Get Smart About Durango Film Festival

by DGO Web Administrator

Let Joanie Fraughton, executive director of the Durango Film Festival tell you all about what to see, what to watch for and what to love about Durango’s own indie film festival.

Organizing festivals is a labor of love, how’d you fall in love?

I moved here from Park City, Utah, where Sundance Film Fesitval is. My friends and I always thought that it was industry only. It’s not! One day, I was having lunch next to one of the venues and this guy stood up in the restaurant and shouted that he had tickets to a 1 O’clock screening and did anybody want them. I jumped up. Film is about story, but it’s not just the story on screen, it’s the story behind the story. What it took the filmmaker to make that film – the whole process, how it came to be. That’s what hooked me on film festivals.

What sorts of films are shown?

We show everything. We try to show something that millennials will love, something that older audiences will love, we have a lot of documentaries for our very educated and concerned populace. We celebrate Native cinema; we have family films, narrative features, short films – we love short films. Animation for adults, you name it.

How many venues are showing films this year?

Opening night, we’ll start showing films at the Gaslight Twin Cinema. That’s free programming that anyone can attend. The next day, we’ll open up the Animas City Theatre and then on Friday, we’ll add Durango Stadium 9 into the mix. In the past, we had block scheduling so that all venues had showings at 9, noon, 3, 6, and 9. This year, because there’s something going on every night – late night VIP parties, a craft beer and culinary crawl, an evening with [filmmaker] Lindsay Wagner – we’re moving to grid program. All the times are staggered and so chances are, you can leave one film and go right back into another, if you want to. We’re hoping that the change will allow for more people to get to all of the venues and to more of the events. We’re really excited for the change.

How does a festival enrich moviegoing?

Well, you can go see “The Revenant” and when it’s done, you leave. You might get to talk about it to somebody, but what really sets the film festival experience apart from just going to the Cineplex is the Q&A with the filmmaker afterward. Getting their insight into what motivated telling the story, hearing how things were done, asking what inspired them – that’s what hooked me. A good Q&A creates a stronger connection to the story and that filmmaker by learning what they went through to make that film and tell that story.

I’m an idiot about film. Can you help me?

Well, a lot of it comes with experience. The more I get into film and festivals, the more I notice. I remember seeing “Atonement” for the first time – have you seen that?

I’m the irritating guy who read the book.

Oh, well there’s a scene of the troops just after Dunkirk and there’s a lot of stuff going on and I remember realizing, “Oh my gosh. There wasn’t a single cut in that!” And I questioned myself – I replayed the scene and sure enough – one long, continuous take. I think you do start to notice more the more you see. Camera movement, angles, the lighting, all that stuff.

Does that delight you as a filmgoer?

Definitely! There are some things that make you think, “HUH?!”, but for the most part, it’s another thing that makes watching films better.

What are the “don’t miss” films this year?

“The Rider and the Wolf,” which is a Colorado-based story about Mike Rust who was a mountain biking pioneer in the ’70s who became more and more disillusioned with society and, I don’t want to give away too much but he disappears in 2009. It’s a fascinating story, and he’s a real character. His brother and the filmmaker will be there – I would say that’s one not to miss.

What’s most satisfying for you about this festival?

It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of stress, a lot of fundraising – a LOT of fundraising. Ticket and pass sales only cover about a 1/3 of our costs, so we have great sponsors and donors. But when festival week comes around, hosting filmmakers is so wonderful, and our community is so welcoming and hospitable. Filmmakers rave about Durango.

Cyle Talley can’t make it through an entire movie. He either gets too antsy or falls asleep. Go figure. If there’s anything you’d like to Get Smart about, email him at: [email protected]


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