There’s nothing wrong with taking a new approach to a beloved event — that’s how new perspectives and stories get added to familiar ones. In his second year as general manager of the JCC Mizel Arts and Culture Center, Rich Cowden decided to do just that in preparation for the 27th annual Denver Jewish Film Festival.
“I used the first year as a listening tour and one of the things that came up during the process was that we could add some new elements to the festival without throwing away the things that worked so well,” he explained. “We wanted some space for more diversity in the line-up and started looking at how we select films every year.”
To inject new viewpoints into the festival, Cowden changed how films were selected, bringing in younger people to share the stories that connected with them and made it easier for members of the pre-screening and film selection committees to work through the more than 300 submissions the festival receives every year.
“We also opened a second space at the center for film screenings, so we can show more films,” he said. “What people will find this year is we’re making inroads into a more diverse portfolio of films.”
This year’s festival, which is presented by The Chotin Foundation and runs from March 11 through March 19 at the JCC Mizel Arts and Culture Center, 350 S. Dahlia St. in Denver, reflects those efforts to expand the frame - there are 39 Israeli and Jewish films, including nine shorts and one television mini-series, hailing from 14 countries. For those who can’t attend in person, films will be streaming on-demand from March 20 through March 29.
With so many entries, there are truly options for all to enjoy, but one that Cowden particularly cited is the closing night feature, “The Man in the Basement,” a psychological thriller based on a true story, about a French couple whose cellar is rented out to an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist.
As an organization that never shies away from fostering conversation, the festival will also screen “Blue Box,” a documentary about efforts to secure land in Palestine. It is just one of the films that will have an audience discussion afterwards, so viewers can share their thoughts and get more information on the topics the film delves into.
“I want people who may think a festival like this is not for them to take a chance and have conversations around the films, the themes and ideas they present, and build a conversation around Jewish culture that is healthy, tolerant and filled with compassion,” Cowden said. “I really believe in the power of art to build bridges where everyone is trying to build walls. These films then become a conduit for connection between people, and that’s ultimately why we do this.”
To learn more about the films and purchase tickets, visit https://djff.eventive.org/welcome.
Spring into a new season with the LSO
The Lakewood Symphony Orchestra is welcoming spring with the latest entry in its Season of Favorites with a performance of some beautiful music. The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 9 at the Lakewood Cultural Center, 470 S. Allison Parkway.
Some of the music the symphony will be performing include Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Coronation March,” followed by music from the ballet “Coppélia,” a story that predates Pinnochio by 13 years but follows a similar storyline. The show will also feature Brahms’ “Symphony No. 2 in D major.”
For more information and tickets, visit www.lakewoodsymphony.org.
Pictures worth more than a thousand words at MOP Denver
The Month of Photography Denver, which runs through Friday, March 31, allows the work of photographers of all skill levels and interests the opportunity to showcase their talents. The biennial event is celebrated by galleries and arts organizations all over the state.
One of the most inspiring events in this year’s lineup is the free Night Lights Denver, which will be held at the Daniels & Fisher Clocktower, 1601 Arapahoe St. in Denver. The Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC) will be digitally projecting images on the building to celebrate the month. For a full list of events and participating locations, visit https://denvermop.org/.
Clarke’s Concert of the Week — The Lagoons at the Bluebird Theater
Sometimes you just need something smooth to get you through the day. The music multi-instrumentalist brothers Ryan and Joey Selan make as The Lagoons fulfill the brief beautifully. Over their three EPs and two albums (including last year’s “Daybreak”), the duo has fine-tuned a vibey electronic take on yacht and surf rock that can just carry you away to somewhere warmer if you let it.
In support of the record, The Lagoons will be stopping by the Bluebird Theater, 3317 E. Colfax Ave. in Denver, at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15. They’ll be joined by opener Jelly Ellington. Get tickets at www.bluebirdtheater.net.
Clarke Reader’s column on culture appears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.