Durango Film: Independent film festival celebrates its 13th year with local, international flair

Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 10:11 PM

The previews end, the theater darkens and we’re off on a journey of a director’s making, ideally, not totally sure where we’re heading. We may have a sense of what’s to come, but not all the details, and we’re transported. Often, it’s to unknown places – cities, countries and universes – and we meet and connect with a host of characters, human and otherwise.

Most of us have experienced the transformative power of film.

Starting tonight, Durango’s cinematic travelers have a chance at full immersion in almost 100 films not previously shown in town thanks to the efforts of the Durango Independent Film Festival, celebrating its 13th year. Almost 600 submissions were received this year including over 200 from outside the U.S.

Arm-chair travelers will be thrilled to learn the final cut includes 38 percent foreign films from Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Israel, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, Turkey, Sweden, Iran, Spain, Scotland, Hungary and Australia.

Closer to home, “Bears of Durango,” a film by Salt Lake City documentary filmmaker Dusty Hulet, chronicles the research of wildlife biologist Heather Johnson and her study of human-bear conflicts. The film, shot entirely in Durango, features a small cast of humans and bears and will screen at 12:30 p.m. (a second screening was added) and 5:30 p.m. Friday.

At 13 years old, Aiden Hurley, a seventh-grade student at Mountain Middle School, is the youngest filmmaker in this year’s festival. His 22-minute film “18 Frames” is part of the Family Program at 10 a.m. Saturday and at noon Sunday.

Animas High School’s Noelle John, as a part of the Native Cinema Program “Our Backyard,” will show her film “The Life of the Navajo.” And, as a part of the Adventures in Skiing Program, AHS alumnus Grant Gibson will screen his film, “Adrenaline Chasers,” at 8 p.m. today and at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

There are coffee talks with filmmakers at 8:30 a.m. Thursday and Friday, and Saturday workshops on “No-Budget Filmmaking” at 11 a.m., and “Women in Film” at 1 p.m.

Every film starts with a screenplay and, this year, festival organizers have scheduled a script reading of “The Ride,” yes, about cycling, with John Rubano and Charlie Hartsock, that will provide a look into the art of writing for film at 10 a.m. Sunday.

With shorts, documentaries and features, adventure, family and Native American programming – and free films tonight – there really is something for everyone on any, or no, budget.

Treat yourself. Stretch yourself. Learn something new.

We are lucky to have the Durango Independent Film festival – a gem of our cultural community – and its staff, volunteers, donors and business sponsors make it happen year after year.

Visit or the Durango Welcome Center for passes and information.