They may show work from all over the place, but one of the best things about film festivals can be their connection to the host community.
Take the Indie Spirit Film Festival, happening this weekend at Colorado College. The 2011 lineup will span horror, shorts, documentaries and big-festival films, such as Charlie Casanova (shown at SXSW). The opening-night film, On the Ice, is a nail-biter set in Barrow, Alaska. But as in all three previous years, the festival also will include some Colorado-focused productions, including one film in particular that has a tie to Colorado Springs.
What's Organic About Organic? filmmaker Shelley Rogers traveled around the country exploring what goes into the making of organic products. Among others, she interviews Andy Grant of Grant Family Farms in Wellington, which offers a popular community-supported agriculture program in town.
Though it revolves around a well-covered subject, Rogers' 59-minute documentary feels refreshing. Unlike many of its competitors, What's Organic About Organic? isn't about how American society is doomed; instead, it looks at the possibility of improvement, taking advantage of the farmers' good humor as they explain what growing organic really means. And it shows these men and women up close as they look over their land, making theirs a personal fight to stay afloat as they compete against mega-farms in other states.
"It's a call to action," says Megan Andreozzi Harris, Grant Family Farms' Colorado Springs CSA representative. "Yet it's unique because it presents the problem and solution in a one-on-one way."
In its fourth year, Indie Spirit has proven unique in and of itself. The Independent Film Society of Colorado's brainchild is the youngest of Colorado Springs' three major, established film festivals. The others rely on distinct themes, but Matthew Stevens, Jim Turner and Chris Loud have organized Indie Spirit around a loose idea.
"While the Pikes Peak Lavender Film Festival and the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival are wonderful, they are also specific," says Stevens, director of operations. "We saw a gap that needed to be filled so that the three of us could keep Colorado Springs well-rounded."
With more than 120 films, Indie Spirit aims simply to draw enthusiastic movie fans into theaters with the filmmaking community. And our city has responded well. For three years in a row, audiences have doubled in size. Now in its fourth year, organizers are aiming to double again.
"We had six or seven hundred audience members the first year, then it grew to 1,300, then to 3,000," says festival director Jim Turner. "We're aiming for 6,000 this year."
What's Organic About Organic? is a classic Indie Spirit choice, says Stevens. In fact, the film will show twice during the festival, "because it's an important topic that's covered in a pleasant way."
And whether organizers would say so or not, the farmers in it have something in common with the film enthusiasts bringing it here: They keep gaining traction despite competition from big business.
"The festival is growing in so many directions it's hard to remember everything," Stevens says, adding, "There are more awards this year, more filmmakers coming this year and more milestones."