this film. He also chose to tell the story through the perspectives of five different characters, who each bring their own opinions to this absurd situation. The five-part narrative doesn’t result in a clean, clear, moralistic tale, but something a little messier. The message, Cowan says: “Everyone’s kind of full of shit, and everyone believes they’re right.”

Groupers can’t be called a thriller or a comedy, strictly, but it still contains elements of both. Cowan says: “One of the challenges as a singular filmmaker ... was explaining everyone else I brought in to help create the vision that it wasn’t going to be goofy. We were never going to admit to the audience that it’s a comedy. But there are plenty of things in there that are totally ridiculous and absurd that I would find funny. “

Still, Cowan recognizes that he had to “tread lightly” with some of this subject matter, especially as a straight man tackling homophobia as a theme. “I felt guilty throughout writing this, “ he says, “especially when I started casting it, about being a straight white male. I asked myself this numerous times: ‘who am I to tell this story about homophobia and homosexuality and what it means, and bullying and all that when I’m straight?’”

But he made sure to get feedback on the script from multiple gay collaborators, and said he made the changes suggested to him when it came to writing the two gay characters in the film.

One of them, he says (character name omitted due to spoilers), might cause some blowback, because he set out to make this character “kind of a colossal prick. If I didn’t, it would’ve been preachy.” He wanted to avoid making this character a victim, so anticipates that the only people to object to his characterization may be those hoping for a sympathetic survivor of bullying, rather than the character Cowan has created.

But Springs audiences can judge for themselves on July 28 at the local private screening, held at the Lon Chaney Theatre. Cowan will be on-hand to discuss the film and answer questions.

Should you miss that screening, there will be one in Denver at the Alamo Drafthouse the following day.

See the teaser trailer below:

Groupers Teaser #1 from Anderson Cowan on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rocky Mountain Women's Film Institute's Shorts Night returns with more award-winning stories

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Shorts Night, April 21, 7:30 p.m., Stargazers, 10 S. Parkside Drive, - FRANK DION
  • Frank Dion
  • Shorts Night, April 21, 7:30 p.m., Stargazers, 10 S. Parkside Drive,
Short films aren’t just about catering to an audience’s short attention span (though admittedly that’s an unintended bonus). No, shorts set out to tell a condensed story, presenting a snapshot of a life or a unique narrative, and providing only exactly what the viewer needs to see. Some filmmakers do that incredibly well, and I’m not talking about the geniuses behind Vine (RiP). The Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Institute has, as it does every year, selected some of the best of the best in recent short films, collecting nine award-winning shorts of all genres to screen April 21 at Stargazers. Enjoy animation, documentary and narrative shorts that explore themes from mental health to pornography to racial tension — even one, In a Nutshell, that attempts to condense the world into five minutes, “from a seed to war, from meat to love, from indifference to apocalypse.” This event is known to sell out, so be sure to get on getting tickets. Fast.
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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Vail Film Festival continues with challenging, topical films

Posted By on Sun, Apr 8, 2018 at 11:34 AM

Diane Bell's Of Dust and Bones premiered at the Vail Film Festival. - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Diane Bell's Of Dust and Bones premiered at the Vail Film Festival.
Feeding myself on budget in Vail has been tricky — all too many places in this resort town charge $15-plus dollars a plate, too rich for my meager journalistic means. Bless the heavens above for La Cantina, a little Mexican joint on the third floor of the Vail Transportation Center with a full bar and some of the only sub-$10 entrées I've seen in town, and with complimentary chips and a diverse salsa bar, it's been a lifesaver for eating on a budget.

Saturday's daytime highlight from the Vail Film Festival was the "Shoot from the Heart" workshop, taught by Diane Bell — she's a native of Scotland currently living in the Denver area, and her third film, Of Dust and Bones, had its world premier at the festival. She outlined the 16-step method she used to make both Of Dust and Bones and her debut film, Obselidia, from revising the script to shopping for distribution opportunities. She teaches a two-day workshop that goes into detail about budgeting, networking and more through her production/training company, Rebel Heart Film.

Later that afternoon, festival-goers saw the results of Bell's methods with the debut of Of Dust and Bones (not to be confused with Denver death metal crew Of Feather And Bone). It's hard to be objective about the narrative in Of Dust and Bones as a journalist — the film evokes the filmed execution of journalist James Foley in Syria in 2014.

After the death of her husband, war photojournalist Bryan (played by David Zaugh), Clio (played by Gaynor Howe) lives in monastic solitude in the desert somewhere outside of Pioneertown, California. She's visited by Alex (played by Michael Piccirilli), a news producer and friend of Bryan, who wants Bryan's last photos to get out into the world, continuing the work he did in life. It's a slow film with a lot of space and silence, burning slow and exploring heavy themes of how we deal with grief and suffering in Western culture. Hell, co-lead Clio's first line comes well past the 30-minute mark. But it's an interesting film, to be sure, and all the acting's well done. And for anyone who's spent time in the desert, the atmosphere's on point.

Of Dust and Bones will likely spend the next year on the film festival circuit. Expect it to show up on streaming services like Vimeo and Amazon sometime in 2019 — details are still to be determined.

