The checklist for a well-programmed film festival might go something like this:
- Deliver a varied slate of films: fiction and nonfiction; feature-length films and shorts; comedies and dramas.
- Sculpt shorts packages with intentional juxtapositions that delight and create meaningful, pleasing and potent echoes.
- Host guests and panels that guarantee the film-centric gathering is an event, not just cinema’s version of binge-watching.
- Above all, engage, entertain and expand comfort zones.
For 15 years, Denver Film’s Cinema Q Festival has been more than checking the boxes. It has been serving, reflecting and expanding that vague yet vital notion of community.
Under the guidance of founder Keith Garcia, the LGBTQ+ branded screenings grew from a monthly program to a spotlight section during the Denver Film Festival to an annual festival that will celebrate its 15th year with Thursday’s opening night film “Bottoms,” an R-rated romp about goofball friends, PJ and Josie, who start a high school fight club in hopes of getting the amorous attention of the school’s cheerleaders. They get plenty … of attention, to the ire of the footballers. (Opening night festivities are sold out, but you’ll still have a chance to see the comedy when it opens in theaters on Aug. 25.)
Garcia continues to build the festival around what he calls the Three Vs: voice, vision and visibility. Two Cinema Q events aptly capture the breadth of those Vs: The screening of Bill Oliver’s satisfying drama “Our Son,” and the double-bill of Paul Morrissey’s “Blood of Dracula” and “Flesh of Frankenstein,” featuring actor and festival special guest, Udo Kier.
“Our Son,” starring Billy Porter and Luke Evans as a married couple fighting over who’ll have custody of their young son after the marriage falters, gently and satisfyingly leverages the gestures of old-school melodrama to explore the emotional wrinkles of what some in the LGBTQ+ community might dismiss as modern “heteronormative” life: marriage, kids, divorce. The Morrissey double feature embraces and celebrates what was — especially in the 1960s and ’70s — willfully, zestfully transgressive in form and in content.
Between the double-bill screenings of the Warholian classics, Theresa Mercado (curator and host of Denver Film’s genre flick series, Scream Screen) will sit down with Kier to talk about acting and genre. Fingers crossed that she’ll also get him to spill about his friend and cinematic legend, the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder, as well as working with directors Werner Herzog, Gus Van Sant, Lars Von Trier and, yes, Warhol.
Like Pride month, the festival straddles celebration and vigilance, the sublimely ridiculous and the deadly serious, queer joy and LGBTQ+ civil rights.
With the election-year uptick in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and violence, Garcia’s emphasis on the Vs feels even more important, especially for those marginalized within the broader LGBTQ+ community. “Keith and Denver Film have been more than allies,” Black Pride founder and executive director Tara Jae, wrote in an email.
“They have shown up in ways that I consider them to be accomplices in the work in our community. Not only do they prioritize ensuring that there is representation being shown on the screen, they also go above and beyond in many of the conversations and workings behind the scenes. They follow up and show up every time that we have asked for their support.”
Here are four more highlights of the four-day festival. (For the full schedule, visit denverfilm.org.)
“1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted Culture.” The child of a pastor, director Sharon “Rocky” Roggio takes audiences on the dogged investigation that uncovered the moment when a group of white, male scholars refashioned the Revised Standard Version of the Bible to reflect the language of their own bigotry by translating two Greek words into “homosexual.” Roggio and producer Jena Serbu will attend a post-screening Q&A as well as the panel “Your Own Personal Jesus — Finding Faith in the LGBTQIA Community. Panel, Sun., Aug. 13, 11 a.m.: screening Sun., Aug. 13, noon.
“Chasing Chasing Amy.” Proud Kansan Sav Rodgers was a ‘tween when Kevin Smith’s 1997 indie “Chasing Amy” came out. The rom-com drama about a male comic book artist who falls for a lesbian proved a life-changer for the young Rodgers. This documentary is his engaging exploration of why. Screening with Q&A, Sun., Aug. 13, at 2:30 p.m.
“Saint Drago.” For their second feature, horror filmmakers Brandon Perras, Michael Ahern and Ryan Miller headed to Provincetown. But not the Ptown of many a queer and free-wheeling summer. The haven that characters Caleb (Perras) and Adrian (Ahern) arrive at, hoping to revive their relationship, is off-season and off-kilter, to say the least. Screening with Q&A Friday, Aug. 11, 9:30 p.m. The filmmakers will also participate on the panel “The Deep Roots and Dark Branches of Queer Horror.” Sat., Aug. 12, at 11 a.m.
“Break the Game.” Director Jane Wagner found remarkable subjects in video gamer Narcissa Wright and her girlfriend, Alex Eastly. She also found a remarkable way of repurposing live-streamed images in the service of telling a story about gaming culture, transphobia and mental illness. Wagner and Eastly will be in town for the screening and Q&A, Sat., Aug. 12, at 3 p.m.
Denver Film’s Cinema Q Film Festival. Four days of LGBTQ+ movies, guest appearances, panels and a party or two. Aug. 10-13. At the Sie FilmCenter, 2510 East Colfax. Schedule, individual tickets and passes available at denverfilm.org.
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