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From left to proper are actress Kyra Sedgwick, Denver Movie Pageant Director Britta Erickson and author and producer Emily Bickford Lansbury stroll the purple carpet outdoors the Ellie Caulkins Opera Home through the 40th Denver Movie Pageant. (Andy Colwell, Particular to The Denver Publish)

Being on-the-nose is usually a doubtful factor for artistic endeavors, as artists goal for topicality however discover solely shallow metaphors, swiftly thrown-together themes and apparent social agendas.

That’s not all the time the case with movie festivals. Absent any area of interest themes, modern relevance tends to outline them, from investigative documentaries to clever interpretations of (and commentaries on) present occasions. Feeling current and highly effective of their second is important.

“Festivals are challenging, right? There’s a whole bunch of films in this festival that aren’t for everyone,” stated Britta Erickson, director of the Denver Movie Pageant, which returns Oct. 31-Nov. 11. “We have a really savvy audience and it’s getting more diverse. If you only show them ‘The Upside’ (a crowd-pleasing, red carpet screening that takes place Nov. 2), you’re not really challenging them. But I do always look to put something in the lineups that are entry points for someone who’s never been.”

To make certain, every of this yr’s Denver Movie Pageant screenings isn’t required to reek of earnest, ripped-from-the-headlines intentions. However given the number of choices, discovering a unified programming message is near-impossible anyway at a pageant as giant and numerous as Denver’s — past a elementary respect for the artwork of movie. And that’s a resoundingly good factor.

This yr’s 41st annual Denver Movie Pageant, a presentation of the nonprofit Denver Movie Society, opens Oct. 31 with a pink carpet screening of director Yorgos Lanthimos‘ darkly comedic “The Favourite,” starring Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as 18th century masters and servants. In between that and the Nov. 10 closing night time screening of the Natalie Portman movie “Vox Lux” (additionally on the Ellie Caulkins Opera Home, the place I’m internet hosting a post-screening Q&A) there are tons of of alternatives to curate an expertise that’s as related or escapist as a cinephile might want.

Emma Stone co-stars in “The Favourite,” which can open the Denver Movie Pageant’s Purple Carpet shows on the Ellie Caulkins Opera Home at eight p.m. on Oct. 31. (Offered by Denver Movie Society)

This yr’s aggressive, juried screening marathon will current 136 options, together with the half-dozen pink carpet shows on the Ellie, and 124 shorts — with a complete of 363 screenings, provided that some titles display greater than as soon as. Denver Movie Society’s house base on the Sie FilmCenter acts because the pageant’s staging floor, aided by the Ellie and choose showings on the Denver Pavilions’ United Artists multiplex, not to point out the events, panels, awards, virtual-reality shows and loads of in-person expertise at venues just like the McNichols Civic Middle constructing, which the pageant is utilizing for the third yr in a row.

“I’m going to nine different festivals with this new film, and Denver’s is by far the most populated,” stated director Peter Hedges, referencing the quantity of individuals he’s turning out to see his new movie “Ben Is Back” in Denver. “I get to interact with audience members, and many people stay for the discussions after the film. There’s a generosity of spirit in Denver audiences, and that’s not always the case with arms-crossed audiences at festivals like Toronto. This particular film I made with a very urgent purpose — to be a part of a conversation about how we take care of each other.”

Hedges, who beforehand attended the Denver Movie Pageant together with his 2003, Katie Holmes-starring “Pieces of April,” takes on the achingly related matter of drug habit in “Ben Is Back,” with real-life son Lucas Hedges enjoying the titular character and Julia Roberts as his mom. Whereas Hedges has lengthy labored within the literary and screenwriting worlds — together with writing best-selling novels (“The Heights”) and screenplays (“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?,” “About a Boy”) — “Ben Is Back” is just his fourth directorial effort.

“Ben Is Back” director Peter Hedges will attend the Denver Movie Pageant to speak concerning the movie, which stars Julia Roberts and Hedges’ real-life son Lucas. (Offered by Denver Movie Society)

“I’ve waited my whole life to make ‘Ben Is Back,’ ” Hedges stated. “I can’t go to every theater it’s playing in and talk with people about this epidemic that is ravaging our country. But I can have these very fulfilling exchanges with the people in the audience at the (Denver Film Festival). I specifically advocated for this film to come there.”

Equally, director Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air,” “Young Adult”), who beforehand attended the Denver Movie Pageant together with his 2005 breakthrough “Juno,” can be in-person for a dialogue about his new work, “The Front Runner” (Nov. eight on the Ellie).

The movie has extra native relevance than most. It employs Hugh Jackman and an ensemble forged to retell the story of Democratic Colorado Sen. Gary Hart (Jackman), whose philandering, lies and challenges to the media turned him from the presidential front-runner to a disgraced also-ran in a matter of a week in 1988.

Whereas it’s based mostly on a historic occasion, the modern hook is obvious: The occasion fell roughly between Watergate and President Invoice Clinton’s infidelity-driven impeachment, casting a mild on each the position of journalists and how critically the general public takes private morality in regard to politics. Implicitly, “The Front Runner” wonders if Hart’s indiscretions would have prevented him from taking the highest workplace within the present state of America.

