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Friday, September 23, 2005

Nothing but the truth
From corporate scandal to birds on the move, Longmont Film Festival offers real-life experiences

By Valerie Singleton
The Daily Times-Call

 

“Grandpa’s Still in the Tuff Shed” tells the true story of Trygve Bauge.
Photo courtesy Robin Beeck

LONGMONT — The 2005 Sundance Film Festival lauded “Sugar” as a daring, experimental work.

And really, in the grand scheme of things, all the films shown at the festival were, at one point or another, considered risks worth taking, whether by directors or film festival coordinators. Like its myriad counterparts, Sundance offers film enthusiasts the good, the bad and the ugly, so to speak.

Many festivalgoers agreed: “Sugar,” about a woman’s downward spiral into insanity, was a rotten egg.

“It was brutal,” says Dave Fox, a 2005 Sundance attendee and Longmont Film Festival committee member. “It was so difficult to sit through the whole film.”

For that reason, oddly enough, Fox was appreciative; to him, the true festival experience is about variety and the unpredictable reaction each film will evoke from viewers.

This was simply one valuable lesson LFF committee members gained from the numerous film festivals each attended within the past year. Another: documentaries are a big hit, something the committee says should resonate with the city’s film enthusiasts at the fifth annual Longmont Film Festival, Thursday through Oct. 1, at the Longmont Performing Arts Center.

The 2005 series’ theme, “Documentaries: Real Life, Reel Films,” pays tribute to a film genre that has enjoyed an eager fan base. If the success of recent releases, such as “Grizzly Man” and “March of the Penguins,” didn’t convince the LFF’s committee that documentaries would make a popular festival-theme choice, Longmont residents helped win them over.

“Fact is more interesting than fiction,” Bruce Pizzimenti says of the discovery he and fellow LFF committee members made during public canvasses regarding the festival.

To incorporate the flavor of other more prominent film festivals has been a goal of the LFF from the get-go. And according to committee member Sharon Eisler, the group has always had a social responsibility of filling an important cultural void.

“There’s no other venue showing this kind of stuff in Longmont,” Fox says. “If we don’t do it, nobody else will.”

Valerie Singleton can be reached at 303-684-5319 or by e-mail at vsingleton@times-call.com.

“Grandpa’s Still in the Tuff Shed”

Citizens of Nederland weren’t the only ones intrigued by the discovery of two frozen bodies in a tuff shed. Filmmaker Robin Beeck and her sisters, Kathy and Shelly, saw a major movie-making masterpiece in the true story of Trygve Bauge.

“We thought, ‘You know what? — Let’s make a film about it. We think the film will be really well received.’”

Fortunately, fellow filmmaker Michael Moore agreed — Shelly Beeck approached him about the project while the two attended the Aspen Film Festival — and helped fund the film’s production.

The documentary tells the story of Bauge, a Norway native who’s secret — he has frozen and stored the bodies of his dead grandfather and a friend in a shed behind his new Nederland home — is discovered after the Immigration and Naturalization Service deports him.

“The real star of ‘Grandpa’s in the Tuff Shed’ is the town of Nederland,” Beeck says, referring to the film’s focus on how a Mayberry-esque town turned into the Twilight Zone.

Public viewing of a locally made film and a post-show presentation by Beeck will help enrich the festival, says LFF committee member Russ Poulin.

Screening will be followed by a discussion and Q&A Beeck.

“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”

Laurie Klusman and Russ Poulin sat among a crowd of riled-up Californians the day they first saw “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.”

Movie viewers infuriated by the documentary — about the rise and fall of the Enron empire — raised their arms in the air as if hitting the people on screen.

The LFF committee knows the film has the potential to alienate some prospective viewers.

“On the other hand, it might fill the theaters,” Pizzimenti says.

The committee chose “Enron” not only for its popularity with past audiences, but also because the movie provided an opportunity to raise the community’s level of discourse.

“That’s why it’s interesting and somewhat important to bring these films to Longmont,” Fox says.

Screening will be followed by the PBS “NOW” interview with director Alex Gibney.

“Winged Migration”

How interesting can a 98-minute film about bird migration be?

“I loved it,” committee member Nancy Eletto says of the film. “It was so enlightening and so wonderful to see these birds traveling thousands of miles.”

“Winged Migration” is a wholesome, educational film, one that can easily be embraced by Longmont’s many families, Eletto says.

The film incorporates tantalizing visual and technical elements — the filmmaker bonded so well with the birds that he and his camera became an invisible presence in their lives — that tease the eye.

“You think you know about birds, because they’re just around,” Fox says. “This kind of opens your eyes to kind of fascinating experiences and lives.”

“Spellbound”

“Spellbound” was well-received when it was released in 2002.

The behind-the-scenes look at eight young contestants in a Scripps Howard Spelling Bee was not an epic thriller, but it did keep anxious viewers rooting for the spelling-champion hopefuls on the edge of their seats.

“It’s really, really interesting to see where these kids are coming from and what they’re going through,” Fox says.

Audiences already have embraced “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a Tony-award winning Broadway play about a similar competition. Now the LFF committee has similar expectations for its showing of “Spellbound.”

If you go x What: Longmont Film Festival When: Thursday through Oct. 1 Where: Longmont Performing Arts Center, 513 Main St., LongmontTickets: $6, $3 children 12 and younger; $20 pass to all films; $10 two filmsMore info: www.longmontfilmfestival.org; 303-678-7869