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Independent Film Festivals of the Southwest 2010

Found in: | Inside | Art |
For movie buffs, we hope it's not a teary-eyed revelation that Inside/Outside Southwest's annual festival preview has had to learn that brief writing is a virtue. The positive way to look at that is to understand that there are so many independent film festivals going on in the Southwest - and a bit beyond the region - that the previews are shorter but the list is longer. In fact, we are breaking up our annual festival-of-all-kinds preview into two installments this year. Stay tuned next month for a look at this year's music and other kinds of festivals.
Meanwhile, sharpen your scissors for reading this state-by-state preview so you can cut out the information and plan your year, your popcorn and soda consumption, and make sure your eye prescription is up to date. You'll want 2010 to be in full focus.
Festivals listed here are in the processes of working on their 2010 film schedules. For that reason, we urge you to check festival Web sites early and often to see what's in store. And one more thing: This is not an exhaustive list. If you see one we've forgotten, please e-mail us and, thanks to that fandangled Internet, we'll update this story online.

Sedona International
Film Festival
Feb. 21-28, 2010, Sedona, Ariz.
It has been 16 years and counting for Sedona's small but popular festival. It's coming up fast, so be sure to pay attention if you want to attend. This year, Aidan Quinn's film "A Shine of Rainbows" about woman who transforms an orphan's life by teaching him to conquer grief and discover magic in nature will play at the festival. Bonus: Oscar-winning and controversial documentary winner Michael Moore is scheduled to appear at the festival.

Arizona Black Film Festival
March 26-28, 2010, Tempe, Ariz.
Attendees of this film festival a couple of years ago were able to see first a box-office hit playing in theaters today: The film "Precious" was screened by famous director Lee Daniels at this festival. Since then, it has gone onto the big screen and is getting critical acclaim for its heart-wrenching but touching story of grit and survival. This film is testament to what this three-day festival offers audiences. This festival supports and celebrates works of black artists. Bonus: A refreshing and much-needed diversity on the film front.

Phoenix Film Festival
April 8-15, 2010, Phoenix, Ariz.
There are a lot of festivals celebrating 10 years this year, and Phoenix is among them. Like other festivals in major cities, it draws on a variety of popular indie offerings, but not so many that it is a seen-one-seen-'me-all festival. Bonus: Films you could eventually see on the big screen you may see here.

Arizona International
Film Festival
April 15-25, Tucson, Ariz.
Tucson hosts the 19th edition of the festival that brings in films from throughout the world. Like many of its counterparts, the films showcase the variety of films that appeal to a broad audience. Bonus: The festival's IndieYouth program, which is an opportunity for filmmakers 18 and younger to submit their own work.

Flagstaff Mountain
Film Festival
October 2010, Flagstaff, Ariz.
The Southwest has a running theme with mountain-topic films. For good reason - this is one of the best and most beautiful regions on Earth. Flagstaff's festival keeps that theme going. The 2009 festival film winner was "Tibet: Murder in the Snow," about two groups of people that run into each other on the snowcapped Himalayas. To quote the filmmakers: "In an incident that shocked the world, a teenage nun was killed when the Chinese border police opened fire on a group of pilgrims, as they fled Tibet over the famous Nangpa Pass, the gateway to Nepal and to freedom." International climbers witnessed the shooting and in their dual action of photographing the events and helping rescue survivors, told the story to the world. Bonus: Breathtaking scenery on film and in person.

Durango Independent
Film Festival
March 3-7, 2010, Durango, Colo.
Southwest Colorado's favorite indie festival will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year. That the festival is still going and growing strong is an indication of how much its staff and attendees love well-made, provocative films made outside Hollywood. The festival averages 100 films to be shown each year. Bonus: DIFF sells punch passes. You can buy 6-punch passes through the end of February for only $54. You can also buy 10-punch passes for $85. Both offer savings, because single tickets are $10 each.

Mountainfilm Festival Telluride
May 28-31, 2010, Telluride, Colo.
This festival is 32 years old and is one of - if not the - film festivals that has been focusing on mountain-related movies and making them popular. The festival's motto if "Celebrating Indomitable Spirit." Bonus: The festival is so dedicated to helping educators become award of mountains, art and culture that it now has a special "teacher" pass that is discounted for teachers of elementary to high school students. (And it's a screaming deal at $105).

Telluride Film Festival
Sept. 3-6, 2010, Telluride, Colo.
The Telluride Film Festival does not announce its film schedule ahead of time, nor does it let the public know who will attend the festival. Even us press people go in blindly. This year brings the 37th festival. And one of the biggest films playing right now, "Up in the Air" starring George Clooney, played as a sneak preview at Telluride in 2009. Bonus: You'll never know who you may be rubbing shoulders with.

Denver Film Festival
November 2010, Denver, Colo.
One of the festivals in the West's major cities, the Denver Film Festival is bursting at the proverbial seams for the depth and quality of films it screens. About to turn 33, DFF makes sure its size does not overwhelm the provenance of movies. To wit, in 2009 the festival screened the lauded movie "Two Spirits," a documentary about Cortez, Colo., teenager Fred Martinez. "Fred Martinez was nádleehi - someone who possesses a balance of masculine and feminine traits - a special gift according to his traditional Navajo culture. But his determination to express his truest identity tragically cost him his life. At age sixteen, he was one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was murdered." Bonus: In association the Denver Film Society, there also is a Denver French Film Festival. Last year was the inaugural.

