BIFF’s new musical bent

Music docs, independent films abound at festival

Peter Fonda, left, in Easy Rider
David Accomazzo | Boulder Weekly

As Boulder International Film Festival enters its ninth year, its founders, sisters Kathy and Robin Beeck, sit in a conference in their Pearl Street office, pondering the beast of an event they attempt to plan each year. They’re describing a new feature of this year’s festival, a singer-songwriter showcase, taking place at the filmmaker lounge, when they get asked how the idea for such an event came about.

They pause, looking at each other.

“Good question,” Kathy Beeck says with a laugh. “We don’t know.”

“We don’t even know,” Robin Beeck agrees.

“That’s how big this thing is,” Kathy Beeck says.

The festival, this year, brings 47 documentaries and feature films plus shorts to town, and the only two full-time employees acknowledge that it’s the enthusiasm and dedication of hundreds of volunteers that makes the festival run. They do know a few things about the showcase’s inception, of course, but as they talk about it, it’s clear that some unsung hero has taken the reins to make this part of the festival happen.

 “It came about because we have a filmmaker lounge that runs every year during the festival, that runs every day during the festival for ticketholders and pass holders, so you can go there and hang out, and we thought, this year, one of the things we can do at the filmmaker lounge is have live music,” Kathy Beeck explains. “And then we started talking about the fact that there are local people who are singer-songwriters themselves here who would love to be connected to filmmakers who are looking for music to use in their films, and this is one way where we can try to connect them and highlight some local talent here and hook them up with some filmmakers.”

The festival has about a half-dozen part-time employees (“Though they’re full-time this time of year!” Kathy Beeck jokes) and relies on its corps of 400 volunteers to make things run smoothly. And in a town like Boulder, that means the guy making sure that your walkie-talkies work properly could be a scientist at NIST (which happened one year).

There’s no theme to this year’s festival, but after the program was set, the Beecks looked at the lineup and realized the slate was full of music.

“You never know what your program’s going to be like every year, and this year we’ve discovered we have about eight great music films,” Robin Beeck says.

The opening night of the festival will feature Muscle Shoals, a Boulder-made documentary about the famous recording studio in Alabama. Also on the docket are documentaries about the wild Cream drummer Ginger Baker (Beware of Mr. Baker), Journey (Don’t Stop Believin’), a ’60s Detroit punk outfit (A Band Called Death), a story about an inner-city elementary school choir-turned-Internet-sensation (Once in a… The PS22 Chorus Story) and more.

This year’s festival brings a couple dozen documentaries and a handful of feature films to town. The festival has previously hosted Alex Baldwin, Oliver Stone, William H. Macy, James Franco and others, and this year’s marquee guest is Peter Fonda, screenwriter and director of Easy Rider and brother to Jane and son to Henry.

Also coming is an early screening of the major studio adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, starring Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart (and yes, she uses more than one facial expression in the film, Kathy Beeck says). The festival’s first ever silent film, Blancanieves, a Spanish adaptation of Snow White, also will make an appearance. The Iceman, a film starring Michael Shannon as a coldblooded contract killer, was recently added to the festival’s schedule.

A bevy of other events surround the films. The Digital Media Symposium (DiMe), moderated by Boulder Weekly film reviewer Dave Taylor, will host a series of conversations about technology and entertainment. Technology futurist Blaise Agüera y Arcas and Oscarwinner Louie Psihoyos (The Cove), a last-minute substitution for NPR’s Andy Carvin, who had to cancel for personal reasons, will give keynote addresses at this year’s DiMe. There will be free workshops, screenings and events for high school and college students as well.

“We grew up here since ’77, and I would have loved to have something like this available to me,” Robin Beeck says. “It’s three days of programming for students, by students, and it’s free. They get to attend workshops and see free films, and there’s an opening party, and I wish that I would have had something available like that to me. When you have an interest in something, to really be able to fan those flames in our youth, it’s really important.”

For a complete schedule and descriptions, visit

This story is part of our complete coverage of BIFF 2013