IFS packs its schedule with female directors and its first 3D screening

A new season starts up for IFS


The International Film Series provides a little something for everyone — from unknown art house flicks to ’70s blockbusters. If there’s one word to describe each season, says IFS director Pablo Kjolseth, it’s eclectic.

“Our goal is to provide a range of titles that honor the past as well as the present,” Kjolseth says. “Making sure to sprinkle in enough gems that might have been overlooked, or that otherwise wouldn’t be seen, along with titles that people really want to see.”

This season kicks off with two free shows. The first is the haunting European film The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears on Feb. 2. On the following day the IFS will feature a visit from director Ramin Bahrani, who Roger Ebert hailed as director of the last decade, and a showcase of his short films and his second feature-length film Chop Shop.

Over the years Kjolseth has aimed to create some stability in the program with Tuesday night documentaries, Wednesday art house staples, Thursday 35mm revivals  and weekend premieres. And for over a decade, IFS has devoted the first few weekends in February to screening the Oscar shorts — liveaction, animated and documentary. Throughout the whole season you’ll also find other award show contenders such as Nightcrawler, Force Majeure, Inherent Vice and Leviathan.

An exciting aspect of this season, Kjolseth says, is the amount of films made by women directors. This is especially poignant due to the recent controversy surrounding the general lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar nominees. Some of these movies playing in the IFS include Iranian vampire flick A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lily Amirpour and BP oil spill documentary The Great Invisible by Margaret Brown, who will be visiting the IFS to talk about her film.

Another female-headed film showing is The Babadook directed by Jennifer Kent. The film has gotten rave reviews, and Kjolseth says it was one of his favorites of 2014. The movie follows a widow and her son being haunted by a terrifying character out of a mysterious children’s book. Along with the screening, IFS will be giving away three replica Babadook pop-up books.

“I can tell if people have seen it on their laptop or on a small screen as opposed to people who have seen it theatrically because it has a contagious fear if you see it in a theater,” Kjolseth says. “It’s an absolutely amazing film by a female Australian director. This is her directorial debut, and she just hits it out of the park.”

Losing the West, another femaledirected film, is one that Kjolseth says will bring a packed house. The film follows Colorado cowboy Howard Linscott, using his story to frame the ranch and farming crises in the West. Filmmaker Alex Warren will visit to talk, along with Patty Limerick from the Center of the American West.

Frequenters of the IFS know that they’re guaranteed 35mm films. And in a world of constantly updating technology, movies on film are becoming more of a rarity. Kjolseth says they dragged their feet, but with the current state of the movie business, they had no choice to keep up. In 2013 they bought a digital cinema projector (DCP). On the plus side, now it’s the best of both worlds.

“With the film versus DCP debate, you get into this whole people who listen to MP3 versus people who listen to vinyl argument,” Kjolseth says. “We’re just happy to have both formats so as to be able to accommodate and give us more options.”

The two systems have come in handy. During this season, Kjolseth says he wanted to screen the last installment in Hal Heartley’s film trilogy Ned Rifle, about a son intent on murdering his father. To drum up excitement, IFS will be showing the two predecessors, Henry Fool and Fay Grim, and there were few screening options for both films. Kjolseth says neither was available in digital or Blu-ray formats. The only options were DVD, which Kjolseth says would look terrible projected, or in 35mm film.

“I’m able to properly screen all three films in a way that will complement them to their utmost, even though one is on DCP and the others are on film,” he says. “They’re all going to look as good as they possibly can on the big screen, and it’s thanks to the fact that we still have our film projectors. I’m glad we didn’t throw away our 35mm projectors the way a lot of other people did.”

In keeping with Kjolseth’s dedication to film, this year he’s selecting from the Universal Film Archive, which he says takes really good care of its prints. The films will be screened in chronological order starting with All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and ending with Do the Right Thing (1989). And instead of choosing from the huge list of movies himself, Kjolseth handed over the list to the film studies faculty at the University of Colorado Boulder. The professors chose the movies that they wanted to see, including several titles that they teach in their classes such as Jaws and The Birds. Kjolseth is also using the staff ’s expertise to introduce the films. Film professor Alex Cox, director of Sid and Nancy and Repo Man, will introduce The Beguiled, which he screens in his class. Retired CU film studies professor Jim Palmer will introduce Lonely are the Brave, a movie that he has written extensively about, Kjolseth says.

Another highly anticipated event is the first 3D movie IFS has ever screened. But no, it’s not Avatar or a Pixar film, it’s Goodbye to Language by acclaimed French new wave director Jean Luc Goddard. The movie, as all of Goddard’s movies do, serves as a funhouse mirror to the film industry. Instead of the usual Muenzinger location, IFS will be switching over to CHEM 140, which has capabilities to do 3D.

The IFS is known for choosing films that can be perceived as very heavy and obscure, but Kjolseth says they try to strike a balance.

“I do try to have a mix of things, sometimes there’s some stuff that is pretty challenging, severe, depressing and gritty. But I like to mix it up with things that are going to be fun or entertaining,” Kjolseth says.

This variety of choices is evident on both ends of the spectrum. For the heavy end there’s the documentary Vessels, which follows a woman who uses international sea law’s loopholes to perform abortions for women who can’t get them in their home countries. Or there’s Italian neo-realistic Rome, Open City, set in Nazi-occupied Rome. Documentary The Hunting Ground goes in depth about the continually worsening problem of rape happening on college campuses. And if that’s not enough, there’s the near three-hour Russian film Hard to be a God, a sci-fi futuristic movie about a planet that hasn’t progressed past the middle ages.

On the lighter side, expect charming old films like The Bride of Frankenstein and The Incredible Shrinking Man, one of Kjolseth’s all-time favorite films. If you need a laugh, there’s the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, described by critics as, “The Spinal Tap of vampire movies.” There’s also David Cross’s directorial debut Hits, following a municipal worker’s city council rant that goes viral.

Boulder independent movie fans will also see some of their favorites. After receiving several emails begging for another screening, Kjolseth says, IFS will be showing Awake: The Life of Yoganda, chronicling the life of the Hindu Swami who introduced yoga and meditation to the West almost a century ago. Also, documentary I Am is returning, along with the filmmaker Tony Shadyac, who is also serving as a professor at CU.

As the IFS heads into its newest season, Kjolseth says it continues to keep independent film thriving in Boulder, which is not the same goal for big movie theater chains. Ultimately, Kjosleth’s desire is to have a unique cinema-going experience for those who really enjoy films. That means no commercials, no concessions and very few trailers, so all the attention can be on the film.

“I grew up watching films all around Boulder. … So I’m an indiscriminate cinephile. I love it all — the obscure stuff, the art stuff, the big Hollywood films,” he says. “But the changes in the multiplex lately have been horrific, because they really accentuate how much of their philosophy is about just having butts in the seats. … The IFS is a place where you can quietly watch a movie. All the focus is on the movie.”

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