The Breckenridge Festival of Film celebrated its opening night at the Riverwalk Center on Thursday with the showing of two films — “Death of a Shadow,” by Belgian director Tom Van Avermaet, and “Chasing Shakespeare,” by director Norry Niven and starring Danny Glover.
Both films offered stunning visuals, with rich colors, sweeping vistas of gathering storm clouds and intriguing special effects. Each followed a love story mixed with supernatural elements.
“Death of a Shadow” played first, opening with a scene of a dark street and rich music playing in the background. The premise is that the soul of a soldier killed in World War I is trapped in a kind of limbo, collecting shadows for death in order to get a second chance at life. However, with only two more shadows left to go, he makes a startling discovery. The film is filled with rich images, music that swoops and swells and a few moments that make the audience jump.
The film was nominated for an Academy Award and took five years to make, Van Avermaet said during the question-and-answer period afterward.
“I wanted to give my own interpretation of my fear of death,” he said, adding that he wanted to portray the concept of death “like an art collector.”
A visually intriguing sequence opened “Chasing Shakespeare,” incorporating shots of nature and a horse running in slow motion. Through time lines jumping between past and present, the audience witnessed the romance between William (Danny Glover) and Venus (Tantoo Cardinal).
“It’s a love story, but it’s so much more than that,” said Niven.
As the title implies, the works of Shakespeare play a central part in the lives of the characters, bringing them together and supporting their struggles and triumphs. Glover brings an emotionally powerful performance, which had many audience members wiping away tears.
Afterward, Niven explained his connection to the material, particularly the Native American spiritual elements, by sharing that his great-grandmother was part Navajo. He also discussed the meanings of the film’s symbolic and metaphoric aspects, including owls representing death and horses representing love.
After the final round of applause, the majority of the audience relocated from the Riverwalk Center to Ember, where chef-owner Scotty B served up an array of intriguing h’ors d’oeuvres. They disappeared quickly from circulating plates as directors, filmmakers and film enthusiasts discussed the opening-night showings. The shrimp corndogs were particularly popular, with inventive points going to several dishes involving crickets — a crunchy treat with a spicy kick.
The film festival continues through the weekend, with showings all day today, Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit www.breckfilmfest.com.