It’s a great attraction for the film festival. Bring in a celebrity and generate some buzz, generate some talk, interest, and perhaps some ticket-sales via star-power. Now in its 12th year, the Durango Independent Film Festival remains a cinema overload that features titles attractive to fans of sentimental narrative, extreme sports, noir, dark comedy, and weirdo animation, while maintaining an indie vibe.
The celebrity appearance this year comes from Jim Belushi, who has maintained a steady career in both film and television since the early ’80s. His brief yet memorable performance in “Trading Places” as Harvey the drunken chain passenger is fantastic; Belushi is the comic relief in the eternally-hysterical gorilla costume.
“Monkey? Monkey? I’m a [effing] gorilla you clown!” he screams at an actual clown, defending his costume before losing it and continuing to party in his underwear; and his career didn’t start, nor end, there.
He went on to do some time on “Saturday Night Live,” have some smaller roles in scores of films, and star on the television series “According to Jim” for eight seasons on ABC. Eight seasons. That’s a long life on sub-par, non-cable television. He’s also done voice work for commercials and animation, and was in three episodes of the critically-acclaimed mini-series “Show Me a Hero.” I hear work in Hollywood is good if you can get it, and he’s had it, steadily.
Older brother John will always be tied to blues music as “Joliet Jake” Blues, but Jim has been a life-long fan of the genre as well, performing as “Zee” Blues for Blues Brothers events, and leading his band “The Sacred Hearts.”
Jim Belushi and the Sacred Hearts will play Saturday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. The film festival will also screen the 1986 film “About Last Night,” which starred Belushi and Rob Lowe, with Belushi in attendance.
Actor/comedian and Durango resident John Rubano, a regular around the film festival who also plays in The Sacred Hearts as well as appearing “According to Jim,” pushed getting Belushi here to perform with the band. While having a big name may add to the star-power of the festival, it remains an indie-event.
“John Rubano and I have talked about it for years and felt like this was the year. Jim has worked with a lot of well-known directors and been a multi-faceted performer on many levels for a long time,” said Joanie Fraughton, executive director of the festival. “Bigger names can sell tickets to one retrospective film from the body of that person’s work for that screening, but we have noticed that it doesn’t really carry over into other film screenings. It might lend a little more credibility to the festival but we are still focused on championing independent filmmakers.”
Belushi and his band’s shows are a straight ahead shot of American blues music, a classic bar-bands dip into the end of the blues pool that’s filled with familiar and traditional cuts. And Belushi is the star of the show, a dancing, screaming, hamming it up blue-collar performer. You see it in his acting, and you see it in his musical performance. It’s not pretty, it’s not perfect, but it’s a good, solid dose of the recognizable American blues canon with a fan at the helm.
The Durango Independent Film Festival runs March 1 to 5.