Festival Beat: Boulder International Film Festival 2015

After weeks of on-and-off again snow, the sun finally emerged, just in time for the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF), which ran March 5-8, 2015.

The ice quickly melted as Boulder’s famed Pearl Street came alive, hopping with all kinds of colorful characters: musicians, street performers, vendors, and shoppers—all enjoying the scenic views of the snow-covered Flatirons, delicious food from the local cafes, and several days of non-stop film festival fun.

Home to the University of Colorado, at 5,430 feet above sea level, and just 25 miles northwest of Denver, Boulder was named one of our Best Towns to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2014. It’s known for the kind of tech culture where Microsoft, Google, and RealD thrive. And, of course, the film festival, now in its 11th year.

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The outdoor scene along Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado

Much of the success of BIFF is attributed to the work of festival directors (and sisters) Robin and Kathy Beeck, who craft a unique program each year that properly reflects the progressive, pro-environmental views of the local Boulder scene. This year’s program, titled “You Are What You Watch, Make It Something Good,” featured a range of films (mostly documentaries) about overcoming obstacles: low-wage immigrant workers fighting for better conditions in The Hand That Feeds, the impact of globalization on the Central African jungle in Song from the Forest, and the mission of comedian Barry Crimmins to save others from child abuse in director Bobcat Goldthwait’s deeply moving Call Me Lucky.

Heavy topics aside, there was plenty of fun: The Story of the National Lampoon, Oscar winner Daniel Junge’s biography of Evel Knievel (Being Evel), and folk musicians in the same breath as Mumford & Sons, going back to their roots by making an old-fashioned cross-country tour in Austin to Boston.

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Opening Night featured another musical doc, The Wrecking Crew, an amazing triumph after 19 years of musical rights issues. The film follows the career of the aptly titled Los Angeles supergroup responsible for recording such hits as “Be My Baby,” “California Girls,” “Strangers in the Night,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and many more. Directed by Denny Tedesco as a tribute to his late father, Wrecking Crew member Tommy Tedesco, the film is an enthralling who’s who of music, from Nat King Cole to Frank Sinatra to The Beach Boys, with humorous and insightful interviews from those that shared the studio. (Read more about Denny Tedesco’s 19-year journey in his write-up: Formats, Licensing, Creative Funding.)

Saturday evening, BIFF hosted a special conversation and tribute to director, producer, author, and musician, Alan Arkin. From The Russians are Coming The Russians are Coming (1966) to The In-Laws (1979) to Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001) and Argo (2012), as well as a Best Supporting Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Arkin has had an illustrious career spanning seven decades.

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Executive director Robin Beeck, festival director Kathy Beeck, Alan Arkin, and host Ron Bostwick. Courtesy BIFF 2015

While there were a handful of features that included Paolo Virzi’s capitalistic character study, Human Capital, and Victor Levin’s romantic affair, 5 to 7, documentaries ruled the roost: Indian directors Geeta and Ravi Patel’s hysterical take on family and cultural pressures of an unmarried 30-year old in Meet the Patels, the powerful, personal stories of Iraq War veterans dealing with PTSD in Of Men and War, the fight for civil rights and equality in The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, and the emotionally uplifting journey of 25 African lions going from abuse and captivity to release in People’s Choice Award winner, Lion Ark.

Fittingly, on Closing Night, the festival ended with a sobering but necessary must-see film. From Oceanic Preservation Society Director and Academy Award-winner Louie Psihoyos, Racing Extinction explores the destructive effects of mankind on the ecosystem sustaining life on Earth, from the production of harmful gases and emissions released into the atmosphere to the hunting of endangered species.

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Racing Extinction Projection Car. Courtesy of Oceanic Preservation Society

After the screening, a modified Tesla, equipped with a state-of-the-art projection system from Obscura Digital and driven by Discovery Planet eco athlete Leilani Munter, made an appearance, projecting large images and facts about threatened species, real-time CO2 emissions, and social action to-dos for everyone to help change the world. MM

The 11th Boulder International Film Festival took place from March 5-8, 2015. For more information on the festival, visit its website.

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