It entertains. It educates. It provokes and persuades, moves and motivates. The cinema’s potential to transform as well as reflect society in all its diversity is what the Denver Film Society (DFS) aims to recognize and realize.
Since 1978, the DFS has worked to promote the medium as both an art form and a civic forum, developing a program that includes year-round screenings, community outreach projects and renowned special events. It is in fact the only nonprofit organization in Colorado dedicated to engaging both its members and the general public in a lifelong, life-altering relationship with and understanding of film and film culture.
The twin pillars of the DFS are the Sie FilmCenter, our home theater, and the award-winning Denver Film Festival. Now in its third decade, the festival presents an 11-day roster of international screenings, red-carpet premieres and awards ceremonies—among them the prestigious Krzysztof Kieslowski Award for Best Feature Film, the Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary and the achievement-based John Cassavetes Award.
In addition, the DFS organizes such popular annual festivals as Film on the Rocks, a cinema/concert series held throughout the summer at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater.
After eight great years at the Starz FilmCenter, the DFS celebrated the opening of its new home, the Sie FilmCenter, in 2010. In its own theaters, the DFS presents a weekly changing calendar of first-run exclusives and arthouse revivals both domestic and foreign, narrative and documentary—over 600 per year, all shown in their original language and format, without any onscreen advertising.
The Denver Film Society’s mission is to develop opportunities for diverse audiences to discover film through creative, thought-provoking experiences.
The Denver Film Society’s vision is to cultivate community and transform lives through film.
The launch of the Denver International Film Festival, which gave birth to the year-round cinematic organization we are today, unfolded over 10 days in May 1978. Some 78 films from around the world screened in four long-gone theaters scattered throughout central Denver: the Centre, the Ogden, the Vogue and the Flick. The maverick director Robert Altman, special effects wizard George Pal, Spanish director Jose Louis Borau, acclaimed cinematic poet Stan Brakhage and Canadian documentarian Harry Rasky were the special guests. The public and critical response to this modest, incipient cinematic experiment exceeded all expectations…and a new Denver cultural celebration was born.
The festival then moved from May to October, from multiple theaters to the three-screen University Hills Theater (plus two special-event screenings at the 2000-seat Paramount Theater) and downsized from hundreds of films to 60 of the hottest titles on the 1984 festival circuit. It was the most star-studded festival to date: Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Wim Wenders, Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell, Jonathan Demme, Eric Roberts, Sandy Dennis, Joel and Ethan Coen, Victoria Tennant, David Keith, Marv Newland, John Hanson, John Byrum and Patrick Duffy were gracious guests who interacted with enthusiastic audiences after screenings, at festival receptions and in the Festival Café in the courtyard of U-Hills.
The 12th edition was programmatically a rich and eclectic outing, a defining eight days in the life of the festival, from the inspiring Opening and Closing Night bookends (Crimes and Misdemeanors and Cinema Paradiso) to the impressive roster of international film artists in attendance to important milestones that defined the remarkable week. Milestone number one: the presentation of the first John Cassavetes Award by Seymour Cassel to first-time director Steven Soderbergh for sex, lies and videotape. Milestone number two: the U.S. premiere of the compelling 10-part series Decalogue with the great Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski in person. Our other international guests: Robert Wise, Ray Harryhausen, Jack Clayton, Martin Landau, Michael Moore, Stockard Channing, Gyula Gazdag, Trinh Minh-ha, Ivan Nitschev, Christian Blackwood and Joe Berlinger.
After more than two decades of festival screenings at movie theaters all over the city, the Denver Film Society finally acquired its own year-round home—thanks to John J. Sie and Starz Entertainment. The vacated 12-screen AMC complex downtown became our headquarters and year-round venue for the next 11 years. New programming was born to supplement the Denver Festival: CinemaQ, DocNight, Hot Button Cinema, The Language of Film and Young Filmmakers Workshops, among others.
Timing is (almost) everything. As the contract expired on our home at the Tivoli, a newly constructed, state-of-the-art three-screen theater sat empty in the Lowenstein Cultural Complex next door to the new Tattered Cover Book Store and Twist & Shout on East Colfax. By Opening Night of DFF33, we had the keys to our new home. New partnerships were forged, new series and mini-festivals came on screen … and a new era began.