The Ouray International Film Festival is entering its third year, and the excitement in the valley is palpable.
It’s not an everyday occurrence that the film industry descends into a tiny mountain town to share the latest and greatest offerings available. OIFF was founded in 2020 by Terry Kiser, Jacob Abell, and Jared Lacroix. The festival has grown from its simple beginnings to a festival chock-full of expert discussion panels and jury-selected movies screened at the historic Wright Opera House.
The face of the festival is award-winning actor Terry Kiser. Kiser has a lifetime membership in The Actors Studio that is backed by over 140 acting credits This includes Rachel, Rachel (directed by Paul Newman) and the title role in Weekend at Bernie’s. Terry also serves locally on the board for the Wright Opera House.
This marks the first year that the festival will run for four consecutive days, June 23rd through the 26th. It kicks off with a screening of the award-winning film Disfluency about the journey of a young woman who, due to an unexpected trauma, must retreat from college to her parents' house and focus on allowing herself to confront the future. Disfluency will be followed by Zaire Love, showing a selection of her short films followed by a Q&A with the festival’s Scholar-In-Residence, Skinner Myers.
Zaire Love is an award-winning filmmaker, musician, writer and TEDx speaker who attempts to honor, amplify and preserve the stories and voices of the Black South, particularly those hailing from Tennessee and Mississippi. Her work combines the lives of everyday black Southerners with the ideals of imagination, creativity, and endless possibility. In 2021 Zaire was the recipient of the IF THEN x HULU grant that she used to produce the short film SLICE about the unique, black, swim culture of Memphis, Tennessee.
Friday kicks off with the film A Home Called Nebraska that details the experiences of those involved in the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. Next up is the first of three blocks of short films that will continue on Saturday and Sunday. This will lead into a special engagement featuring Scholar-In-Residence Skinner Meyers, who will discuss his research into Black Cinema, exemplified by screening multiple examples of his work, and then conclude with a panel discussion.
Friday evening the festival will bring the public together by hosting a free screening of Spirit of the Peaks in Ouray’s Fellin Park. The selection of the feature is especially poignant to the Uncompahgre Valley as it is about both skiing and the native Ute culture. The story combines the history and past injustices committed towards the Utes alongside a new found cultural awareness as seen through the eyes of Hunkpapa Lakota skier Connor Ryan. As he ascends and skis the region’s peaks then delves through the history of the Native Ute people, there is a hope that all is not lost for the future of the original protectors of our local lands. Saturday will have a Q&A with the filmmakers and athletic teams of Spirit of the Peaks after the second short film selections are screened.
This year, the Director Spotlight Ceremony will highlight Jim Cummings. Cummings’ feature debut, Thunder Road , expands upon his award-winning short film of the same name. The film follows a police officer from Texas who comes to terms with the death of his mother and the overall effects it has on both his life and personal relationships. Following the screening, Brian Tallerico who is the editor of RogerEbert.com will lead the discussion with Cummings about the film. Tallerico is a heavy hitter in the industry, with such credits under his belt as President of the Chicago Film Critics Association, contributor for Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vulture.com, and The Playlist, along with being the co-producer of the Chicago Critics Film Festival.
Saturday night will continue the tradition of the Patron and Sponsor Gala that is held at the Kiser Ranch. This will be open to all patron pass holders as well as the artists, filmmakers, and sponsors. There are also special screenings that will be kept under lock and key until the event is underway.
An experimental film block curated by artist-in-residence, Jonathan Rattner from Vanderbilt University, will kick off the final day of the festival. This will be followed by the last block of short films that will include the Sundance Film Festival Selection Champ by writer director Hannah Peterson. The votes will then be cast and tallied in anticipation of the award ceremony.
Abell talks of the future of the OIFF and how it has become more than just something for Ouray. Abell, a graduate of Ouray high school before getting his PhD from Vanderbilt University, is proud that over the last three years they have reached out and brought in more filmmakers from Grand Junction and Denver to represent Colorado. Plans are in the works to open up the opportunity for more Coloradans to become involved in and experience OIFF live and in-person by taking the show on the road with a brand new traveling exhibit. The traveling pilot program being introduced will present speakers along with highlights from previous years’ festivals and is planned to kick off sometime around Labor Day on Colorado’s Western Slope.