Vail Film Fest: Hits and highlights |

Vail Film Fest: Hits and highlights

Jessica Smith
Special to the Daily
Catch "Sun Dogs" on Thursday, April 5, at La Tour for the Opening Night of the Vail Film Festival. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
Special to the Daily

With nearly 50 films showing at the Vail Film Festival this weekend, there is a little something for everyone.

While, tragically, it is impossible to see every single film, you can still get to many of them with a little planning and preparation.

Here we’ve pulled together a list of suggested viewing throughout the weekend. However, you don’t have to take our word for it — each and every film has been selected and approved by festival staff, and is well worth a look.


This one’s easy. On Opening Night, there is only one film, the Colorado premier of “Sun Dogs.” Starring Allison Janey and Melissa Benoist (a Colorado native who currently plays the titular character of the TV show “Supergirl”), it’s a comedy/drama about a young man embarking on a journey in order to discover his purpose in life.

Showtime: 7:30 p.m.

Location: La Tour


Now the excitement starts. Both Friday and Saturday feature full schedules of films. You can decide to stay in one location and watch films in a block, or you can hop between theaters, depending on what you most want to see. Here are some that drew our attention:

‘My Tourette’s’

You should see it for: A motivational boost

What it’s about: The subjects of this documentary are several young Americans who suffer from Tourette syndrome. The film follows them as they take part in an experimental program designed to change their lives, and looks to change the public’s perception of the disorder. Filmmakers will be in attendance for a question-and-answer session after the screening.

“The Q&As are an opportunity to learn a lot more about the film,” said festival executive director Sean Cross. “It’s something that you usually don’t have the opportunity to do if you go to a regular movie theater. It enhances the experience so much more.”

Showtime: 6:15 p.m.

Location: CineBistro at Solaris

‘Mary Goes Round’

You should see it for: A dose of honesty

What it’s about: Director and screenwriter Molly McGlynn describes the film as a “drama with comedic undertones.” It stars Aya Cash, who plays the lead on the television show “You’re The Worst,” and who is the recipient of this year’s Excellence in Acting award from the festival.

The film follows Cash’s character Mary, a substance abuse counselor who is also an alcoholic. When she travels back home after a drunk driving arrest, she finds out that her father is dying of cancer and he has a request — that she forge a bond with the teenaged half-sister she’s never met.

“The idea for me started off with the father-daughter relationship,” McGlynn said. “I do have a complicated relationship with my own father, so this is my way of exploring tough questions in our relationship that I didn’t know the answer to.”

This is McGlynn’s first full-length feature film. When writing the script, McGlynn looked to moments of her own life for inspiration. And while there were surprises “every step of the way,” overall it was a positive experience.

She added that she wants audiences to come away with a sense of optimism, and forgiveness for their own mistakes.

“It’s about people learning to take care of themselves and take care of others, what it means to be family and what is forgiveness,” McGlynn said. “And even though there are heavier themes of alcoholism and cancer, there’s still a lot of humor in it and levity.”

Showtime: 8:30 p.m.

Location: GMC Theater at Blue Starlite Cinema

Short films

You should see them for: In the amount of time it takes to see a full-length feature, short films offer a variety of topics and experiences. The festival provides a number of short film blocks, including student films (1:45 p.m.) and documentaries (9 p.m.). The shorts run the gamut from comedy to drama to fantasy, and much in between. You never know what you’re going to get and that’s half the fun. For example, one four-minute film in the Shorts Group 1 block (4:15 p.m.) is titled “Bigfoot’s Love Slave” and comes with a delightful description: “A story through music about the everlasting power of love and one hairy hunk.”

Additionally, filmmakers from some of the shorts will be in attendance to answer audience questions at the end.

Showtime: 1:45-9 p.m.

