Indie Spirit

The 4 Best Movies from the Boulder International Film Festival

Aspen Sojourner film critics George Eldred and Laura Thielen share their favorites from the Front Range—coming soon to a theater or streaming service near you.

By George Eldred and Laura Thielen March 14, 2017

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The Chasing Coral team on Closing Night of BIFF (L to R): Ron Bostwick (Moderator), Jeff Orlowski (Producer/Director/Cinematographer), Zackery Rago (Underwater Camera Technician), Dr. Joanie Kleypas (cast - Marine Biologist), Larissa Rhodes (Producer)

The first weekend in March brings movie heaven to Boulder’s denizens when the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) fills town with four days of film, special guests, live music, and savory cuisine. While the festival presents a satisfying array of narrative work like Frantz, François Ozon’s superb period drama opening this week, documentaries are its heartbeat. Here are our favorites to watch for:

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Score: A Film Music Documentary

In his lively directorial debut, Matt Schrader takes us on a deftly guided musical tour through the world of film scoring. Light in touch yet rich in information, Score: A Film Music Documentary is chock full of great clips, including signature game-changers—think King Kong, Psycho, Rocky, and E.T. Schrader interviews a who’s who of composers (John Williams, Rachel Portman, Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor, and Quincy Jones, to name a few), as well as directors like Steven Spielberg and James Cameron, who generously share their stories and craft. Sitting in on recording and mixing sessions in sound booths, studios, and editing rooms from L.A. to London’s Abbey Road, this panoramic journey through a unique creative process is as delightful as it is insightful. At a breezy 90 minutes, this Best New Filmmaker winner packs in a century’s worth of movie music history and leaves you wanting more.

Release: May 26, 2017 (Gravitas Ventures)

Trailer: Click here 

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Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

With a single iconic power chord, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World plunges into an untold chapter of cultural history: Native American influence on popular music. Fresh from its Sundance premiere (where it nabbed a Special Jury Award), Rumble melds storytelling, archival footage, and an eclectic soundtrack to spotlight pioneers of Native heritage: the blues (Charley Patton), jazz (Mildred Bailey), rock (Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix), folk (Buffy Sainte-Marie), heavy metal (Randy Castillo), and others. Taj Mahal, Iggy Pop, Tony Bennett, and Jackson Browne are among the exuberant chorus of professional peers—a.k.a. fans—paying tribute. This revelatory celebration traces indigenous music’s idioms and impact against a potent context: the dark history that has shaped Native American experience, artists included. Robbie Robertson recalls his Mohawk elders’ caution: “Be proud you’re an Indian, but be careful who you tell.” Catherine Bainbridge and co-director Alfonso Maiorana lovingly and truthfully illuminate an important and fascinating musical legacy. This Colorado premiere won BIFF’s Best Musical Documentary. 

Release: TBD
Trailer: Click here

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In Pursuit of Silence

In a world growing more hectic and noisy, silence can no longer be taken for granted. A Colorado premiere, Patrick Shen’s In Pursuit of Silence explores this increasingly elusive quality and those seeking to understand and experience it. He introduces a fascinating range of practitioners, including participants in a Japanese tea ceremony, musicians performing John Cage’s once-notorious 4’33”, a Trappist monk, and a young trekker pledged to a yearlong vow of silence. Scientists studying the hazardous effects of high-decibel environments and doctors researching the healing power of quiet underscore the physiological, cultural, and emotional benefits of silence. Inspired by George Prochnik’s book of the same name, this lyrical essay travels the world, intercutting testimonies with tranquil passages of natural beauty that are as eloquent as any of the film’s spoken arguments for the essential importance of silence in our lives.

Release: TBD (The Cinema Guild)
Trailer: Click here

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Chasing Coral

The festival’s crowning moment was the sold-out Colorado premiere of Jeff Orlowski’s urgent, emotionally gripping Chasing Coral on closing night. The Boulder-based film team behind Chasing Ice turns their activist lens on coral bleaching, an invisible environmental disaster unfolding just beneath the surface of the world’s oceans. Marine biologists, an ad man, camera techs, and a self-identified coral nerd literally race against the clock to document what is nothing less than a calamity. Magnificent reefs, host to a thriving biosphere of oceanic creatures, transform into massive graveyards devoid of life before our eyes. This intelligent clarion call provides plenty of expert science and luminous cinematography. But it also takes surprising turns that create unexpected involvement. (More than a few eyes misted over as the credits rolled.) Chasing Coral was a triple-crown winner, receiving BIFF’s Best Documentary, Best Call2Action, and People’s Choice awards. But Orlowski and the Exposure Lab crew are far from resting on festival laurels (including Sundance’s Audience Award). They’ve created a VR experience and are busy designing an education campaign to engage communities moved to say “What can I do?” when Netflix releases the film later this year. This is an absolute must-see, especially for anyone on the fence about climate change.

Release: Summer TBD (Netflix)
Trailer: Click here

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