Escape the Virtual/Experience/The Virtual Escape: The 44th Denver Film Festival

What does home mean to you?

That’s the question Flee director Jonas Poher Rasmussen poses to Amin Nawabi, an Afghan refugee on the eve of marrying his boyfriend. Amin has a story from his past to tell. And until he does, there is little hope for a healthy future.

Flee is a knockout, an animated documentary that provides just enough visual distance from the details to elicit genuine empathy while protecting the real people involved—even the name “Amin” is a pseudonym. It won the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Documentary category at January’s Sundance Film Festival. Now it comes to the Front Range, thanks to the Denver Film Festival.

Flee is one of the 230-plus features and shorts, narratives and documentaries, music videos, and series set to screen in-person and virtually November 3-14 at the 44th Denver Film Festival. The festivities kick off Wednesday, November 3, with a red carpet presentation of Spencer at Ellie Caulkins Opera House in downtown Denver. Spencer, the latest from Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín, stars Kristen Stewart as Diana Frances Spencer, known to the world as Diana, Princess of Wales. If you’re looking for the big movie of the season, look no further.

In addition to Spencer, DFF will host four red carpet screenings at Ellie Caulkins: C’mon C’mon from director Mike Mills and actor Joaquin Phoenix; Torn from documentarian Max Lowe about the death of his father, climber Alex Lowe; King Richard, starring Will Smith as Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena Williams (among others); and Jockey, from director Clint Bentley and actor Clifton Collins Jr.

Go ahead and skip King Richard, but don’t miss Jockey on the big screen. It’s a beautiful piece of filmmaking that tackles obsoletion in sports—specifically horse racing—in a manner that is both poetic and dramatic. Collins gives one of the best performances of his career, fitting considering DFF will bestow him with the 2021 John Cassavetes Award.

Other must-sees include The Pink Cloud, a Brazilian sci-fi flick written in 2016 and filmed in 2019 that no longer feels sci-fi in 2021; Petit Maman, a short and sweet French fairy tale from Céline Sciamma that is as accessible as it is mysterious; and Procession, a documentary following a group of sexual assault survivors using theatrical reenactment to confront their trauma.

Closer to home, DFF’s Colorado Spotlight features two collections of short subjects and nine features, including the documentary Anonymous Sister from former CU-Boulder student and Emmy-winner Jamie Boyle and The Sleeping Negro from CU-Boulder’s newest member to the Cinema Studies faculty, Skinner Myers.

The above article first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 29, No. 10, “The 44th Denver Film Festival returns with in-person and at home offerings.”