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Cinebis Film Festival coming to Manitou Springs




Cue the lights

Ever thought you'd be able to light up in City Hall? You still can't, but you can go to Manitou Springs' City Hall this weekend to learn about, discuss and celebrate all things cannabis (short of actual consumption on the premises).

And the authorities aren't just down with it — they're helping sponsor it with funding and providing the venue. By a 4-2 vote earlier this month, Manitou Springs City Council waived rental fees and granted $2,500 from municipal coffers to the Cinebis Film Festival, the first of what's expected to become an annual attraction in the marijuana tourism-friendly mountain town. In conjunction with Manitou Movie School, the festival has a packed screening schedule ranging from the now-ubiquitous, 1936 propaganda flick Reefer Madness to a vérité feature about the United Kingdom's medical marijuana pioneers to a cannabis-inspired cooking series that's designed to both entertain and inform.

The emphasis on education, awareness and open dialogue makes the festival a good fit for the city that allows recreational marijuana sales. That's where co-organizer Michael Browning saw opportunity.

"This is not a party," he emphasized in an interview with the Indy. Public consumption is against the law. None of the venues — City Hall, Manitou Movie School, Iron Springs Chateau and a handful of liquor-licensed pubs — allow cannabis consumption on-site. The festival has partnered with two "bud and breakfasts" — Avenue Hotel and Hotel San Ayre — to put on consumption-friendly open houses for out-of-towners.

So there's that. But, again, getting high isn't what this is all about.

"We really believe more conversation needs to take place," Browning says, "about this being not only acceptable for adults, but really a powerful medicine and dietary supplement."

That's why, in addition to the screenings, the festival will showcase panels, presentations and an award show that elevate medical marijuana experts. And though it's somewhat niche, that's part of the draw.

"We want to grow this into something like Sundance [Film Festival], where Manitou is like the Park City and the Springs is like Salt Lake [City]," says Browning, adding that like that independent film festival, Cinebis' location in scenic Manitou Springs is a major asset.

Sure, Denver's got one or two cannabis-themed film festivals. But they're in Denver. There's traffic, noise and stress — all the things you don't want when you're trying to really engage with cinema in a heightened state. In Manitou, though ... well, you know. That place is a trip all on its own.

Tickets for the Cinebis Film Festival are available at or on-site at the Manitou Film School from 12-4:20 p.m. Friday, Saturday or Sunday. They can also be purchased in front of City Hall on Friday and Saturday an hour before screenings, or at the Iron Springs Chateau on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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