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Our View: Durango Film grows, evolves, reaches

Festival selections from faraway and nearby move, challenge, inspire

Durango Film’s home page has a fitting quote from actor Ryan Gosling on the power of film. “If it’s good, it can somehow make you feel connected to even the farthest thing from your own experience,” Gosling said.

So true. Selections for this year’s independent film festival, which runs today through Sunday, come from faraway, international locales to places as close as Mancos, the Four Corners and Salida in central Colorado. This is the beauty of this festival. Even though you’ll recognize landmarks and familiar faces, films are selected on the quality of the stories, what they say about our human condition. It just so happens, some of those stories are from right here in our own backyard.

And if stories aren’t homegrown nearby, they still resonate locally in large ways.

Many of the subjects of this year’s films have been covered in the pages of The Durango Herald and The Journal – Indian boarding schools, complicated social divides, the systemic breakdown at the center of ancestral Puebloan culture, ingenuity in the outdoor industry and paths that lead to unexpected places. Drought, art, strengths and rediscoveries of the human spirit.

We love that Durango Film drops independent filmmakers directly into our Southwest communities. This year, more than half of the filmmakers whose work will be featured will be here in person, with many events open to the public. Perfect opportunities to engage the creators and masterminds of the movies that moved you.

Local schoolchildren continue to be included, too, in film programming. Durango Film has brought educational and creative films to the Ignacio and Durango school districts for 15 years as part of the REEL Learning School Program. In 2020, Bayfield Intermediate School joined in and participated for the first time, reaching a record 2,505 students that year. Now, that’s impactful.

New this year is an educational endeavor, the 2023 Native Lens Media Fellowship with workshops for American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians ages 18 to 24, interested in learning the craft of video production and digital storytelling. Nine fellows will screen Indigenous films.

As journalists who revere good stories, we’re excited to see what these young, aspiring filmmakers produce, how they articulate their ideas, and bring vision and opinions to big screens.

Native Lens Media Fellowship’s partners include Vision Maker Media, the premier source of public media by and about Native Americans; and Native Lens, a collaboration between Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting Service and KSUT Tribal Radio in Ignacio, which showcases films produced by Indigenous people.

Durango Film is all things film in the Southwest. That means jobs, too. In this post-pandemic time when employers are looking for workers and workers are looking for the right employers, the Four Corners Film Office is now part of Durango Film. Productions that come through this area hire extras or people who can do camera work or any of the other tasks required to bring a film to life. A job has to go to someone – might as well be you.

In essence, Durango Film and the Four Corners Film Office, together, can be that place where dreams are made.

We’re fortunate to have Durango Film in our communities. This nonprofit continues to grow and evolve and reach. We’re looking forward to all the stories it brings this year.

See you at the film fest.