37th Breck Film Fest continues to inspire, educate and entertain | SummitDaily.com

37th Breck Film Fest continues to inspire, educate and entertain

The 37th annual Breckenridge Film Festival is returning this weekend to the arts district campus and showcasing more than 70 films. The lineup, stretching over four days from Sept. 21-24, features 34 Colorado premieres, 11 international premieres and 12 U.S. premieres. But, the event isn't just watching movies all weekend.

A Festival that facilitates

On offer are documentaries, stories of adventure, comedic shorts and suspenseful dramas to create a diverse collection of films. With between 400-500 submissions and more than 70 films selected, the festival is competitive. Organizers hope the roster lives up to its mission statement: inspire, educate and entertain.

"Whatever type of film, we want the audience to learn something and be inspired," said Ashley Kujawski, spokeswoman for the festival. "We want to connect the audience to the filmmakers and connect the filmmakers to each other to help grow the industry."

The festival organizers hoped to choose films that paired well with one another, and that would resonate with some of the issues Summit County is facing.

Breck Film Fest isn't genre specific and is built around film blocks. This year's lineup includes an Adventure Reel featuring two films set in Alaska: "Expedition Alaska" and "North of Known." Another film for adrenaline junkies and adventure lovers is "Blood Road," featuring the story of Rebecca Rusch's 1,200-mile ride along the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as she searches for the place where her father was killed in the Vietnam War.

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"The Adventure Reel is always one of the most popular nights," said Kujawski. "We are dedicated to where we are located, which is an adventure town."

This year's Adventure Reel is sure to please the local outdoor lovers with pristine footage of Alaskan wilderness and inspiring stories of athletes being stretched to their breaking points.

big issues on the Local level

Another popular block in this year's lineup is "Water: In All Its Complexities."

"We live in a resort town that relies on snowfall and we are at the top of the headwaters. We feel a strong pull to leverage our programming with speaking opportunities to help our community and its guests understand the importance and complexities of water," said Janice Kurbjun Miller, executive director of the Breck Film Fest.

Three films will be shown in this block, all of which touch on the intricacy of water and its inevitable conflicts throughout history. Those films are: "Avanyu," a documentary that looks at a community's dependence on water and what it means for them; "Mining The Motherlode," a documentary with an artistic look at wasted resources, the culture of consumption and brokers who trade on our most precious resource (water); and "Water & Power: A California Heist," also a documentary, which takes a look at the politics surrounding California's complex water system.

Following the film screenings will be a panel discussion focusing on water in the West, its limited nature and solutions being pursued for extending usage of our most vital resource.

The panel will be moderated by Genia Gallagher, a local author who just released "Water, Water, Everywhere: The Great Western Fallacy," a book about the conflicts over water that continue to expand, intensify.

Also in attendance at the panel discussion will be Chris Treese, external affairs director of the Colorado River District; Sinjin Eberle, communications director of American Rivers; Karn Stiegelmeier, Summit County commissioner and Colorado Basin roundtable member; and Patti Wells, general counselor of Denver Water.

"We are bringing local connections to these films. The same issues are being faced here at home. Droughts, fires and snowfall are all seen here," said Kujawski.

"We give local organizations a platform to educate and gain exposure. And to talk about their missions and goals on the local and state level."

Sparking a Social impact

Also featuring local organizations is a film block that hits close to home, "Stigma, Suicide, and Hope," which aims to address the urgent issues of youth suicide and mental health.

The two films scheduled for the event, "#Will" and "Holden On," shed light on a subject that is especially relevant in resort communities like Summit County.

"These are true stories that we hope will decrease the stigma. This conversation needs to be brought to the table as much as possible, especially here," said Kujawski.

"#Will" tells the story of a teenage boy with suspected self-harming behavior and "Holden On" shares Holden Layfield's tale of succumbing to a secret battle with mental illness.

The block aims to bring to life mental health issues, connect with those affected and open up conversation.

"There have been so many losses in this community alone, and we are hoping these selected films, that lend themselves to powerful discussion, can help Building Hope and Mind Springs Health continue to do the great work they're doing," said Kurbjun Miller.

Following this film block there will be a panel discussion with "Holden On" director Tamlin Hall, Building Hope Summit County program manager Betsy Casey and Mind Springs Health chief medical officer Jules Rosen, M.D.

Visions of Innovation

Another example of local inclusion in the festival is the 14-minute short, "Charged: The Towers that Power Our World," which was filmed partially in Breckenridge and includes Mike Khavari, a Breckenridge local. Khavari is with ASEC, Inc., which has an office in Breckenridge and is a pioneer in aesthetics in engineering structures.

Around the globe, high-voltage transmission towers dot the landscape everywhere that electricity is delivered. As part of the "Transition Into Creativity" film block on Friday, "Charged" goes behind the scenes with a few dedicated engineers who are redefining our horizons by pushing the physical and electrical boundaries of transmission tower design.

The festival hopes to promote learning and open discussion during the weekend, and more importantly, be a catalyst for continued conversation and collaboration.

"It's not high-profile like most film festivals. The artists get together and share ideas and discuss issues," said Kujawski. "It's really an opportunity for networking and connecting with their audience."

On Saturday, at the Blue River Plaza there will be a full day of programming for teens. There are 20 student finalists showing their films at the festival this year.

"Professional filmmakers will be on hand giving film critique and feedback to the students. It's not open to the public. The closed discussion is a networking opportunity to help these students continue contributing to the growth of filmmaking," said Kujawski.

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