film fest

The Ridgway Independent Film Festival debuts online this Friday. Photographer/filmmaker Rennan Ozturk, who starred with fellow alpinists Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin in the documentary “Meru,” is one of the fest’s judges. Pictured above: Meru Peak, in the Indian Himalaya. (Photo by Iluis Cabaroccas Ribas)

This region is blessed with several film festivals, but you might be excused for thinking they’ve come and gone by this point in the year.

Mountainfilm, for example, was over-and-done as of Memorial Day weekend. The Telluride Film Festival — yet another COVID-19 casualty — was canceled entirely, though programmers did release a list of the films that would have screened, and where to track them down. 

The Ridgway Independent Film Fest, by contrast, is different: it is still on, delivering a slate of some three-dozen fresh films to viewers for a week beginning Friday.

Admission is a mere $10, and you can screen the films “as often as you want,” Organizing Committee Chair Amanda Gabrielson said.

Though in-person film fests offer an undeniable buzz — even glamour — online viewing confers certain advantages to cinephiles. For example, viewers can do a deep dive and watch a movie (or for that matter, a series of scenes) again and again from any-sized screens, at any time.

Programmers also get the luxury (and the audience gets the gift) of showing/viewing more films than would normally play in the Sherbino Theater — the fest’s home screen in non-Covid times — when audiences and visiting filmmakers are confined to a tight schedule.

“We made the festival a little longer this year than we would have at the Sherb,” Danielson said (a total of 30-some juried short films, by both professionals and amateurs, are on offer). Programmers have extended other compensations to the audience this year, as well. “We can’t have a People’s Choice Award, because there are no people” in attendance at the Sherb, Danielson pointed out reasonably. Instead, “We’re conferring three other awards: Best of the Fest, Best Amateur Film, and Best Professional Film.”

There are also no filmmakers in attendance this year, a ‘perk’ for directors — and audiences — that has always distinguished the Ridgway gathering.

“Usually we invite filmmakers to town,” Danielson said, “This year, we’ve recorded short bios with the directors,” which gives filmmakers a chance to describe their work (and their inspiration for these works in particular) for audiences at home.

“It goes without saying that we’re disappointed that we can’t host the fest in person this year,” Ridgway Mayor John Clark, one of the fest’s organizers, said. “It was challenging and frustrating and a little scary to do it virtually without it costing very much.” (The fest receives support from the Town of Ridgway, Alpenglow Arts Alliance, the Boettcher Foundation and Colorado Creative Industries as well as ticket sales. Additional donations are welcome.)

“I’m hoping it’s all quite seamless,” Clark said of the screening experience. “The Vimeo platform seems to be very robust.” Clark is particularly inspired by this year’s slate of judges, including National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk. Viewers may be most familiar with Ozturk from the documentary “Meru,” about the mountain’s notorious ‘Shark Fin’ route in the Indian Himalaya. Ozturk not only starred in that film with fellow alpinists Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin (who directed), he was its cinematographer. Mountain climber/professional filmmaker Taylor Rees, Ozturk’s partner in life as well as on high peaks (according to GearPatrol.com, the couple climbed the Grand Teton on their first date), is also a judge of this year’s entries.

“I reached out to them when I learned they had moved to Ridgway,” Clark said. “It’s exciting to have them involved.” They’re extremely accomplished filmmakers, and (as the mayor put it, with a kind of characteristic, only-in-Ridgway type of understatement) “really interesting folks.”

For admission to the Ridgway Independent Film Fest, visit sherbino.org.