The year without film is no more! Hollywood may have held all of their big new blockbuster releases over the last year or so, but there is new content on the horizon thanks to the Durango Film Festival, which has gone totally socially distanced this year with a virtual film fest.
That’s right; unlike years past, this year’s film fest will be totally online, which means you can sit at home and watch the DFF films from the comfort of your couch. (So… you can basically just do what you’ve been doing for the last 12 months anyway, but this time, it doesn’t involve Netflix.)
And, not only will you get a full schedule of new indie film releases, but you’ll also get a long window to watch them and vote for your favs. Rather than debuting the films on separate days, as is generally the case for film festivals, all of the films in this year’s festival are dropping on Wednesday, March 3rd. You’ll get a full week to watch them, too.
Plus, there’s more! (We know it’s super exciting news considering that there has been virtually nothing going on for a year plus, but don’t stroke out on us. Relax and listen.) Purchase a pass and you’ll also get access to Coffee Talk with the filmmakers and Quarantini Happy Hours via Zoom, featuring cocktail creations by The Ore House, Honey House Distillery and East by Southwest, along with wine talk and recommendations with Durango Film Festival’s own board member and Four Leaves Winery owner, Dean Fagner.
Want to see what’s in store for the 2021 Durango Film Festival? Here’s everything you can binge watch during this annual film festival.
Director: Jaime Murciego and Pablo Iraburu
Run time: 80 minutes Five Bolivian indigenous women are involved in a unique expedition. As a symbol of liberation and empowerment, they propose to climb the highest mountain in America. They climb wearing their traditional skirts. They are more than climbers, they are brave women who find in the mountain a space to feel free, happy and alive. Their adventure will show the world an inspiring way to be a woman, to live traditionally and to relate to Mother Nature.
Climbing to the Top…And Falling Adventure Films
Cast: Baker Boyd and Sam Kuch
Run time: 6 minutes There is nothing more beneficial for the soul than spending time beneath the canopy of a living forest. The Japanese call it Shinrin-Yoku – forest bathing. The ways of indulging in this activity might even exceed the number of trees in the forest, but we really like the Baker Boyd and Sam Kuch interpretation.
The Race to Alaska
Director: Zach Carver
Run time: 98 minutes The Race to Alaska is a documentary following the visceral experience of racers as they compete in one of the most difficult endurance challenges in the world. Described as “the Iditarod, on a boat, with a chance of drowning or being eaten by a grizzly bear,” it’s amazing anyone enters at all. There are no motors and no support – and nobody finishes without a story. It’s an adrenaline-fueled, 750-mile boat race through the dangerous and spectacular wilderness of the Inside Passage to Alaska.
Saving the Environment, Living in Nature Adventure Films
Director: Yali Sharon
Run time: 8 minutes Based on a true story. Feeling trapped in routines, Pierce quits his job and sells all his possessions to go live adventurously in the wilderness. By rejecting complacency, embracing uncertainty, and welcoming new challenges, he searches for his own version of freedom.
Animated and narrative shortsElsewhere
Cast: Alia Shawkat, Edin Gali, Dorota Puzio, Rebeca Robles, Erika Soto, and Mark McCullough
Run time: 26 minutes As Nazis separate children from their parents in the Warsaw Ghetto, a gang of women risks everything to smuggle their friend’s three-month-old baby to safety. Inspired by true events. Starring Alia Shawkat (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, SEARCH PARTY), Edin Gali (MAD MEN), Dorota Puzio, Rebeca Robles (BETTER THINGS), Erika Soto (VIDA), and Mark McCullough (LOGAN LUCKY).
Profiles of Independent Film
Director: Gavin Michael Booth
Run time: 5 minutes Every filmmaker has a unique story, not just of their films playing in the festival at that moment, but of their personal journey to becoming a filmmaker, the struggles making their films and the goals and dreams of where they would like to take audiences in the future.
Profiles of Independent Film takes a closer look at the personal stories of independent filmmakers by examining their body of work and through in-depth interviews.
This year we are lucky to have with us for our inaugural profiles of independent film Gavin Michael Booth, the director and winner of last year’s 2020 Durango Independent Film Festivals jury award and our audience award for best feature film for his groundbreaking feature film “Last Call.” Marshall, 10 years old, obsessed with seeing his deceased mother again, builds a device in his family garage hoping to gain back the time cancer took from him.
