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Film, TV and Streaming

Durango Independent Film Festival celebrates 19 years

Elizabeth Alderfer, left, and Jennifer Sorenson star in “For When You Get Lost,” a film showing at this year’s Durango Independent Film Festival. (Courtesy of IMDB)
‘Hollywood of the Rockies’ taking over town next week

For the last 19 years, Durango Independent Film Festival has taken over downtown with movie screenings, panels and parties.

It’s that time again.

Beginning Wednesday and running through March 3, DIFF is cramming Durango Arts Center and the Gaslight Twin Cinema with as many features, shorts and documentaries as it possibly can.

The fest kicks off Wednesday with the traditional free movie night at 6:30 and 7 p.m. at the DAC and Gaslight. Sponsored by Ballantine Communications (this paper’s parent company), seating is first come, first served, so it’s advised moviegoers get to the venues early.

A couple of movies not to miss this year are “For When You Get Lost,” and “It was up there.”

‘For When You Get Lost’

(Narrative feature. 96 min. Showings: 10 a.m. March 1 at Gaslight 2; 3 p.m. March 3 at Gaslight 2.)

It’s a safe bet that the vast majority of families are not perfect: They can be messy, drama-filled, or just wither and fall apart under the strain of radio silence. And it’s not until the threat of tragedy that some families are brought back together and a type of healing – or closure – can begin.

The film, “For When You get Lost,” is the story of June Stevenson, who when she finds out her terminally ill father doesn’t have much longer to live, hits the road to see him before he dies. Along the way, she picks up her estranged sister, who grudgingly agrees to go with her. June’s a pretty hot mess, as evidenced in the opening scene, which we’re not giving away here.

The film was directed by Michelle Steffes and written by Jennifer Sorenson, who also stars as June.

If you go

WHAT: 19th Annual Durango Independent Film Festival.

WHEN: Various times, Wednesday to March 3.

WHERE: Durango Arts Center, 802 East Second Ave., and Gaslight Twin Cinema, 102 East Fifth St.

TICKETS: Various passes available. Visit http://tinyurl.com/4k6efats.

MORE INFORMATION: Visit durangofilm.org.

“She was really fun to play. She’s obviously very messy,” Sorenson said. “What I love is that her intentions are so good (but) her execution is horrible. I wish I had the heart that June has – I think I have aspects of it, but I think she has an incredible heart and such good intentions that she just wants her family to be back together.”

From the feedback Sorenson has gotten from viewers after watching “For When You Get Lost,” turmoil in families seems to be fairly common.

“The response that we have received from the film was that a lot of people have had these experiences, and I don’t know, maybe they’re just told differently in other films,” she said. “But I have many people come up to me after watching it and saying, ‘This is my story,’ like middle-aged men who are weeping saying, ‘This is my story,’ and it’s so confusing to me because I didn’t write their story; I wrote a story I wanted to tell – in part, a version of my own story. And so this whole experience of having the film be out in the world has been really revealing that this is a lot of people’s stories, and a lot of people’s experience.”

And for Sorenson, the message she hopes viewers take away from the film is fairly simple.

“I would love people to kind of think ... that our parents and people are human beings; that flawed people are still people and we’re all human beings,” she said. “... I hope that’s what people get from it – to see people as humans.”

“It was up there” is an animated short that recounts the story of a UFO sighting. (Courtesy of Jesse Willmon)
‘It was up there’

(Animated short. 6 min. Showings: 7 p.m. Wednesday at Gaslight 2; 8 p.m. March 1 at Gaslight 2.)

If you’re in the market to see a UFO, driving through the desert at night may be just your ticket.

Such is the case that’s the subject of the animated short, “It was up there,” by Jesse Willmon.

The 6-minute stop-motion animation features the narration of his parents, Fred and Sarah Willmon, who tell their story about what they saw when they were traveling from Aztec to Albuquerque late one night. It was near Cuba where they saw the UFO, Jesse said.

“They saw a light in the sky,” he said. “They described it as like a huge ball of fire and they thought it was an airplane crashing. They finally stopped, and they were like, ‘You could smell it.’ And they got out of the car and it was gone – disappeared out of the blue.”

After the sighting – and subsequent disappearance, the Willmons continued their drive to Albuquerque, assuming they’d see something about the incident on the news.

But they never did.

One year, the couple visited Jesse in New York, and he had them sit down and tell their story as he recorded them. He then took the tape and set it to animation.

Fred and Sarah Willmon recount their UFO story in their son Jesse’s short film, “It was up there.” (Courtesy of Jesse Willmon)

And “It was up there” is a hit with his parents, he said.

“They love it,” Jesse said. “I showed it to them for their anniversary the next year (and) they thought it was hilarious. And my dad was like, ‘Oh, man, what are you gonna do with this now?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I’m entering it at a film festival.’ They’re like, ‘Oh, no.’

“There’s unbelievable things in the world. But when somebody trustworthy tells you a crazy thing, you’ve got to believe them,” he said. “I don’t know if I believe in UFOs, but I believe my parents saw one. They saw the thing. So there’s no way around it.”


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