Denver’s Women + Film Festival lineup, schedule and more in 2022

“Fire of Love,” the Women + Film Festival’s opening night documentary, features a remarkable throuple.

All right, perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch. After all, the protagonists of director Sara Dosa’s engaging documentary were too promiscuous in their love of volcanoes to limit themselves to just one.

if you go

Women + Film Festival. Narrative and nonfiction shorts and features, plus in-person guests and gatherings. April 5-11 at Denver Film’s Sie FilmCenter, 2510 E. Colfax Ave. For information and tickets, go to denverfilm.org.

Katia and Maurice Krafft spent their lives globetrotting from dormant to venting to erupting volcanoes, observing, collecting data and seemingly flirting with their fearsome force. Telling their story as one about dogged research could easily have been enough to make an interesting documentary, but Dosa gives audiences an indelible love story to boot.

“Fire of Love,” which won the editing award earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, is the rousing start to a week of features and shorts, narrative and nonfiction films meant to get audiences talking and thinking, while keeping them deeply engaged in story. With its film festival next week and an awards luncheon in mid-May, Denver Film’s best known offshoot is blowing up. In a good way.

It’s been 16 years since Denver Film and the philanthropist and film-theater producer Barbara Bridges started hosting panel discussions during the Denver Film Festival. Soon enough, one-off screenings were added to Denver Film’s year-round programming. And in 2011, Women + launched its first dedicated fest, celebrating the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. The partnership between Denver Film and Bridges has been beneficial to Denver filmgoers.

“It’s been fantastic to have someone who’s got a wide network, who really has a good understanding of vision and is open to working together to find new areas of growth and partnerships and community,” says Denver Film’s acting CEO, Kevin Smith. “It’s been a wonderful experience to grow this with her de ella and to really think through how Women + Film can be even more impactful from year to year.”

Volcanologists Maurice and Katia Krafft at work and play in Sara Dosa’s “Fire of Love.” Courtesy National Geographic Documentary Films

Next week’s fest features three other documentaries that highlight adventurers:

  • Holly Morris’s fluidly crafted, aptly titled “Exposure” follows 11 women who may have comprised the last expedition team to head to the North Pole. Led by Felicity Aston, the trek brought together women from Europe and the Arab world. Two years before they land in Antarctica, they trained in the cold of Iceland as well as the swelter of Oman’s desert. Will the entire group make it through the brutal, beautiful journey? Climate change, the possibility of polar bears and a wicked storm may have something to say about that. While all the team members are compelling, it’s hard not to focus on Miriam Hamidaddin, Misba Khan, Anisa Al Raissi and Asma Al Thani (a member of Qatar’s royal family), who each in her distinctive way defies expectations — cultural ones, to be sure, but also her own.
  • “Nasima: the Most Fearless” recounts the saga of its title character, a Bengali girl who once sold trinkets on the beach and grows up to be Bangladesh’s first female surfer. Director Heather Kessinger and producer Christine Gunther will attend a post-screening talk.
  • Also, from the rebuffing of stereotypes department comes Rita Baghdadi’s “Sirens.” The Los Angeles-based, Moroccan-American filmmaker follows the head-banging, axe-slashing, culture challenging lives of the lead guitarists for Slave to Sirens, the Middle East’s first all-female metal band from Lebanon.

Hankering for something a little lighter after your heavy metal? Denver Film artistic director Matthew Campbell promises “a real audience pleaser.” Iman K. Zawahry’s comedy “Americanish” is about two Pakistani-American sisters looking for love and living in Jackson Heights, Queens. “It has really been tearing it up on the festival circuit over the past year,” Campbell said.

Rockers Lilas Mayassi, left, and Shery Bechara in “Sirens” about the Middle East’s first all-female heavy metal band. Courtesy: Animal Pictures

The full program for Women + Film can be found at denverfilm.org. But this year’s festival is just the half of it.

Next month, Women + Film plans to honor two legends at its annual awards luncheon. Rita Moreno made history when she won at the Academy Awards for her portrayal of Anita in “West Side Story.” Arianna DeBose, who won the same award decades later for the same role, would agree that Moreno’s deserving of this year’s Inspiration Award.

Women + Film founder Barbara Bridges (left) with Civil Rights icon Carlotta Walls LaNier. Courtesy of Carlotta Walls LaNier.

In her acceptance speech on Sunday, DeBose looked at Moreno, who was seated in the glittering audience. “You’re staring at me right now. Your Anita paved the way for tons of Anitas like me, and I love you so much.”

This year’s Impact Award recipient, Denver’s own Carlotta Walls LaNier, also made indelible appearances in film and photos: in “Eyes on the Prize,” Henry Hampton’s towering civil rights-era series, as the youngest of nine Black students who walked into the segregated Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas in 1957.

“All of this programming is for nothing without an audience,” Bridges wrote in an email recently. “It is the community of filmgoers, that is the reason for it all, that adds the energy.”

That give-and-take of movie and moviegoer will once again be a central component as next week’s festival returns to in-person with guests and post-screening Q&As. Among the filmmakers slated to be in Denver: Julia Bacha, maker of 2009’s riveting documentary “Budrus,” who arrives with “Boycott,” about the wave of anti-boycott legislation being enacted in the United States.

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