There are, by my count, 97 films in this years Durango Independent Film Festival.
It could be argued that its my job to review films, and so this would be the place to find what to see and maybe what not to see. But that would require watching 97 films, and thats something I havent done in the last four years so its unlikely Id try to do it in four days (that comes out to about 24 films per day). And I maintain Im not a slacker; none of the festival staff members or volunteers have seen or will see them all, either.
As if the sheer volume of movies wasnt enough, each day of the festival is augmented with parties, workshops and panels with industry insiders. But this is one of those embarrassment of riches situations. Rather than dwell on what you cant see or do, pick what looks best and dont look back.
The films are conveniently categorized so no one with grown-up tastes for gore or adult situations will mistakenly wander into a program of kid-friendly shorts. Likewise, the Santorum crowd would do well to avoid the program of LGBTQ shorts and short features lest their eyes burn out. There actually is, if youll forgive the cliché, something for everyone, but everythings not for everyone.
Festival director Joanie Fraughton and her staff have made it easy. The online guide and printed brochures are color coded and easy to read, so planning a strategy is a breeze. For true film buffs, perhaps a tiebreaker in deciding what to see is the presence of the filmmaker. At least 24 are expected to attend, and each is expected to host a short question-and-answer session immediately before or after each screening.
To make the film-viewing experience the best it can be, the festival brings professional projectionist Curt Rousse and a small staff to town every year. Rousse has worked many festivals, including Mountainfilm, the Telluride Film Festival, Michael Moores Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan and the Doha Tribeca Festival in Qatar. Rousse and his crew replace the 35 millimeter projectors at the Gaslight Cinema with his own high-definition equipment, and filmmakers are now required to submit their projects in HDCAM or BluRay format. At the Durango Arts Center, theres a brand-new screen and a rear-projection system. Few, if any, independent filmmakers work in 35 millimeter because of its prohibitive cost.
It is different than just putting a film in and hitting play, said Greg Weiss, a year-round volunteer staff member with DIFF who wears many hats, including wrangling filmmakers and technicians.
Since more than one film screens during a program, they must make changes in sound levels, projection apertures and other levels. Running film festivals is their profession, he said.
And Rousse loves his job, especially when it brings him to Durango.
We spend a lot of time on the road, and we really like DIFF. Our whole crew loves coming here because the community really seems to love the event, and we feel our best when were around people with the same vision, Rousse said Tuesday while converting the projection room at the Gaslight for todays opening free movie night.
Rousse credited Fraughton and the staff for keeping Durangos festival from the same fate as many festivals, including the Taos Talking Pictures Festival, which are now just memories. He said sometimes festivals try to grow too quickly for their own good and end up too deep in the red to ever recover. Thats not so with Durangos event.
Everyones dedicated to making this great. DIFFs management has paid attention and gotten advice and moved forward at a reasonable level, he said.
Weiss said the bulk of DIFFs budget goes toward Rousse and the visiting tech crew and their equipment. DIFFs volunteer core is a dedicated bunch, and their willingness to work for free (plus all the perks of four days of partying and movie-going its really not a bad gig) is what keeps DIFF operating within its means. Thats to the benefit of all.
We feel it is important that our audiences see the films as the filmmakers envision them, with the highest level of color, sound and light, Weiss said.