The History of the Denver Film Festival
Since 1978, the DFS has worked to promote the medium as both an art form and a civic forum, developing a program that includes year-round screenings, community outreach projects and renowned special events. - Denver Film Society's Website
November 4-15, 2015, is the Denver Film Society's annual film festival. Each year the Denver Film Society presents over 250 films from local, national and international film makers. The Western History/Genealogy Department has the collection of the Film Society's records from 1978-2011 which outline the history of the organization that helps make Denver a cultural destination in the west.
In an interview in the Straight Creek Journal in 1978, Peter Warren spoke about founding the festival and recruiting the first group of people to plan the festival. At the time of the festival founding, Warren was a math professor and researcher at the University of Denver, and he later became Dean of University College at DU. He passed away on October 15, 2015, of a neurological disorder.
Amongst other notable contributors to the festival is Ron Henderson, who is still active with the film society. Although officially retired in 2007, Henderson was the first marketing director for the festival and continues to serve the festival as Senior Programming Consultant. The bar and lounge in the Sie FilmCenter is named for him.
The premier year for the Denver International Film Festival was 1978. The first festival was held in the Vogue, Ogden, Flick, and Centre Theaters, with several screenings selling out. One reviewer noted that by the end of the festival, he felt "strung-out" from the excitement and chaos of jumping from theater to theater. The first festival was honored with an appearance by Robert Altman, and it was the first time anyone showed a complete run of all of the Altman films made to that date. The first festival also premiered his film A Wedding which was shown to a standing room only audience.
The Denver Film Society collection in the archive of Western History/Genealogy contains programs, tickets, and membership forms from several years of the festival. Going through the original programs you can find the schedule and descriptions for all the films shown each year. For popular culture researchers these programs are valuable in that they reveal trends in film making through the years and from all over the world. Personally, the descriptions inspired me to seek out some of the smaller independent films, many of which can be found in the library or borrowed from other libraries through Denver Public Library's inter-library loan service. I was also struck by the films that were shown in past festivals that are now iconic to art house film enthusiasts. The first festival screened David Lynch's first film Eraserhead which one reviewer called the strangest film ever made. Aside from films that have reached cult status, the festival is also known for showing more avant garde films, and each year they present an award named after Stan Brakhage, the former University of Colorado Film Professor known internationally for his experimental films.
Other resources to look at if you are interested in learning more about the Denver Film Society and the Denver Film Festival include the book Take 30: The First Three Decades of the Denver International Film Festival, Denver Clipping files in WH/G, and the Denver Film Society collection.
Where were the Flick and Centre Theatres? Was the Vogue Theatre on S. Pearl?
WRT, I'm glad you asked, The Flick was 1460 Larimer Street; The Centre was 216 16th Street; and the Vogue was 1465 S. Pearl Street. If you are curious in the future about other business addresses I found this information in WHG's collection of city directories.
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