Director: Oscar Rene Lozoya II
Run time: 13 minutes All Eric ever wanted was a friend. He just never knew how to find one.
Director: Sakshi Gurnani
Run time: 10 minutes Show & Tell is a film about a 6-year-old boy who craves a Barbie doll for his collection of toys, and his mother who thinks something might be ‘wrong’ with him. Highlighting an Indian family who lives in suburban New Jersey, this humorous film reflects upon the confined environment we give our children to grow in clouding their judgement in our favor.
Doc FeaturesPiano to Zanskar
Director: Michal Sulima
Run time: 86 minutes Facing future in retirement, a 65-year-old piano tuner, Desmond O’Keeffe, decides instead to take on the most challenging delivery of his career: transporting a 100-year-old Broadwood & Sons piano from London to a primary school in a faraway Buddhist village, some 14,000 feet above sea level, deep in the Indian Himalayas. The expedition will take him through a world on a brink of change, filled with equal measure serenity and hardship. What may end up being the highest piano delivery in history, may also become the ultimate gesture of music’s universal power: bridging cultures, inspiring strength and bringing joy.
The Walrus and the Whistleblower
Director: Nathalie Bibeau
Run time: 89 minutes A whistleblower is sued for $1.5 million for plotting to steal a walrus at the heart of the movement to end marine mammal captivity. With trusted access to a controversial ex-trainer at Marineland of Canada, this character-driven social issue film goes behind the battle lines of an unconventional animal rights story and a cracking legal drama. It explores questions of compassion for others—humans and animals alike—the nuances of all our stories, and the hills on which we are willing to die.
We Are All In This Together
Director: Daniel Troia
Run time: 70 minutes
During divisive times in America, a man sets off on a cross-country bicycle journey, with no food, no money, and the hope of gaining a better understanding of the human connection. After traveling through 23 states and having conversations with all types of different people, he learns that there is much more that brings us together, than what separates us.
Where is Nancy?
Director: Thiago Da Dalt
Run time: 82 minutes A brilliant aerospace engineer and entrepreneur, top of her class at Davis and highly respected across the industry, Nancy Paulikas, 55, was tragically diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. On October 15, 2016, she wandered away from the LACMA (Los Angeles Museum of Art), never to be seen again. Her husband Kirk Moody, led a relentless search that lasted years and resulted in systemic change across L.A. County. The constant search for her uncovers the gaps in the USA’s social and health systems. Is Nancy still alive? If so, Where is Nancy?
Where Is Nancy? is endorsed by the Alzheimer’s Los Angeles org (www.alzheimersla.org)
Who’s On Top?
Director: Devin Fei-Fan Tau
Run time: 77 minutes Who’s on Top? shines a spotlight on members of the LGBTQ community—including those with a range of mountaineering experience—who challenge stereotypes about gender and sexuality in the outdoor arena. Historically excluded and ostracized, they will tackle not only a mountain, but assumptions about who they are and how they belong to the world of outdoor adventure. This film portrays a journey like no other, a never-before-told story about what makes LGBTQ folks both distinct and connected, facing physical, mental and societal obstacles.
Director: Giedre Zickyte
Run time: 85 minutes In the Cold War years of the 1970s, an American patrol boat meets a Soviet ship off the east coast of the United States for talks about fishing rights in the Atlantic. In the midst of this, while Russian commanders are aboard the U.S. Coast Guard vessel where the talks are being held, a Lithuanian sailor jumps across the ten feet of icy water separating the boats. Crash-landing on the deck of the American ship, he desperately begs for asylum. Though they try, the Americans ultimately fail to provide protection and the Soviets are allowed to capture him and brutally return him to their vessel. Thus begins a stranger-than-fiction story of imprisonment, discovery, fame, and freedom.
Through rare archival footage and a dramatic first-person re-enactment of that fateful day by Simas Kudirka, the would-be defector himself, this tale of one of the biggest Cold War muddles takes us on a journey of uncanny twists of fate, and the emotional sacrifices of becoming a universal symbol of freedom.