Location: Theater 2 and Blue Starlite Cinema


In addition to a full schedule of films, Saturday also features two special events — the Women in Film panel discussion on “From Script to Screen,” led by a number of female filmmakers in attendance, and the “Shoot from the Heart” workshop by Colorado-based filmmaker Diane Bell. If you have any interest in learning how a movie gets made from insiders in-the-know, then this is the place. For your viewing pleasure, consider the following:

‘Surviving Home’

You should see it for: Inspiration and connection

What it’s about: This documentary takes a close look at America’s veterans and the challenges they face when they return home after combat. Nearly 10 years in the making from start to finish, this film was helmed by husband-and-wife team Matthew and Jillian Moul. Spurred into action by footage of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and their own family members’ experiences in the military, Jillian and Matthew reached out to veterans of all ages to create a multi-generational spectrum of experience and capture it on film.

“The best thing was just being able to connect with the veterans and for them to open up and tell their stories,” Jillian said. “We’re just so grateful that they did that.”

She added, “To hear their stories and follow their lives and be connected to them, it was so enriching. It opened our eyes and it really has been inspiring for us. I’m without words, really, for how much they’ve impacted our lives.”

In addition to the Mouls, the Q&A session will include Iraq veterans Bobby Henline and Tracey Cooper-Harris. Opening up a discussion, and creating connections between civilians and veterans, is a main goal of the film, according to Jillian and Matthew.

“From our point of view, (the key to making the film) was just to look at what arrangement of all the amazing stories that we had (which) could make the most transformative film for the viewer,” Matthew said. “What could catalyze civilians to want to become involved in veterans’ lives, and what could catalyze other veterans who see the film to take inspiration from the stories and from some of the approaches that were used by the veterans in the film.”

The Mouls hope the film spurs conversations at the Q&A, which then spur further connections between audience members and military veterans nearby.

Showtime: 12:45 p.m.

Location: CineBistro at Solaris

‘Bill Coors: The Will To Live’

You should see it for: An inspiring Colorado connection

What it’s about: The family name Coors refers to exactly the company you think it does. This documentary spotlights Bill Coors, of the famed Colorado-based beer company. The catalyst was a speech Coors gave in 1981 to the American Academy of Achievement’s graduating class, focusing on his advice on how to love and respect oneself through holistic processes he had used to get himself through the difficulties of dealing with depression and personal tragedy.

According to its press release, this film explores over a century’s worth of experience, as “Bill Coors relates, through his impressive family history, how he was able to self diagnose, treat and manage his symptoms effectively and holistically to lead an extraordinarily accomplished life. In the process he created a road map to his success without the stress, anxiety and depression that often accompanies it.”

In a statement online, directory Kerry David wrote, “I learned so much about myself and about what true love really means through this film.”

A Q&A session after this film will afford more chance to learn about the film from the people who made it.

Showtime: 2 p.m.

Location: GMC Theater at Blue Starlite Cinema

‘Of Dust and Bones’

You should see it for: An introspective look

What it’s about: “Of Dust and Bones” is not meant to be an easy film, according to writer and director Diane Bell. It’s a slow burn, with emphasis on vast, desert scenery and the isolation of its main character, over dialogue and action. When dialogue and action do come, they do so in the form of the best friend of the main character’s deceased husband.

Her husband was a war photographer in Syria, and his best friend wants the rights to the dead man’s images. The battle between the two characters — wife and best friend — plays out through themes of grief and violence.

“It’s a story of total grief and of two people that share a grief but who have responded to it in completely different ways,” said Bell, screenwriter and director. “She wanted the film to questions people’s personal responses not only to grief, but to the knowledge of greater injustice and tragedy in the world, and their general helplessness in the face of it.

“I don’t think the film answers these questions, but I think it gives a space for someone to reflect on them and probably other questions too,” Bell said. “It’s the kind of film for people that want to think, that enjoy slow-paced films with space to think for themselves.”

A Q&A period after the film will allow the audience to discuss their responses and questions with filmmakers in attendance.

Showtime: 4:30 p.m.

Location: GMC Theater at Blue Starlite Cinema


The last day of the festival is always a great chance to play catch-up. If your schedule didn’t let you see one of the films you were really looking forward to, then check Sunday’s listings to see if it’s playing one last time. It’s also the day where the audience and festival favorites are showing at the GMC Theater at Blue Starlite Cinema. The best student film/documentary will play at 2 p.m., followed by the best short film and narrative feature at 4:30 p.m. At 7 p.m. the winner of the Audience Award will be shown.

For a full schedule of films, times and locations, visit

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