Also See: From
Doggers to Footlongs, festival offers everything in between
celluloid is getting ready to roll as the third annual
Durango Film Festival gets underway this weekend. With
111 films slated, approximately 30 more than last year,
festival executive director Sofia van Surksum expects
this year’s event to be the best yet.
It’s huge, this has definitely been a growth year,” she
said, adding that the growth has not just been measured
in quantity. “The quality of the film submissions
this year definitely has increased.”
Van Surksum said among the festival’s greatest
supporters are the filmmakers themselves.
We’ve gotten some incredible support from the filmmakers,
they’re some of our more raving fans,” she
said. “The filmmakers love Durango and love the
this year’s 111 films are 21 world premieres
and five U.S. premieres. The films come from 15 countries,
from as far away as South Korea and New Zealand. In addition
to this, the festival was given national exposure in
a spring 2002 article in MovieMaker magazine, a trade
publication that praised it for its community outreach,
including panel discussions and parties. “Film
festivals are all about building community - fostering
an appreciation for great cinema - and welcoming visiting
movie-makers - Durango has succeeded on both counts,” the
Van Surksum said the festival will go even further to
incorporate the community this year, offering a children’s
program, a regional film program, roundtable discussions,
an art show and a concert.
Of special note this year are two films that were recently
nominated for Academy Awards. “Spellbound” follows
eight driven youngsters as they prepare for the Scripps-Howard
National Spelling Bee. The film not only reveals their
quirky personalities and obsessive-compulsive study habits,
but their family habits and a glimpse into American life
The second Academy Award-nominated film is “The
Collector of Bedford Street,” which follows the
life of Larry Selman, a 60-year-old, who, despite developmental
disabilities and a poverty-level existence, raises thousands
of dollars a year for charity. On a deeper level, the
film brings a human face to mental retardation while
exploring how a community strives to tolerate and understand
Another unique facet of this year’s festival is
the collection of regional films showcasing area filmmakers
We wanted to support local filmmaking and things that
would be of interest to our audience,” said van
The 11 or so regional films include “Riversense,” a
documentary on whitewater kayaking that tells the story
of five boaters, including Durangoan Dunbar Hardy, who
survived a back-breaking plunge off a waterfall. “It’s
a great documentary with footage of the Animas,” said
Also included in the regional line-up is “American
Waitress, New Mexico,” an entertaining yet profound
look at the human side of the service industry as seen
through the eyes of four waitresses, fellow employees
and customers; “Spirit of Snow,” a glimpse
into the ethereal world of backcountry skiing; and “Zen
Body,” an experimental short by two former Fort
Lewis College students.
All regional films are free and will be shown in the
brand-new 30-seat Brainstorm Industries venue.
The festival also will feature several documentaries
of regional interest that will be shown at the larger
venues. “Totah,” a world premiere, details
the racial tensions that erupted in Farmington in the
mid-70s in the wake of the brutal slaying of three Navajo
men at the hands of white teens. Another world premier, “Three
Women, 300 Miles,” follows the November 2001 journey
of three daring women through the Grand Canyon on nothing
more than glorified boogie boards.
It’s just an inspiring film, and the courage they
had was unbelievable,” said van Surksum.
The three women also will be on hand for the panel discussion, “Women
in Documentary Filmmaking,” 4 to 6 p.m. March 5
at the Diamond Circle.
Another documentary of regional note is “Darren
Vigil Gray: Counterclockwise,” the story of a Santa-Fe-based
Jicarilla Apache artist and a look at his 20-year career.
In conjunction with the film, Gray’s works will
be on display at the Estancia Gallery, 532 Main Ave.,
with a reception for him from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday,
When I saw the film, I said, ‘I got to get him
here,’” said van Surksum.
This year’s festival also will feature an encore
presentation of “The Business of Fancy Dancing,” last
year’s winner in the Best Narrative Feature category.
Van Surksum said this will be the first time the film,
which showed to capacity crowds last year, has been screened
in 35mm format. Swil Kanim, the film’s star who
last year serenaded crowds waiting in line with his violin,
also will be returning this year for a closing night
concert at the Diamond Circle.
Van Surksum said this will be a fitting finale to the
festival, which has grown into much more than a collection
We are not just a film festival anymore,” she said. “It’s
a comprehensive arts festival.”