By Dani White
There is something exciting and magical in the history of our small Colorado mountain towns, especially Estes Park. The contrasting milieu of the rugged verses the enchanting draws crowds of all kinds for excursions. The Park Theater presides as one of the most striking historic landmarks and a beacon for exceptional area entertainment, including this year’s 4th annual Estes Park Film Festival.
The recent festival proved once again to be an extraordinary event, drawing the largest attending audience to date. The best catalyst for an unforgettable viewing experience is a one-of-a-kind theater and an impressive variety of hand-selected short and feature films.
During the process, a diverse panel of judges pared down an open selection of over 200 films to a medley of 45. This year’s EPFF schedule consisted of three main shorts programs, three documentary programs, a student film showcase, a set of international films and six features. The array of original, high-quality independent filmmaking was inspiring and remarkable. Projects of all genres and geographic locations wholly engaged the waves of audiences over four days of screenings. The event was dedicated to providing an interactive environment, fostering progress and impact of independent films and filmmaking.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Estes Park Film Festival was the opportunity to talk to filmmakers and offer feedback. The audience participation was exuberant, making discussion, questions, viewing and voting significantly entertaining. The darker, suspense films and dramas faired the best at the closing night final awards gala.
The best student film award went to the horror/suspense film “Childhood Fears” (Westminster, Colo.), written and directed by Cameron Roubique and produced by Derek Frank, two Colorado Film School graduates. The two created the short as the first intended in a series of nine television-length episodes.
Another Colorado student filmmaker, Justin Bauer, created “Story of Erica” (Ft. Collins) and was awarded for the best digital short. It was close, but out of the three programs, the final award for overall best short film went to “The Shaman’s Apprentice”(New York), a 17-minute short about the concept of spirituality. The short was an N.Y.U. thesis project, written and directed by Boulder native, Max Nova, who filmed “Shaman,” in his hometown.
The feature films were also difficult to narrow with the excellent Italian film “Tre Lire, Primo Giorno,” and the fun animation “The Magistical” (Winston-Salem, N.C.) as runners up; but “Bomber” an emotive family drama about a road trip across Germany, took the first place award. This feature debut film, written and directed by Paul Cotter of Brighton, England, was also selected for the audience pick award.
Estes Park has been developing and emerging an extraordinary independent film festival, showcasing filmmakers who continue to raise the bar higher with each year. The collection of talent, the collaboration of effort, support of those involved and the matchless setting of the 2009 Estes Park Film Festival was a truly unique and rewarding experience.