Director: Lynn Cunningham and Wendy Ractliffe
Run time: 76 minutes Millions of people worldwide are physically dependent on, not heroin or cocaine, but commonly prescribed psychiatric drugs. While these drugs can provide effective short-term relief, pharmaceutical companies have hidden—from both doctors and patients—their dangerous side effects and long-term harm. Medicating Normal follows the journeys of a newly married couple, a female combat veteran, a waitress, and a teenager – who were damaged by the very medications they believed would help them. It is the untold story of what can occur when profit-driven medicine intersects with human beings in distress.
Medicine Man: The Stan Brock Story
Director: Paul Michael Angell
Run time: 96 minutes
A documentary adventure recounting the incredible life story of British-born Amazonian cowboy turned U.S. TV star, Stan Brock, who sacrificed everything to bring free healthcare to people in need. At once a heart-warming tribute to the unifying power of volunteerism, and an exploration of a perennial outsi
er’s search for meaning through giving of himself. This film is a challenging and inspirational tale of an unlikely man on an improbable and unwavering mission to resolve one of the biggest social issues of our time – the U.S. healthcare crisis.
A Moment in the Sun
Director: Oktay Ortabasi
Run time: 70 minutes In the early days of solar vehicle racing, one of the most unlikely competitors was a Turkish nuclear physicist living in Australia named Ugur Ortabasi. He designed a four-seated solar powered tandem bicycle only a mother could love, but in true underdog fashion it would go on to win the 1986 World Championships of Solar Vehicles. The story behind this unlikely victory was anything but sunshine and smooth sailing.
Doc ShortsBegin Anew
Director: Jamie Williams
Run time: 5 minutes Inmates rebuild their lives by participating in a rehabilitation program training wild horses for adoption.
Director: Isabel Castro and Ora DeKornfeld
Run time: 17 minutes When an Arizona resident is charged with three felony counts and the possibility of a 20-year prison sentence for helping migrants, his community grapples with moral questions posed by his arrest.
Say It Loud
Director: Melody Gilbert
Run time: 5 minutes Every day for the past 23 years, Michael has taken a single photo with a film camera. Each image, more than 8,000 and counting, carries special meaning and is organized by date and stored in suitcases and plastic containers at his farm in rural Minnesota. He has never shown them to anyone, but now, as he is starting to lose his memory, he ponders his obsession and wonders: Who will care when he’s gone?
Family and Reel Learning ShortsThe Kite
Director: Martin Smatana
Run time: 13 minutes The Kite is a short puppet animated film for kids. It talks about the issue of death, but in a simple metaphoric and symbolic way. It tries to explain the fact that none of us are here forever and all living creatures must die, but on the other hand, to show that someone’s journey doesn’t have to end with death.
REEL Learning Public Program
Director: Amelia Player
Run time: 1 minute The only description for this super-short short? An alien abduction.
Director: Xuan Liu
Run time: 90 minutes Bloom is an impressionistic sketch of longing, growth, memory and separation, portraying an experiential landscape of love and loss. Set in late 90s Beijing, when drastic social and economic transformation is taking place, this story follows the inner world of a young man, Mu Ke, and unravels with the dialogue of “exchanging story” between Mu Ke and his younger self. Narratives, memories, imaginations and disillusions flow out into an ocean of pure time.
Elephant in the Room (L’Elefante nella stanza)
Director: Kartik Singh
Run time: 80 minutes In the town of Amantea, Italy, when Rita finds out that she has very little time left to live, her main concern is not about dying. Instead, she is overcome with worry about her son Gianni, who, at 40, has a heart of gold but is socially awkward and still lives at home. Rita enlists the help of Daniela, a newcomer to town who is recently divorced and has sworn off men altogether. Daniela agrees to become a kind of dating coach for Gianni, and that’s when things get complicated.
Give or Take
Director: Paul Riccio
Run time: 103 minutes Martin is a pragmatist who’s checked the boxes of an acceptable life yet feels disconnected, especially from his father, Kenneth, a distant man Martin could never figure out. Their relationship got more complicated when Kenneth came out after his wife died. For the first time, he was able to live openly and honestly as a gay man. He found love with a younger man, his lawn guy, Ted, and they’d been living together in Ken’s house on Cape Cod ever since. When Kenneth dies, Martin goes home to sell the house while sharing it with Ted. Grieving, they circle each other, butt heads, and negotiate how to remember the different man they both loved, and the significance of what he left behind.
