What to watch at this year’s Vail Film Festival
If you go ...
What: Vail Film Festival.
When: Thursday through Sunday.
Where: Vail Marriott Mountain Resort in Lionshead, Vail Cascade and Vail Mountain School, both in Vail.
Cost: Vista passes are $80, Prima passes are $275. Individual tickets for screenings are $10 each.
More information: Full screening schedule available at http://www.vailfilmfestival.com.
You may have noticed that the movie industry has now reached sequel saturation, in that every “new” flick coming to a theater near you is either the second or third in a series or a reboot of a hit from a previous decade, like the upcoming not one, but two “Ghostbusters” films, yet another “Star Wars” trilogy and when Arnold Schwartzenegger told us “I’ll be baaaaaaack,” in “The Terminator,” he wasn’t joking. A fourth film, “Terminator: Genisys” will be released this summer, as part of an ‘80s and ‘90s film retrospective put on by major Hollywood studio executives more concerned with the bottom dollar than fresh ideas.
For those of us who aren’t all that interested in revisiting memories of zits and first kisses every time we head to the multiplex, film festivals are now one of the few places to see a movie that tells a new story. This year’s Vail Film Festival showcases independent films that don’t stick to a familiar formula, allowing us as viewers to be surprised, delighted and moved in ways we weren’t expecting. As creatures of habit, we often forget the joy that comes with experiencing something new. In “Manhattan Romance,” which opened the festival Thursday night, Tom O’Brien’s character, a documentary filmmaker, bemoans the way we’ve been conditioned to watch movies and demand a certain outcome.
“You have to fulfill this preconceived idea of what a film is, and if you don’t hit all these points, somehow the audience thinks there’s something missing,” says O’Brien’s character in the movie. “In that constantly looking for what’s missing, we’re not seeing what’s there.”
O’Brien’s perspective is one to keep in mind when watching the slew of new films screening at the Vail Film Festival this weekend. Here are just a few of our picks for flicks worth the price of popcorn at the festival this year. One thing you won’t find on this list are sequels. For those, just watch the trailers for every blockbuster coming out in the next two years:
“A Dark Reflection”
Based on a true story, “A Dark Reflection” is a suspenseful narrative about two British investigative journalists who discover a cover-up by British Airways involving a near-miss. Concerned about flight safety, the journalists search for evidence that both pilots and passengers are in danger, but the aviation industry is also hot on their tail as they race to uncover the truth. Directed by a real former British Airways pilot, “A Dark Reflection” blends fact and fiction with thrilling results. Colorado premiere with filmmakers in attendance. Screening Friday at 7:45 p.m. at Vail Cascade and on Saturday at 6:45 p.m. at Vail Marriott in Lionshead.
“Slow West” just won the World Cinema Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this January. The Vail Film Festival is one of the first places audiences get to see this Western-inspired drama starring Michael Fassbender, and up-and-comer Kodi Smit-McPhee as a young Scottish lad, trekking together through Colorado in the 1800s. Based on the trailer that was just released a few days ago, “Slow West” might have more laughs than intense moments, but we won’t know for sure until the credits roll.
Closing night film, screening Saturday at 7:15 p.m. at Vail Mountain School.
Hong Kong cinema showcase
This year at the festival will be highlighting movies from some of the hottest filmmakers working in Hong Kong today, which is currently becoming a hub for groundbreaking cinema. It’s hard to pick a favorite among the films showing, but we suggest checking out at least one in the showcase. Three of the films add a Hong-Kong sensibility to genres American audiences know well, like “Overheard 3”, a classic action film, “That Demon Within”, a crime thriller, and “Rigor Mortis”, a supernatural horror movie. The other film is a documentary directed by Oscar winner Ruby Yang, “My Voice, My Life”, which follows middle schoolers at an underprivileged school as they attempt to put on a musical. Check full Vail Film Festival schedule for all screening venues and showtimes.
Like the title suggests, “Manhattan Romance” explores the love lives of those living and dating in the Big Apple. Written, directed and starring Tom O’ Brien, all the relationships in this film could be filed under “it’s complicated”. A fresh, honest look at love with a documentary-like feel, “Manhattan Romance” doesn’t rely on predictable characters or plot lines to tell its story. Screening Saturday at 6:15 p.m. at Vail Cascade.
“The Okee Dokee Brothers’ Through the Woods: An Appalachian Adventure”
The Okee Dokee Brothers are a popular bluegrass band, but you might not have heard of them because they mainly write songs for children. When making their album “Through the Woods”, the duo decided to make a film as well, documenting their hike along the Appalachian Trail, which includes music videos, scenes of them jammin’ on the jamboree and meeting old-school musicians seeped in the bluegrass tradition. This is a family-friendly film sure to entertain both the tiny tots and those simply young at heart. Screening at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Vail Cascade and again at 11 a.m. Sunday at Vail Cascade.
“I Married My Family’s Killer”
This 30-minute doc chronicles three Rwandan couples who wed sometime during the genocide that devastated their country in 1994. Unbelievably, two of these couples wed someone who was a part of the family who murdered their own, choosing to heal through love instead of hate. An incredible tale about compassion in even the most devastating of circumstances. Shown as part of Documentary Showcase 1, which also includes “From Trauma to Peace”, another film about the Rwandan genocide. Screening Friday at 6:15 p.m. and Sunday at 4:45 p.m., both at Vail Cascade.
Filmmaker Yaniv Rokah was a struggling actor working in a coffee shop in Santa Monica who met “Mimi” early one morning. He soon discovered this bubbly, flamboyant, sassy woman was homeless and spent her days and nights living in a local laundry mat. Rokah set out to document Mimi’s life for five years, and the result is an inspiring, emotional portrait of a woman who’s such a character she really does deserve to star in a movie about her own life. U.S. premiere with filmmakers in attendance.
Screening Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Vail Cascade and Saturday at 9 p.m. at Vail Marriott in Lionshead.
Sure to be popular with the local community, “Snow Day” follows a group of elderly skiers who still hit the hill even though in age they’re well over it. What starts out as a “day in the life” glimpse at the senior ski crowd, soon delves deeper as a meditation on dying and old age.
World premier with filmmakers in attendance. Screening Friday at 1:15 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m., both at Vail Cascade.