Nestled tightly in the mountains of Southern Colorado, Durango Independent Film Festival’s (February 28-March 4, 2018) home turf charms with a unique balance of the remnants of the Old West and modern, cosmopolitan taste.

Nearly everything in this town of less than 20,000 people is within walking distance, including an historic Main Street fit for a Hollywood backlot. The backdrop of such big screen classics as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Hostiles, The Hateful Eight, True Grit and The Lone Ranger, Durango’s cinematographic landscape draws in eager audiences that will line up for sold-out screenings as early as 9 am. Festival Director Joanie Leonard leads a team of committed staff and enthusiastic volunteers to deliver one of the best festival experiences on the circuit, balancing the usual responsibilities of a film festival with a solid focus on hospitality and a top-notch tech team who work tirelessly to ensure a professional experience at every venue.

DIFF prides itself on its ability to host moviemakers from around the world, going above and beyond to stay in communication with all their guests. With approximately 100 films screening across multiple genres, the festival’s programming has been carefully curated for enthusiastic lovers of independent cinema—from screenings of animation features, to a Native American showcase, to classic retrospectives, to thought-provoking documentaries and international short films.

Attending moviemakers could expect to deepen their reserves of knowledge and contacts at DIFF’s panels and workshops, which included “The Art of No-Budget Filmmaking” with No Budget Film School founder Mark Stolaroff, “Women in Film: The Reality of Being Female in the Film Industry,” and conversations with actors Jim Belushi, Judge Reinhold, and Gary Farmer, and cult director Alex Cox. The Filmmaker’s Lounge, a festival favorite, was frequented by moviemakers and other industry figures as a means of nurturing friendships and supporting the growth of DIFF’s “winter camp” atmosphere that comes with each new edition.

To embark on the outdoor adventures that await in DIFF’s picturesque, snow-capped terrain, moviemakers were also given vouchers to ski (or snowboard) at Purgatory Resort, and were invited to ride a steampowered locomotive from the early 1900s along the Durango Silverton Railroad through pristine mountain scenery.

One of the great film festivals still serving its core mission for over a decade, Durango Independent Film Festival was built on word of mouth and has benefitted from the support of local businesses, residents and Colorado Creative Industries. Durango film bridges a small community with independent moviemakers from all over the world, creating a unique opportunity to experience and discuss global, innovative, and diverse films. MM

Durango Independent Film Festival 2018 ran from February 28-March 4, 2018. For more information, visit their website here. Featured image photograph courtesy of Durango Independent Film Festival.

This article appears in MovieMaker‘s Spring 2018 issue.