Vail Film Festival streaming 80 films online through Sunday

The 18th annual Vail Film Festival is taking place this weekend in virtual format. 80 independent films are available for online streaming until 11:45 p.m. on Sunday.

The short film <em id="emphasis-a7238a0ab0a9cef64510687e59834716">Birdwatching, </em> starring Amanda Seyfried and Sharon Washington, is one of 80 films included in the Vail Film Festival this year.
Vail Film Festival/Courtesy photo

The 18th annual Vail Film Festival is back in virtual format this weekend. From now until 11:45 p.m. on Sunday, all 80 films included in the festival are being streamed online at the Vail Film Festival website.

Virtual festival-goers can choose to purchase an all-access pass for $40 that will give unlimited access to the full online catalog of shorts, documentaries, feature films, panels and filmmaker Q&A sessions for the duration of the festival. Individual screening tickets are also available for $10 each and can be purchased by selecting any film on the site.

For nearly two decades, the Vail Film Festival has brought some of the world’s most prominent independent filmmakers to show their work in the valley. It has been the site of numerous world premieres, and has earned a prominent reputation in the film industry.

Virtual viewing

This is the second year that the festival has been held virtually due to the coronavirus. Although it is impossible to fully recreate the atmosphere of an in-person festival online, Festival Director Corinne Hara and her team have striven to create an immersive experience through the screen.

“When you’re in-person, there’s the energy and the buzz of everybody going from film to film, catching up in the lobby and going small talk, and online it’s more of a relaxed atmosphere,” Hara said. “You can stream where you want, when you want, so it gives you time to digest the film before moving onto the next one. You can go watch the Q+A, go get something to eat, and then come back and watch another one.”

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All 80 films are available for streaming at the Vail Film Festival website until 11:45 p.m. on Sunday.
Vail Film Festival/Courtesy screenshot

Typical attributes of an in-person festival, such as a red carpet and meet-and-greet opportunities with the filmmakers, are being replicated on the Vail Film Festival social media platforms. Visitors can view 60-second clips of the filmmakers describing their works on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and can watch pre-recorded Q+A sessions about the films as they go.

“We tried to replicate film festival pieces online as best as we could,” Hara said. “It won’t replace it, but you still have social media, you can see the filmmakers talking to each other and sharing their excitement.”

Supporting female filmmakers

Starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, the festival will be live-streaming a directors’ panel that will feature four female directors whose work is being shown this weekend. Following the #metoo movement, the Vail Film Festival made the decision to only accept films that have at least one female director, writer or producer on their team. Supporting female filmmakers from around the globe has now become a central part of the festival’s mission.

“We thought, when we had first done it, that it was just a bold move on our part, but we were really supported by the industry and the filmmakers and our sponsors,” Hara said. “It’s helped us to see what happens when you change up the teams. When you see something led by a male or by a female, there are always differences in how the product comes out. It gives the audience a different point of view on how to take in a story.”

Queens of Pain, a film about three women in New York City fighting to keep their spots on the world’s best roller derby team, is one of the 35 documentaries included in the festival. It is directed by Cassie Hay and Amy Winston, and is a powerful example of how telling women’s stories from a woman’s perspective can give new depth and understanding to the female experience on screen.

“We see women on film through the eyes of men all the time,” Winston said. “Frankly, it’s easy to reduce women to stereotypes on screen – the mother, the aging woman, etc. But we hate that! And we’re tired of that. So, it was our highest priority to show our subjects as the multi-faceted women they are — and that we all are. Those shades of gray are what interests us the most.”

“Queens of Pain” is a documentary about three women in New York City fighting to keep their spots on the world’s best roller derby team.
Queens of Pain Film/Courtesy Photo

Hay and Winston have already seen the impact that their film has on audiences at previous screenings. Winston remembers a time after a Brooklyn Film Festival screening when a man came up to her to tell her how much he enjoyed the film.

“He started to tell me how much it meant to him for his daughter to grow up seeing movies like ours, and seeing strong women go after their dreams, even if they fail,” Winston said. “And he started to get choked up, and I got choked up, and it was just an amazing moment to share with a complete stranger through this film.”

Sharing real women’s stories like those in “Queens of Pain” is a major objective of the Vail Film Festival, and there are many more to be found in the extensive film guide.

“I hope viewers see that women’s stories are good stories, full stop,” Hay said.

Grappling with 2020 themes through film

Since many of the films were conceived of and produced during 2020, the topics that we all wrestled with so strongly last year – such as social isolation, racial injustice and polarization – are often explored as central themes in the films.

Chris Gero, a 12-time Emmy Award winner and Grammy Award-nominated record producer, had been quarantining with his family for months when he started to work on his documentary “The Sound of Us”. Watching the Black Lives Matter protests and the losses from COVID-19 happening all around him, he turned to film and music to help him reconnect to a shared sense of humanity.

“I was just stuck in the tornado with the rest of us, watching people lose their jobs, watching us degrade ourselves in humanity, and I kind of got really angry,” Gero said. “When I started to work on this film, the creative outpouring was pretty severe, and it was something that therapeutically helped me cope with it.”

“The Sound of Us” is composed of nine stories that demonstrate the power of music as a universal language that allows us to connect, empathize and understand each other. A life-long musician himself, Gero wanted to remind viewers that though we may feel distant and isolated from each other at times, music still unites us all.

“The Sound of Us<em id="emphasis-c2e8806469848775d6d8099ca18cf258">”</em> is composed of nine stories that demonstrate the power of music as a universal language that allows us to connect, empathize and understand each other.
Vail Film Festival/Courtesy Photo

“I’ve lived a life of seeing what good music brings to the world and to each other, and how that breaks down all of the things that get in the way,” Gero said. “I wanted to remind humanity, through music, that we are inherently good people, and we are good to each other. What’s inside of you just genetically is this thing that we’re all connected to, and you can’t really explain it but we know we are better people because of it. The entire intention of the film is to celebrate that right now, and I built it hoping that people will walk away thinking ‘we’re going to be okay’.”

At the end of the weekend, the Vail Film Festival will hold an awards ceremony that will recognize favorites from a juried panel and an audience vote. Viewers are invited to cast their votes for their favorite films, and the awards will be given out on a live-streamed event at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

All 80 films are available for viewing through Sunday evening at 11:45 p.m. To purchase tickets and view the films, visit

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