Don’t escape – innovate

Challenge yourself at the International Film Series

Alex Cox's "Revenger's Tragedy"
Krystal Baugher | Boulder Weekly


After a long, hard day at work, many people find themselves in front of a brightly lit screen, immersed in what they consider pure entertainment. To them, it’s a chance to let go, to forget about their troubles, to distract themselves from their boring existence on this planet.

But if life sucks for whatever reasonsperhaps instead of escape, one should look for inspiration. One way to easily and cheaply do that is through independent cinema.

The International Film Series offers more than your run-of-the-mill mainstream movies. Now in its 70th year, IFS shows more than 100 independent films annually, ranging from classics like Rainer Werner’s World on a Wire to newer films like Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life. Located in Muenzinger Auditorium on the CU campus, it is one of the few series left that not only shows movies, but films — 35 mm to be exact.

The difference between 35 mm and digital may seem subtle to most, but according to Pablo Kjolseth, IFS director, it’s the difference between a pure image and a recreation.

“Subconsciously, the brain knows the difference between an authentic moment compared to a faked one,” Kjolseth says.

IFS adds a new venue this year, the Visual Arts Complex Auditorium 1B20, where IFS will screen documentaries throughout the semester. This is the first year they’re playing movies at the new arts building. Some of the documentaries include Beautiful Darling — about Andy Warhol’s star Factory actress Candy Darling — and !Women Art Revolution, a film about the feminist art movement and the complexities it brought up in regards to class, gender, race and other categories.

“Some people find certain films intimidating or not easily accessible, but I like IFS because of its ability to bring lots of new perspectives to Boulder,” CU film studies graduate Emily Shurtz says. “It’s one of the cheapest ways outside the home to experience art. And though certain films may at first seem intimidating, people should give them a shot they may be surprised at what they learn.”

Some other enchanting perspectives include that of Japanese director Yasuzo Masumura, who directed more than 60 movies in his lifetime. Although many film critics rave about his work, he is largely unknown to American audiences. Luckily for Boulder, IFS will play a different film of his for an entire week (Nov. 16-20). Even better, these film viewings will be free to the public.

“He was a complicated director,” Kjolseth says. “We’re only getting a sample of his work, but each one is different.”

Topics range from mountaineering all the way to nihilism. It’s important to note that these films are not available on DVD, so it’s a rare and refreshing opportunity for the Boulder community to get a rare artistic glimpse into Masumura’s mind.

Another refreshing element for the Boulder community is the addition of director/writer Alex Cox to the CU film studies department. IFS plans to have an almost mini-retrospective of his work every Wednesday night this fall. Not only that, Cox will be available for a Q&A session after each screening.

“I grew up in Boulder watching his films. It’s a thrill to have him out here now as a colleague,” Kjolseth says.

Some of Cox’s memorable films include the cult classic Repo Man (Sept. 14), about a young punk who loses his job as a grocery clerk and finds work (and cold hard cash) through repossessing cars, and Sid and Nancy (Sept. 21), which is about the life and times of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.

The IFS offers escape from escapism.

“We are now bombarded with more visual information than any other culture before ours,” Kjolseth says. “Film helps us become visually literate. We must inoculate ourselves from being manipulated from government propaganda and studio capitalist culture by becoming visually competent.”

The International Film Series is a better place than most to do just that.

The season starts with a screening of Happy on Friday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

It is a film about the psychology of what happiness means, both individually and globally.

Following Happy is Farmageddon, a film on Americans’ right to access fresh, healthy and local foods from family farms, on Saturday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

To find out more about IFS, its schedule and descriptions of each movie, visit