Boulder Film Festival Recap: Bruce Dern, Hot Docs, and Good Times


March has become a busy month for me watching and covering movies…and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Coming before the SXSW Film Festival and the Denver Film Society’s Women + Film screenings, the Boulder Film Festival begins my March Movie Madness. Playing catch up these last several weeks has been daunting.

Boulder’s festival offers Colorado residents a chance to escape with cinema during the course of a few, but brisk couple of days. The movies are enlightening, the audiences engaging, and the people enjoyable. I really like this film festival because it isn’t the largest, but it packs high quality programming and thoughtful discussion in the course of a long weekend. Here is what I experienced the weekend I was in Boulder.

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BIFF offered a lovely Bruce Dern tribute courtesy of the legendary Ron Bostwick. And what an American treasure this iconic actor is. He discussed numerous stories about his hey day in Hollywood. He spoke highly of his times and most people he worked with. I was most enthralled win his story about Alfred Hitchcock.

A majority of the movies I watched at the Boulder Film Festival would be classified in the non-fiction category. What can I say, it is my favorite cinematic medium and Boulder is a Colorado hotbed for documentary film-making. He is a rundown with what I saw.

Another characteristic I admired about the Boulder Film Festival are the Talk Back sessions where the community can gather together to discuss the issues movie are mentioned.

HOUSE OF TIME: This goofy and absurd time traveling ensemble drama starts out slow but builds towards genuine third act tension. With its fun premise and cool demeanor, it was a worthy winner of the Best Feature at BIFF.

UNCLE HOWARD: The documentary which premiered at Sundance and played in Berlin shortly afterwards is most appropriate for big cinephiles and those who enjoy LGBTQ filmmaker history. Executive produced by auteur filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (who is also featured in the documentary), this poignant and heartfelt journey valuing family and film immerses viewers into haunting archival footage that lingered within my mind the rest of the festival. It does a spot on job of packing an emotional wallop of a life short lived.

THE FENCER: The breezy and sincere crowd pleasing Finnish Oscar submission was perfect for its Saturday matinee time slot. Honestly, it was also suitable for the era when Weinstein dominated awards season. It was a good movie and little cheesy, but I can see how it didn’t end up with a nomination. All the other nominees were fantastic. It was a very competitive year in the diverse Best Foreign Language Oscar category. Not even Rams or Viva got in!

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THE LITTLE PRINCE: Audiences who tuned in to The Little Prince got a treat. The 3D spectacle moved the audience. It was the talk of social outings the rest of the day. Paramount dropped the movie from distribution a week later (I recall reading the news at SXSW a week after watching it) Thankfully, Netflix acquired the title so people will be able to see it soon enough. Look out for it!

MUSIC OF STRANGERS: Oscar winning director Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom) follows up his buttoned up, yet colorful Best of Enemies with this vibrant, polished, and meditative YoYo Ma documentary. It sings beautiful music about following the rhythms of life and embracing culture. The audience got into it.

EYE IN THE SKY: A hot title of this festival was worthy of the praise and became the breakout indie of the spring. Helen Mirren is a bad-ass in camouflage. Bonus that Colin Firth produced her latest drama which features one of Alan Rickman’s final performances. I’ll take more movies like EYE IN THE SKY, a tense, taunt, and timely, high-quality thriller about the ethics of drone strikes combating terrorism.

AND STILL I RISE: An insightful and engaging celebration of Maya Angelou’s soul where her life is explored, cherished, and missed. I was moved by the spirit of this woman, admired her insight, and enjoyed this long documentary that was so well paced it felt short. Co-Director Rita Coburn Whack was available for a post-Q&A discussion of her poignant non-fiction account of Angelou.


SONITA: This Sundance film festival award winner garnered praise from the jury and the audience. Likewise, it inspired the Colorado crowd. A rapping Afghan girl embodies a powerful story of passionate resilience spreading a message of hope through nonviolence. And her music and zeal were so infectious! I’ve thought a lot about Sonita since I’ve watched it.

UNDER THE GUN: From the makers of Fed Up and Racing Extinction was a slick, emotionally charged activist doc tackling the gun issue. Produced and narrated by Katie Couric, the doc asks Americans to show decency and common sense on this pressing and deadly issue. The new footage of the Aurora theater shooting was haunting. This was an appropriate winner of the people’s choice award where the audience vote matters. The advocacy group Moms Demand Action was on site providing an extra layer of urgency.

I’m looking forward to next year’s Boulder Film Festival.

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