“Some people might see it and think I’m probably the hero and the press is the villain,” Jackman stated of the movie, scenes of that are set (however not filmed) in Denver. “But really it’s the other way around.”

Hugh Jackman stars as Colorado Sen. Gary Hart in “The Front Runner,” based mostly on the 1988 story of Hart’s political downfall. Director Jason Reitman will probably be in attendance on the 41st Denver Movie Pageant to speak concerning the movie and obtain the pageant’s John Cassavetes Award on Nov. eight. (Offered by Denver Movie Society)

“I don’t see heroes and villains in life,” stated Reitman, who will obtain this yr’s John Cassavetes Award from the Denver Movie Society on Nov. eight on the pageant. “I’ve always been someone who’s interested in gray area. The main characters in my movies are a tobacco lobbyist and a woman trying to break up someone’s marriage. This my Marvel Universe. The truth was that Gary Hart was an interesting pH-test for the country, and that kind of test has become way more complicated in 2018.”

For her half, pageant director Erickson is anticipating a heat reception to this mixture of social and political relevance, sober documentaries, experimental cinema, and — sure — fantastical and escapist fare, romantic dramas, comedies, horror and extra. The 2017, 40th-anniversary Denver Movie Pageant surpassed $400,000 in complete gross sales, in contrast with $302,263 in 2016 — a 20 % improve. Preliminary numbers are already wanting strong for 2018.

As of Oct. 22, particular person ticket gross sales reached $208,127 versus $182,628 for a similar interval final yr. (The numbers don’t embrace the vouchers and passes bought however not but redeemed, or membership gross sales.) Erickson and her colleagues on the Denver Movie Society have made strides to fight the graying of their viewers in recent times, thanks to Denver’s inhabitants growth, attention-getting pageant celebs (final yr’s Aaron Sorkin, or the earlier yr’s Emma Stone and Damien Chazelle) and extra.

In fact, savvy programming stays the core of any movie pageant, and that’s definitely the case with Denver’s. Regionally related documentaries reminiscent of “Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records,” “Meow Wolf: Origin Story” and “We Are Columbine: 20 Years Later” are already drawing consideration and chatter amongst native audiences.

However Erickson additionally factors to the pageant’s burnished popularity as a lot as its programming power for the gross sales progress.

“Ticket sales may be up, but we were seeing a lot of engagement even before that, with people just blindly buying Red Carpet packages before the schedule was announced,” she stated. “I think it speaks to a lot of new people moving here looking for great experiences, and they’re finding us — or we’re finding them. We’ve built some trust and reputation with newcomers, and that’s meaningful because there’s no lack of things to do on any given night in Denver.”

The 2018 pageant might be Erickson’s 11th as director, and 20th general, affording her a invaluable perspective on the current viewers shift away from the pageant’s historically older, whiter demographics.

“I really noticed this with ‘La La Land’ in terms of looking out at the audience and just seeing more diversity in terms of age, so that’s where we started to make some gains,” she stated. “Essentially, that’s where the wave hit its crest, and it’s just been carrying over.”

Strengthening relationships with distributors akin to Fox Searchlight, underlining the pageant’s constructive worth-of-mouth, and reinforcing inventive credentials with movies like Alfonso Cuarón’s acclaimed, black-and-white “Roma” (the Nov. 10 pink carpet matinee) take up a lot of Erickson’s and the programmers’ time.

Erickson enthusiastically recommends too many movies to listing right here, from Paul Dano’s directorial debut “Wildlife” (screening Nov. three and 6 on the Sie) to the racial drama “Green Book” (Nov. 1 and three), which stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, and the journalism-focused “A Private War” (Nov. four and 7), starring Rosamund Pike because the late, real-life journalist Marie Colvin.

Rosamund Pike stars in “A Private War,” based mostly on the experiences of real-life journalist Marie Colvin. It screens on the Sie FilmCenter as a part of the Denver Movie Pageant Nov. four and 7. (Offered by Denver Movie Society)

However these barely scratch the floor of the programming, which is predicted to draw greater than 50,000 complete attendees over the pageant’s roughly two-week run.

“Why would people come out and buy a ticket when they could just sit on their couch?” Erickson stated, repeating a query posed to her. “Festivals have battled inertia and couch potatoes for a long time. Cable, Netflix — they’ve all been game-changers. The reality is that this is a super-robust film year in general and audiences seem to be excited about what they’ll be able to see here.”

In case you go

41st Denver Movie Pageant. Greater than 250 narrative options, documentaries and shorts with panels, events and in-person expertise. Oct. 31-Nov. 11 on the Sie FilmCenter (2510 E. Colfax Ave.), Ellie Caulkins Opera Home, McNichols Civic Middle Constructing and UA Pavilions theaters. Numerous screenings and occasions. $16-$40 per movie, relying on venue. Go to for the complete schedule, costs and availability. 720-381-0813.

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