Telluride Film Festival: Sept. 4–7, 2015
In the depths of the San Juan Mountains and snuggled between two impressive peaks, the Telluride Film Festival is a destination event with an arresting backdrop. A Labor Day weekend ritual, the festival has inspired guest directors like Peter Sellers ("The Pink Panther") and Peter Bogdanovich ("The Sopranos") to make the trek to this southwestern gem. Telluride is known for its exciting and laid-back ambiance, the audience’s good humor, appreciative guests, mouthwatering food and scintillating film discussion. For movie history buffs, It is also the first place that "My Dinner With Andre," "The Civil War," "Twin Peaks" and "The Crying Game" were ever viewed.
Breckenridge Festival of Film: Sept. 17–20, 2015
For more than 30 years, Breck's fest is one of the country's oldest. Hosted of late by film critic Jeffrey Lyons, the more than 51 films screened focus on shorts, independent dramas, comedies and documentaries. The fest's association with the Film Studies Program at the University of Colorado - Boulder ensures there are always fresh voices involved; and for the past nine years, the festival has hosted a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender film series within the main program in which many of these films hold their Colorado premiere.
Aspen Filmfest: Sept. 25–30, 2015
This is the film fest of royalty. Keeping in sync with Aspen’s tradition of big names and big fur, this festival includes major productions, Oscar hopefuls and lavish benefit dinners. But perhaps the most impressive piece to this festival is the variety of genius that can be seen at any of the participating theaters. The festival’s premise of “taking a chance to be taken somewhere new and unexpected,” speaks to the in-depth documentary films and shorts — but also to the town itself. Aspen is like no place you’ve ever been, where Prada opens its doors next to REI, designer dogs run in fields of rugby players and world-renowned art galleries are visited by fully garbed skiers.
Indie Spirit Film Festival: Oct. TBD, 2015
Though only in its sixth year, this Colorado Springs has doubled in scope at each subsequent event, which is likely due to the organizers' focus on the entire film festival experience. It's not just about the films — it's the Q&As with filmmakers, receptions, cocktail events, poster-design contests and other festivities that keep the indie spirit flowing throughout the weekend. Also keeping up the indie spirit? It's one of the state's most affordable events — VIP tickets come in around $100.
Starz Denver Film Festival: Nov. 4–15, 2015
Another film mainstay, Denver's largest film festival is in its 35th year and hosts up to 500,000 film goers and has grown to 10 days in duration. With a little more glitz than some of the mountain events, Denver hosts red-carpet premieres and films from dozens of countries and 150 filmmakers. Each year, the festival focuses one one country, highlighting cinematic offerings Colorado audiences might not otherwise have a chance to see.
Boulder International Film Festival: March TBD, 2016
In the historic, beloved Boulder Theater — where dancing, drinking, eating and watching movies are all acceptable behaviors — the Boulder International Film Festival has earned the reputation as one of the most influential young film festivals in the country. Held annually on Presidents’ Day weekend, the festival invites international filmmakers to show their work for an audience full of aspiring filmmakers. While the event hosts academics, directors, writers, actors, producers and the like, a large part of the festival's goal is to inspire film hopefuls, so that one day they can see their creative dreams projected onto the big screen. If you're a fan of boldly independent cinema, make sure to catch one of the well-hyped Boulder screenings.
Durango Independent Film Festival: March TBD, 2016
The southwest Colorado town of Durango has also gotten some indie cred lately with its festival, which has been held since 2001. Held during the spring, when some of the sunniest and warmest skiing can be had at Purgatory (formerly Durango Mountain Resort), this film festival lures lovers of both pastimes each year. Many of the festival's events are held at the Durango Arts Center and galleries, where bands (indie ones, of course!) play live music, parties are held and other artsy events happen.
Stanley Film Festival: April TBD–May TBD, 2016
The Stanley Film Festival showcases classic and contemporary horror cinema at the haunted and historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (most famously known as the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining). The short and feature films from prestigious festivals around the world will explore the vast spectrum of what defines horror in the world of modern film storytellers.
5Point Film Festival: April TBD, 2016
With a subtitle of "Inspiring Adventure," you know this Carbondale fest's films will leave you with a dropped jaw at least once. But don't expect run-of-the-mill ski shots. Organizers sum it up with this statement: "We avoid films solely about hucking yourself off a cliff and love films with a story and a human element." So there you have it: adventure films that might make your wipe a tear or expel a bit of laughter.
Other Colorado Film Festivals
Mountain Film Festival in Telluride, May 22–25, 2015
The Film Festival of Colorado in Arvada, June 25–28, 2015
Pueblo 24 Hour Film Festival, Sept. TBD, 2015
Crested Butte Film Festival, Sept. 24–27, 2015
Mile High Horror Film Festival in Denver, Oct. 1–4, 2015
Telluride Horror Show: Oct. 16–18, 2015
Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival in Colorado Springs, Nov. 13–15, 2015
Denver Jewish Film Festival, Feb. TBD, 2016
Colorado Environmental Film Festival in Golden, Feb. TBD, 2016
Vail Film Festival, March TBD, 2016
Photo courtesy of the Telluride Film Festival.