Durango Film festival kicks off Wednesday

The title has changed again but the credits are the same – Durango Film is the latest moniker for the 8th annual independent film festival.

This year’s slate includes 102 titles ranging in length from a few minutes to more than two hours, which will be shown on three screens between Wednesday and Sunday. The schedule of films will be complemented with special events, parties and filmmaker panels.

The biggest change for 2013 is the absence of the traditional Sunday night dedicated awards ceremony.

“We decided that we could present the awards at one of our scheduled events instead of adding another on Sunday night when a lot of people have already left town,” said Durango Film Executive Director Joanie Fraughton.

Also new is that voting by audience members and festival judges will conclude at 6 p.m. Saturday. Also this year, voting will be done online instead of by traditional paper ballot (though some will be available at venues). The results will be tallied immediately, and awards will presented at the late-night VIP party at Mutu’s. The results will posted as soon as possible on the festival website.

Sunday’s lineup should not be affected by the earlier voting because all of the films and programs will have previously been screened.

There are some notable highlights to watch for this week. Filmmakers are always VIP guests during the festival, but 11-year-old Sterling Bachman will get the presidential treatment during his visit. The victim of an inoperable cancer, Sterling made the short film “Sterling’s Special Love Holds” with help from Angelight films in his home state, Connecticut. His visit to Durango will be the first airplane ride and vacation of his young life.

“He’s never been so excited for anything, ever, and he can’t wait to get there,” said his mother, Cynthia Bachman.

Back for a second year will be Alex Cox, director of “Repo Man” who made a splash at the 2012 festival with a standing room-only event at Back Space Theatre. He will be there Sunday to debut his new documentary “Scene Missing” about the final film project of the late Hollywood legend Dennis Hopper. Arrive early – it’s a free event on a first-come, first-served basis.

This year’s nostalgic movie is “Smoke Signals,” the Native American neo-classic celebrating its 15th birthday. Actor Gary Farmer, who played Arnold Joseph in the film, will attend Thursday’s screening.

Durango Film also has the world premiere of a sports documentary that will air later this year as part of ESPN’s popular 30 for 30 film series. “Free Spirits” tells the story of the Spirits of St. Louis, the American Basketball Association team that didn’t make the leap to the NBA in the 1970s and folded after two years but is a case study in the business of sports thanks to a lucrative TV deal. The team’s play-by-play announcer was a young Bob Costas in his first professional job.

Friday night will bring the first midnight screening Durango film festival history.

“We heard from the student community that a midnight movie is the kind of thing they might enjoy, and we’re trying to involve the college crowd more,” said Durango Film Programming Director Robb Brantley.

The inaugural late night movie will be the zombie flick “The Battery,” about two ex-baseball players trying to stay alive in post-apocalyptic New England.