The 46th Annual Denver Film Festival (DFF46) begins on Nov. 3, with a captivating conglomeration of diverse films and events for cinematic enthusiasts from all walks of life.
This year’s festival features an impressive lineup of feature-length films, documentaries, and shorts, including Oscar submissions from 15 countries. Filmmakers, enthusiasts, and guests are invited to take part in special presentations and parties at venues throughout the city in celebration of the newest contributions to the silver screen.
The DFF46 lineup was announced in early October, revealing a robust schedule that serves as the official kickoff to Denver Arts Week. The 10-day festival will begin with the Opening Night Red Carpet presentation of American Fiction, a critically acclaimed satirical comedy-drama and winner of the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival People’s Choice Award for Best Film.
Following a pre-reception and red carpet opening, American Fiction will play at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Center for Performing Arts on Friday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m.
Based on the 2001 novel “Erasure,” by Percival Everett, Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut stars Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown and Erika Alexander. The storyline follows Wright as Thelonious “Monk” Ellison, a Black novelist who becomes frustrated with the establishment profiting from Black stereotypes and narratives as entertainment. He publishes a book that attempts to confront the overdone, offensive tropes and finds himself at the center of the hypocrisy he seeks to deconstruct.
In anticipation of DFF46 Opening Night, Denver Film CEO, Kevin Smith, announced the lineup with great praise. “As one of the first and most enduring film festivals in the United States, we take great pride in this annual opportunity to bring the world’s best filmmaking to Denver’s discerning audiences,” he remarked. “We’re honored that our Opening Night celebration can serve as the official kickoff to Denver Arts Week and help shine that spotlight on a city that has become one of the most admired in the country for its arts and cultural offerings.”
Amid an electrifying cinematic atmosphere, what better way to celebrate film than to applaud one of the film industry’s greatest success stories? An exciting DFF46 centerpiece presentation, Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story, will be shown on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at Denver Botanic Gardens.
Directed by Gelila Bekele and Armani Ortiz, Maxine’s Baby details the personal life and rags-to-riches story of one of America’s greatest media moguls. Exploring Tyler Perry’s journey from childhood trauma to great success as an entertainment titan, the little-known history is being revealed fully and publicly for the first time, with a profound lesson in “Remembering where you came from to know where you want to go.”
Other culturally-relevant and notable films include Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project – a biographical documentary film archiving the life of the legendary poet; and All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt – an exploration of life in the deep south of Mississippi by award-winning poet, photographer and filmmaker, Raven Johnson.
An additional centerpiece presentation will feature the sold-out showing of The Boy and the Heron, a semi-autobiographical fantasy film about life, death, and creation from the mind of Japanese animator and filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki.
Denver Film will host a number of special presentations, with tributes for films that are receiving attention as possible Oscar contenders. Famed actor, Michael Shannon, will receive the “Breakthrough Director Award” for his directorial debut film Eric LaRue, on Monday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at Sie FilmCenter. In its second year of distribution, the “CinemaQ LaBahn Ikon Film Award” will be given to Director Andrew Haigh for All of Us Strangers, a dramatic sci-fi/fantasy romance. A post-film conversation and award presentation will take place after the film’s screening on Friday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at Denver Botanic Gardens.
DFF46 has partnered with movie houses around the city to maximize the impact and frequency of screenings. In addition to Denver Film’s own Sie FilmCenter cinematheque, the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Botanic Gardens, AMC 9 + CO 10, Tattered Cover, Denver Museum of Nature & Science, MCA Denver’s Holiday Theater, and Meow Wolf Denver’s Convergence Station will host immersive programming, filmmaker conversations, events, and industry parties.
One exciting addition to this year’s festival includes a live podcast recording by Emmy Award-winning television producer, actor and comedian, Larry Wilmore. His podcast show, Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air, will be recorded on Friday, Nov. 10 at 10 a.m. at the Jacquard Hotel in Cherry Creek.
With a plethora of themes for film enthusiasts to choose from, this year’s space theme offers two films that will be shown at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s brand-new Infinity Theater.
On Thursday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m., Denver artist Ed Dwight will discuss his experience as the first Black astronaut candidate in The Space Race, a documentary featuring the stories of pioneering pilots, scientists, and engineers who joined NASA to serve their country in space despite facing oppressive inequality on Earth. Dwight, who recalled his incredible journey with Denver Urban Spectrum in the October 2022 article, “Soaring on the Wings of a Dream,” will participate in a post-film Q&A to discuss his role in the pursuit of Afrofuturism within NASA’s space program.
The closing night presentation of Colorado native Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s I.S.S. – a thriller set entirely in the confines of the International Space Station – will also be shown at the Infinity Theater on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m., followed by a closing night party at the otherworldly Meow Wolf Convergence Station immersive art museum.
Beyond the space theme, DFF46 is highlighting a number of film sections with collections that showcase alluring stories and meaningful content from underrepresented communities. CineLatinx: Contains cinema from indigenous cultures from North, Central and South America. CinemaQ: Highlights LGBTQ+ voices, visions, and lives. Colorado Dragon Boat: Presented by the Denver Film and Colorado Dragon Boat nonprofits, displays contemporary Asian and Asian American cinema. Sheila K. O’Brien Spotlight on UK & Ireland Cinema: Features cinematic projects from allied overseas filmmakers. Women+Film: Celebrates cinema by and about women all over the world.
Rounding out the themed film sections are the Colorado Spotlight, which contains homegrown talent and stories about the Centennial State from Colorado’s growing filmmaking scene; and the Late Night Showcase, with feature films and shorts for horror, thriller, and cult comedy enthusiasts.
After 10 days and 186 screenings, DFF46 will celebrate the best of the festival with an Awards Brunch at the Jacquard Hotel’s Prada Ballroom. For the first time in the festival’s history, a newly-added “Denver Film Festival 5280 Award” will be included in the extensive list of accolades, paying tribute to an exceptional filmmaking team effort.
Denver Film Festival Artistic Director Matthew Campbell acknowledges the significance of this year’s event and the growth of the festival overall, saying, “We’re incredibly proud of our DFF46 lineup and the opportunity to bring some groundbreaking films to our Denver-area audiences…These are films that will deliver entertainment, inspiration, and empathy, as well as some important new lenses in which to view the world.”
While commemorating and honoring the efforts of creative directors, actors, teamsters and cinematic support professionals, DFF46 takes place at a particularly turbulent time for the film industry. Following a four-month strike between the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television of Radio (SAG-AFTRA) continues to strike, with ongoing negotiations since July 2023.
Denver Film issued a statement expressing full support of SAG-AFTRA members. “We continue to champion independent film and the filmmakers that make these films a reality,” says DFF46 public relations representative, Marty Schecter. “That will continue in DFF46 as it has over the past four-and-a-half decades.” While the organization does not expect any significant impact on the quality or quantity of DFF46 programming, it looks forward to a timely and fair resolution to the labor dispute.
In preparation for DFF46, a full schedule and event details are located on the Denver Film website, where supporters of the cinematic arts can find information about the organization’s membership opportunities and year-round programs..
Editor’s note: For tickets visit www.DenverFilm.org/DenverFilmFestival.