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Vail Film Festival celebrates women filmmakers

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 9:47 AM

Jennifer Morrison's directorial debut, Sun Dogs, was the opening night film at the 15th annual Vail Film Festival. - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Jennifer Morrison's directorial debut, Sun Dogs, was the opening night film at the 15th annual Vail Film Festival.
Thursday, April 4, marked the first day of the 15th annual Vail Film Festival, which this year celebrates women filmmakers — every film, documentary and short was written, directed or produced by a woman, in order to tell stories with a feminine perspective. That's important — the 2018 iteration of an annual study by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen of San Diego State University showed that, in 2017, only "18% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films" were women, suggesting a systematic failure within Hollywood to support women seeking executive positions in the industry. But, given that those figures haven't changed by more than a percentage point or two she began the study in 1998, what else is new?

In any case, the filmmakers on site for the beginning of the festival presented an exciting range of independent films, many of which will be available for mass distribution within the next year — once they've finished their trips around the film festival circuit, building hype and support.

While waiting for the red carpet arrivals, I met a few of the filmmakers to be featured: producer Claudia Murdoch, actor Isra Elsalihie and production assistant Will Veguilla of the Mateo Márquez short film The Invaders. The film's plot rests on fear of the Other, theorizing social structures that may grow from an increasingly xenophobic society. The film has its world-premiere screening on Saturday, April 7, at 1:30 p.m., for those interested — individual tickets are available for any individual production.

The opening kicked off with a screening of Sun Dogs, the directorial debut of Once Upon A Time/House actress Jennifer Morrison. The film follows Ned Chipley, played by Michael Angarano. Chipley's an intellectually disabled young man who, after 9/11, wants to join the U.S. Marines, attempting to enlist every year and getting rejected. After four years, nobody's had the fortitude to tell him it'll never happen — not his nurse mom, not her injured trucker partner and certainly not anyone at the recruiting office. The plot kicks off when recruiting office head Master Sargent Jenkins, played by rapper/actor Xzibit, strings him along, giving him a fake assignment as a "sun dog," supporting the fight on the homefront. This leads to Chipley recruiting implied sex worker Tally Petersen (played by Melissa Benoist) to help stalk casino owner Sameer Singh (played by Nicholas Massouh), who he thinks is really Uday Hussein. After his dreams crash down upon him, Chipley goes to San Francisco, where he cosplays as Robert De Niro's character from The Deer Hunter and tries to talk people out of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

And if you think I could make this up, go watch it on Netflix.

The acting's strong across the board, make no mistake, especially by Angarano who embodies "sweet boy who inspires those around him to follow their dreams." And it is beautifully filmed, with memorable visual and auditory quirks. But there's a contempt in that stereotype of the sweet, inspiring simpleton, an infantilization. Everyone around Chipley treats him like a child, except Petersen, who thinks he suffered a traumatic brain injury overseas until the climax — and when she finds out, she calls him retarded and a virgin to boot. Classy.

While talking about this festival, a friend brought up an interesting point: how are the films selected for this festival making those in attendance look at themselves and how they interact with the world around them? Dodging all questions of class contempt like an oncoming bullet, the characters in Sun Dogs set a low bar for how to treat people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; it's easy to feel like one is better than the people on screen. But could you really do what they couldn't and tell this "sweet and earnest boy" to his face that his dreams are doomed? That he'll never be a Marine? Do you really have that in you? And are you really any better than any of these people whose good intentions lead Chipley to humiliation?
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Monday, February 26, 2018

Idris Goodwin, Cody Spellman create short film about the Black Lives Matter movement

Posted By on Mon, Feb 26, 2018 at 1:11 PM

Idris Goodwin - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Idris Goodwin
Award-winning playwright and Colorado College professor Idris Goodwin, in collaboration with director  J. Cody Spellman, has produced a short film based on his 2015 play #Matter.

Starring Kimberly Vaughn and Ryan Hake, the film examines the cultural conflict between the phrases "black lives matter" and "all lives matter," presenting an intimate conversation between two not-quite friends about an argument they shared on social media, and about the different ways they see the world.
was filmed entirely on an iPhone to emphasize the importance technology has played in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Watch it below:

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Pikes Peak Library District offers streaming movies through Kanopy

Posted By on Fri, Jan 19, 2018 at 3:13 PM

  • Screenshot
If the "safe place" partnership with Urban Peak, the DIY venue and the makerspace weren't enough to prove the Springs has an amazing library system, the Pikes Peak Library District has added a free streaming film service. It's called Kanopy, and it's been around since 2008 — the company offers a selection of independent films, world cinema, cult classics and documentaries, working primarily with libraries and educational institutions.

“It’s a wonderful, diverse collection of films," says selection librarian Tammy Ross. "A lot of their content is hard to find elsewhere.”

And for library cardholders, it's free — Kanopy will charge the library on a per use basis, which Ross described as an attractive model for the budget-conscious institution. Patrons can check out up to six movies a month, with checkouts lasting three days. That checkout does include public performance rights, so patrons can do public screenings of any films available. Ross hopes community programs and schools in particular will find the service useful.

Kanopy runs in a web browser, and there's an app for iOS, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku, but not Amazon Fire TV. Check out the selection here.
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