Annual Breck Film Festival brings drama, comedy, documentaries and more to Summit County and personal devices |

Annual Breck Film Festival brings drama, comedy, documentaries and more to Summit County and personal devices

Festival runs in-person Sept. 15-18, online Sept. 18-25

"Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West” is one of the seven world premieres at the Breck Film Festival. The movie documents the impact of wild horse roundups throughout the country.
Winterstone Pictures/Courtesy photo

Thursday night’s “Drinkwater” is set to give audiences a laugh and ease them into the returning Breck Film Festival. Out of 484 submissions, Breck Film selected 82 to be screened around town Thursday, Sept. 15, through Sunday, Sept. 18.

Like last year, this is a hybrid festival with tentpole films being exclusively shown in person. Then, additional titles are available to stream from Sunday through Thursday, Sept. 22.

Helping things run smoothly is Steve Moos, the new executive director of the nonprofit. For Moos, the festival is a chance to remain connected with his passion. Over the years, Moos has juggled coaching sports and teaching business classes with teaching video production and organizing film festivals. He met with former executive director Amy Sides in June after he retired and couldn’t pass up the chance to join the team.

“I was going to take the summer off and fly-fish and everything, but this is a great opportunity … so I went for it,” Moos said. 

If You Go

What: Breck Film Fest

When: Sept. 15-18, with a selection of films available online from Sept. 18-25

Where: Riverwalk Center, The Eclipse Theater, Breckenridge Theater and Summit County Library’s south branch

Cost: Digital films are $12, regular programming is $14 and feature films are $18. Festival passes range from $60 to $250. Visit to purchase, stream and view the full schedule.

His favorite film is “Jaws,” partly because he had a memorable experience seeing it too young, and he planned to study film, but he ended up becoming a teacher. Nevertheless, he is grateful that he has been able to educate and nurture filmmakers.

“It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Moos said. “… You can go to sleep at night knowing you’re hopefully doing a good deed for people.”

This weekend will be his seventh and final year working on the high school program with the festival, where students get a taste of festival competitions and are mentored by industry professionals. What used to be exclusive for Coloradans has since received submissions from around the globe, and he hopes it can remain international when the next volunteer takes on the program. Moos said 10 of 15 high school participants this year are women directors.

The students’ films will screen at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Breckenridge Theater. The winner of the competition will receive a workstation from Lenovo as part of their award.

Also returning this year is a block of children’s movies at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Riverwalk Center. Completely free, the collection of short films is made for children 4 and older, and crafts are available afterward.

Older kids — specifically girls in fourth through eighth grades — can participate in the Girls in STEM program during the weekend. It is back at the festival for the first time since 2019. After being mentored and guided by a filmmaker, projects made will be screened 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Breckenridge Theater.

“The Holly,” by Julian Rubinstein, tells the story of activist Terrance Roberts. It took Rubinstein eight years to film and is a continuation of his 2021 book.
The Holly/Courtesy photo

Other happenings include forums, such as “From Spark to Screen,” which talks about the role of the producer in the industry. Breckenridge resident Eric Nichols executive produced the short documentary “Stranger at the Gate” and is one of the speakers.

Outside of events, a few titles Moos wanted to highlight are the polar adventure film “Exposure,” the coming-of-age “Gringa,” “Signs of Love,” which stars Hopper Jack Penn, and the cinematic “River.” There are also 10 films from Colorado, including Julian Rubinstein’s “The Holly.” In it is a theme of unveiling the truth, which is present in a few of festival’s documentaries.

“The Holly” tells the story about former gang leader Terrance Roberts, who shot another person at his own peace rally, and the community around Holly Square. It is executive produced by Adam McKay, known for movies like “Don’t Look Up” and “The Big Short.”

Rubinstein calls the documentary the third act of his 2021 book, “The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun, and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood.” It took seven years for Rubinstein to write, and he realized he needed to transform the multigenerational story and film it simultaneously as he uncovered more about the incident.

Along with the challenge of hiring a film crew and switching mediums, Rubinstein said he has received death threats for his work.

“The book and the film expose a part of Denver that a lot of powerful, influential, wealthy and even dangerous people don’t want exposed,” Rubinstein said.

The Breckenridge festival is the second stop after it premiered in Telluride. Rubinstein, who grew up in Denver, is excited for it to be shown at the Denver Film Festival in November. However, he hopes it reaches a broader audience.

“Not only is it a Colorado story, but it is also a national story,” Rubinstein said. “It is a story that is directly about so many of the race and inequality problems that we’ve had. “

Rubinstein and Roberts will be present for a Q&A following the 8 p.m. screening Friday at The Eclipse Theater.

“Stranger at the Gate” is a documentary about division and hope shown during this year’s Breck Film Festival. One of the executive producers is Breckenridge resident Eric Nichols.
Karl Schroder/Courtesy photo

The documentary “Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West” is one of the seven world premieres, and like “The Holly,” the film touches on the theme of accountability, as well.

It is made by Ashley Avis, the writer, director and editor of the new “Black Beauty” film that launched on Disney+ in 2020. A lifelong fan of horses, she was inspired by “The Black Stallion” to get into the industry.

“It was that moment of unspoken connection and beautiful cinematography and texture,” Avis said. “Having grown up with horses, that movie has always moved me.”

For “Black Beauty,” she researched to modernize the animal welfare story and discovered the issue of wild horse roundups — and the subject of “Wild Beauty.” The Bureau of Land Management claims gathering the horses is helpful for the animals and land, but advocates argue the opposite.

Avis hopes the film becomes the next “Blackfish” or “The Cove” in terms of spotlighting animal cruelty. Avis and her crew spent four years documenting roundups in 13 states like Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. Colorado’s Sand Wash Basin in Moffat County, which had a controversial roundup last September, is prominently featured.

“Those are some of the most spectacular images in the entire movie,” Avis said of the Colorado footage. “We captured one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen with hundreds of horses coming to water and it was like the world was ablaze with gold dust. It was just stunning.”

Filming in the remote areas wasn’t easy, as their crew dealt with natural and governmental obstacles. Avis said the basin is only place where they got footage of a trap site for the horses.

After the 2:30 p.m. Sunday screening at the Riverwalk Center, children are encouraged to write letters to lawmakers in support of the horses. Along with Avis, Gov. Jared Polis, who has spoken out against the roundups, will attend.

“It’s a great film, beautifully shot and it has a great message,” Moos said. “That’s the kind of thing we really want to showcase and bring back to the community again. I’m really excited about the films we have.”

“Gringa” is a coming-of-age tale about a teenager who disappears after the death of her mom to find the father she has never known. It has its world premiere at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at The Eclipse Theater.
Red Card LLC/Courtesy photo

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