The Metamorphosis of Birds
Director: Catarina Vasconcelos
Run time: 101 minutes Beatriz married Henrique on the day of her 21st birthday. Henrique, a naval officer, would spend long periods at sea. Ashore, Beatriz, who learned everything from the verticality of plants, took great care of the roots of their six children. The oldest son, Jacinto (Hyacinth), my father, dreamed he could be a bird. One day, suddenly, Beatriz died. My mom didn’t die suddenly, but she too died when I was 17-years-old. On that day, me and my father met in the loss of our mothers and our relationship was no longer just that of father and daughter.
Omar and Us
Director: Maryna Er Gorbach and Mehmet Bahadir Er
Run time: 104 minutes Ismet is a recently retired Turkish soldier whose last post was as a Commander of the Coast Guard at the Turkish maritime border. New to civilian life, he struggles to communicate with his family and the people around him. His only son abandoned him and left for the U.S., and now his wife wants to join her son, too. In an unexpected turn of events, he suddenly becomes neighbors with two refugees, Omar and Mariye. Through this encounter and firsthand experience of what refugees have to go through, he is finally able to face his prejudices and reexamine his worldview.
Director: Derrick Perry and Dave Ragsdale
Run time: 91 minutes Travis Wolfe, a Los Angeles film student, struggles to graduate while navigating a budding romance against his girlfriend’s older brother’s wishes, and reconnecting with his estranged uncle leading to an unfamiliar look at his family history and renewed uncertainty of his future.
Take Out Girl
Director: Hisonni Mustafa
Run time: 98 minutes Tera Wong delivers Chinese food for her mother’s struggling restaurant located in the “Low Bottoms,” an infamous Los Angeles project. Everyone around her is financially trapped in this crime and violence-ridden neighborhood. That is, until Tera takes a job from the local drug Kingpin, moving his “product” inside her takeout food boxes. With the cash rolling in, Tera intends to move the family restaurant to the suburbs and go clean. But after a series of tragic events, the dream that Tera built on a foundation of lies, may crumble.
Director: Travis Mills
Run time: 84 minutes Inspired by a true story, an African-American man named Texas Red (played by Grammy-nominated blues singer Cedric Burnside) is hunted by hundreds of men through the winter wilderness of Mississippi in 1940. After an unlawful raid on Red’s cabin leads to the death of a young white man, he and his partner the Oklahoma Kid are on the run from local sheriffs, vigilantes, and federal law enforcement. Barefoot and unarmed, Red must do everything he can to survive freezing temperatures and stay ahead of the posse to make it to the other side.
Native CinemaBoarding Schools and Generational Trauma
Director: Michelle Hernandez
Run time: 17 minutes A Native American family confronts the harsh reality of being split apart from their daughters.
EARL BISS – The Spirit Who Walks Among His People
Director: Lisa Gerstner
Run time: 96 minutes EARL BISS – The Spirit Who Walks Among His People reveals a Crow artist’s joyous, bold, tumultuous journey to success in the Fine Art world. A master painter and descendant of great Crow Chiefs, Earl Biss (1947-1998) brought inherent, ancient spiritual power to his dynamic oil paintings in the 20th Century. With pure talent and fortitude, he was part of a renowned core group of artists that birthed the Contemporary Native Art Movement. Biss was recognized by an art critic as the greatest colorist of the 20th Century.
Yupkoyvi-The Place Beyond the Horizon
Director: Larry Ruiz
Run time: 25 minutes In Yupkoyvi-The Place Beyond the Horizon, the Hopi speak of the clear and persistent threats of encroaching fracking, oil, and gas exploration upon their ancient Chaco Canyon homeland, (Yupkoyvi), and the need to preserve, not only Chaco Canyon in New Mexico proper, but the entire greater Chaco landscape of the Four Corners region of the United States.
Becoming: Orlando Dugi
Director: Kaela Waldstein
Run time: 8 minutes Explores the connection of Orlando’s contemporary designs with his traditional Navajo upbringing, the honoring of Native women, especially his grandmothers.
Tickets for the Durango Film Festival are available in a virtual five-pack for $55 or an unlimited pass for $85. For a full list of the films premiering at Durango Film Festival or for more information, visit durangofilm.org.