Boulder International
Film Festival
Feb. 11-14, 2010, Boulder, Colo.
The Colorado Film Society sponsors this four-day festival of features, documentaries and shorts that draws a crowd of about 13,000. The festival likes to identify itself as "young, punk and defiant." By that, it is presumed to mean that its films push boundaries, provokes art and discussions about it. Bonus: Moviemaker Magazine calls this festival one of the "25 Coolest Film Festivals."

Moondance International
Film Festival
September 2010, Boulder, Colo.
When Moondance creator Elizabeth English created the festival 10 years ago, it wasn't an organized project that was meant to show films. But it happened that way, and continues to work toward bringing films that transcend social and cultural barriers. Bonus: The festival has 34 competition categories that go beyond the norm at festivals. This includes "liberetto," "music video," and "short story by kids" categories.

Adventure Film Festival
November 2010, Boulder, Colo.
Adventure is in the title, and adventure is what you get. The films shown here are risky, absurd, hilarious, extreme and inspiring. You know the films are thrilling when the festival travels to Chamonix, Chile and throughout the U.S. Bonus: Your heart will pound out of your chest just watching the films; it doesn't require you to scale that massive mountain or take your mountain bike out for slopeside riding.
Indie Spirit Film Festival
April 23-25, 2010, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Professional filmmakers and budding student filmmakers make up this two-day affair that focuses purely on celebrating indie movies. This is a new festival, with 2010 to be its third year. Bonus: When is the last time you attended an indie film fest with a category of "best horror" film? Oh, and it's cheap. Only $100 to be a VIP.

Rocky Mountain Women's
Film Festival
Nov. 6-8, 2010, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Most independent film festivals go wide for its filmmakers. But since 1998, the Rocky Mountain Women's fest has been focusing on one half of the population. Each year the fest has up to 250 films representing the work of female filmmakers. Keep your eyes open, because you'll probably find a female role model there. Bonus: It is one of the longest continuously running women's film festivals in the world.

Pikes Peak Lavender
Film Festival
September 2010, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Ten years now going, this gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender film festival relies on movies to help audiences - whether part of the GLBT community or allies of that community - become educated, aware and able to celebrate the diversity. Bonus: Intimate settings that focus on the film and the subjects.

Taos Shortz Film Fest
Feb. 5-7, 2010, Taos, N.M.
In its third year, this Taos fest focuses on short films. Each entry is 30 minutes or less, so the pressure is on the talented filmmakers to get a person's attention in a brief period. There isn't time like in a feature-length film to develop characters or a plot. Bonus: No matter your attention span, you will be entertained within 30 minutes with brilliant filmmakers.

3 Minute Film Fest
May 22, 2010, Santa Fe, N.M.
Film submitted to this festival are as the title says - three minutes long. Bonus: More bang for your time.
Albuquerque Film Festival
August 2010, Albuquerque, N.M.
Last year was this festival's first. It will make its way back this year to include more than films; there also will be music, writing and arts. Bonus: Another festival in a state that is taking advantage of its fame in the film industry - both independent and mainstream.

Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
Albuquerque, N.M., October 2010,
New Mexico's' strong and diverse gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community helps put the spotlight on this growing little festival. Nearly 100 films are shown and thousands of people turn out to watch, learn and be entertained by the plethora of themes about GLBT issues. Bonus: The films' subjects are important social issues that will enlighten audiences and go one step farther toward acceptance and tolerance.

Taos Mountain Film Festival
Taos, N.M., October 2010,
This Taos festival bills itself as one that features "films of adventure, culture and wildlife, and examines threats to the environment and human rights." What's not to love? The key word in the festival's name is "mountain." Mountaineers, mountain lovers and mountain characters combine to look at high-altitude recreation and issues. Bonus: The festival takes place in one of New Mexico's greatest small ski towns.

Santa Fe Film Festival
December 2010, Santa Fe, N.M.,
The fact that the 2009 festival saw 11 world and U.S. premiere films is an indication that the festival in a city that is so well-known for its arts is a must-attend event. Santa Fe also continues to capitalize on Variety magazine's proclamation that New Mexico is No. 3 in the country for being among the best place to make films. Bonus: You'll one day get to say you were witnessing the emerging talent of "Tamalewood."

Salt Lake City Film Festival
August 2010, Salt Lake City, Utah,
This really small festival is just getting its footing and working on moving up. The organizers are nuts for film and give a nod to many Utah-based films. That does not mean they are any less worthy. Bonus: You won't have to compete with Sundance to see good independent movies.

Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival
Various dates and cities in 2010,
This is billed as the largest environmental film festival in the U.S. It is also known as the festival for activists by activists. Films explore environmental issues that are calls to action or calls to fun. The festival has workshops and children's Saturday morning cartoons. If the films at this festival don't light a fire under your butt, what will? This festival is a traveling one, so check out the Web site in coming months to find out more about dates and locations of the films.) Bonus: Being among those who are committed to making changes to the environment and human rights.

Contributing editor Amy Maestas still gets a kick out of Sean Penn returning a friendly but guarded hello to her at the Telluride Film Festival a few years ago. She can be reached at

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