The world comes to DFF: The sequel

Highlights from weekend two at the Denver Film Festival

Initially banned in Kenya, Rafiki explores the connection between two young girls in love in a place that has no interest in seeing a happy same-sex couple.

Continuing until Nov. 11, the 41st Denver Film Festival holds plenty of treats in store for intrepid moviegoers, particularly those with an eye beyond U.S. borders.

Take the French film, Non-Fiction (Nov. 9 and Nov. 11); it’s a talky movie, possibly the talkiest movie at the festival, but these discussions have the familiarity and warmth of an old cardigan.

Focusing on the publishing industry, Non-Fiction revolves around a half-dozen friends, co-workers, lovers and adulterers and myriad conversations on literature, social-media, love, sex, fidelity and truth. It all sounds well and good (hell, you might agree with most of it), but writer/director Olivier Assayas cleverly juxtaposes scenes to shows how everyday actions undermine beautiful words. Affairs abound, façades are a way of life and the savvy mine these moments for artistic and capitalistic gains. And the best part, Assayas presents these characters so simply and matter-of-factly that it’s impossible not to find familiarity among this motley crew.

Non-Fiction might not be the sexiest, loudest thing you can see this weekend, but it sticks to the ribs better than most. Plus, it’s pretty funny.

Keeping with the comedic vein, Iceland’s Woman at War (Nov. 8–9) follows Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir), a middle-aged choir conductor trying to adopt a little girl from war-torn Ukraine. But Halla also moonlights as an eco-terrorist, and with the Icelandic government hot on her heels, Halla must use all her resources to stay one step ahead of the police, the adoption agency and her twin sister.

Heartwarming, quirky, humorous and delightfully playful, Woman at War breaks with filmmaking convention just enough to remind us that the faces we see on screen, and these lives we spy on, are both a product of our world while remaining a construct for our entertainment.

Embodying both, Rafiki (Nov. 9–11), the second film from Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu, is an expressive movie full of vibrant pinks, deep purples and neon greens; a stark contrast to the lack of warmth offered by the community it depicts.

Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) are two young girls in love, but neither their friends nor their family have any interest in seeing a happy same-sex couple. Not too mention, both are daughters of rival politicians campaigning for votes.

Initially banned in Kenya, Rafiki remains buoyant amid turbulent seas, at home and abroad. Rafiki may not come with a Hollywood ending, but, before we get to it, there is the delightful connection between two young girls clearly enjoying their first love.

And then there’s Panic Attack (Nov. 8–10), a grim Polish comedy that opens with a grisly suicide and gets more cringe-worthy from there. Deftly hopscotching between seven intertwining stories, Panic Attack revels in watching someone’s day go to hell in a handbasket. Maybe not for the easily embarrassed, but for those having a particularly bad day, Panic Attack carries a fair amount of catharsis. Or, at the very least, the notion that things could be a lot worse.

On the Bill: 41st Denver Film Festival. Oct. 31–Nov. 11, Multiple locations,,