Behind the glare of the lights and the weight of celebrity names, the Breckenridge Festival of Film is supported by a strong mission to engage its audience in the world of filmmaking, not only to entertain but to educate. In addition to its own purpose, the festival allows filmmakers and, through them, local nonprofits to bring their causes and issues to the minds of the public. Panels and forum discussions enable conversations to occur between experts and audience members.
The world of filmmaking
“To me, a big part of it is to educate,” said Breckenridge Festival of Film vice president Cynthia Gordon, of the festival’s mission. “It is so much fun to meet these filmmakers and so inspiring.”
While one doesn’t need to be an aspiring filmmaker to enjoy the festival, to those who do, the event offers myriad opportunities to learn firsthand from professionals in the field.
“It’s an opportunity to learn more about film. There are film forums, people will be talking about how to do everything from using your iPhone to become a mini filmmaker to just having a chance to hear some people who are in the business talk about how they do things,” said Gary Martinez, festival president. “It’s an experience. It’s a chance to learn, it’s a chance to enjoy.”
Two forums in this year’s festival focus specifically on filmmaking — “The Democratization of Film” and “Making of the Shot.” The first discussion centers on what it really means to be a filmmaker in today’s age of relatively cheap equipment and cameras that come on phones. The second discussion, which is paired with the new Adventure Reel event, goes into the technical aspects of cinematography, dissecting what makes a “good” shot and how to make it happen.
“It’s accessible to amateur all the way up to professional,” said executive director Janice Kurbjun.
For those who want to be part of the festival, there are still plenty of volunteer opportunities.
“Volunteers are what make the festival go round,” Kurbjun said. There are a variety of jobs available, “whether they’re holding the filmmakers’ hands and showing them around town and attending parties with them, or operating the DVD players and taking tickets. They are a huge part of what makes the film festival successful.”
Platform for important issues
Many of the films to be shown at the film festival are documentaries and even those that aren’t often focus on a specific theme or issue. This year’s films follow topics such as providing medical care to war-torn areas, Alzheimer’s disease and domestic violence. Film festival organizers have teamed up with several area nonprofits to take advantage of the messages of these films and hold panels to bring further awareness to the community.
One such panel highlights child abuse and domestic violence and involves the filmmakers of two movies to be shown as well as representatives for the local chapter of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and Advocates for Victims of Assault, which are sponsoring the films.
The three films each take a different approach to the issue of child abuse and domestic violence. “No One Knows” is a 10-minute short performed by actors featuring a young boy who witnesses the abuse of a next door neighbor. “The Children Next Door” takes 37 minutes to explore a real-life case of domestic violence that ended in a woman’s murder. “Pursuit of Truth: Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Seeking Justice” is the longest at 59 minutes and features interviews by victims of abuse who have spoken out as well as experts in the medical and legal aspects of such cases.
After the films have shown, the audience is encouraged to attend a panel featuring Kathy Reed, executive director of CASA of the Continental Divide; Amy Jackson, executive director of Advocates for Victims of Assault; Val Aneloski, child welfare supervisor in Summit County Social Services; Barbara Shaw, domestic violence consultant and expert; Bunee Tomlinson, filmmaker of “No One Knows;” and Valerie Gibson, filmmaker of “Pursuit of Truth.”
Each member of the panel will introduce themselves and speak from their perspective on the issue, followed by a question and answer period from the audience.
“What we’re hoping to accomplish is, after the viewing of the movies, that people will get the opportunity to realize that domestic violence happens across the board, and so it’s not limited to race or economic status or any of those kind of things,” Reed said. “My portion is specifically talking about the impact on the children that are involved in domestic violence, and the cases that we’re seeing district-wide.”
Reed has had the opportunity to watch “No One Knows” before the festival and described it as “extremely impactful” in showing how domestic violence affects a family as a whole.
“What I really appreciated about it was it talked about the conflicts that the children feel when they see the violence but they still love the people that are the perpetrators, and that really speaks to the families that CASA serves because we have figured that about 66 percent of the cases that we served last year involved domestic violence, sexual abuse and physical abuse, and so … it’s interwoven with what’s happening in the family.”
Although the topic is a heavy one, Reed said she’s glad to see it as part of the film festival and hopes that people will take the chance to learn more about the issue by watching the films and attending the panel afterward.
“I think it’s going to be informative. I think that people that are on the panel all have information from different perspectives and I think it’s going to help our community as a whole in order to be more healthy,” she said. “At least in the perspective I’m coming from, it’s real human beings, it’s real people, and I think that makes a tremendous impact on those lives. I think there are also areas of hope that things can be better and I think that’s why it’s worthwhile.”