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Brit's Picks for the Starz Denver Film Festival: Movies with Colorado connections

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Joan Soriano is "The Duke of the Bachata."
Editor's note: This year's Starz Denver Film Festival, November 12-22, features more than 200 films. To help navigate this cinematic abundance of riches, we asked fest artistic director Brit Withey to highlight some worthy selections off the beaten screening-room path. Look for Brit's Picks each weekday through the extravaganza's close.

Colorado is definitely in the Starz Denver Film Festival spotlight. Although the event's opening flick, Precious, may bear the stamp of executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, the producers who did by far the heaviest lifting were Colorado-based Sarah Siegel-Magness and husband Gary Magness. But there are plenty of other entries with Colorado connections. Withey introduces three of them, beginning with The Duke of the Bachata.

"The Duke of Bachata [Saturday, November 21, 9:45 p.m., Starz FilmCenter; Sunday, November 22, 2:15 p.m., Starz FilmCenter] is a documentary by Adam Taub about this really engaging character named Joan Solano," Withey says. "He's a musician in the Dominican Republic, and he's really good -- a great guitar player and just this beautiful singer. He's really handsome, too, and he's just beginning this career that seems unstoppable. It's a look at his life as he sets out to hopefully get his first record deal in this tiny, poor town. It's a lovely film."

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"Swift Justice."
Next up is Swift Justice: Illegal Immigration in America, directed by Mateos Alvarez, Julie Speer Hunniford, which debuts on at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, November 15, at Starz FilmCenter, with an encore at the same time (and in the same location) on Sunday, November 22. "It's about the meatpacking raids in Greeley a couple of years ago," Withey notes. "Obviously, that was a big deal here on the Front Range. The film features interviews with a bunch of people on both sides of that issue, including people from the Swift plant, law-enforcement officials, and some of the undocumented workers who went to jail after the raid. It takes a look at the fallout from that whole incident, giving a really relevant look at an important local issue."

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"Two Spirits."
Another documentary set in Colorado is Two Spirits, a documentary by Lydia Nibley that can be seen at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 21 at the King Center. The film centers around Fred Martinez, who Withey describes as "a teenage boy from Cortez who was Native American and gay. In the Native American tradition, they call gay people 'two spirits,' and in the past, this was really highly regarded. In fact, people like this were often thought of as shaman. But this young boy was murdered in a way that was similar to the Matthew Shepard case. He was walking home late one evening and somebody came across him, chased him down a road and beat him to death. So the documentary tells his story, but it also looks at the larger question of the gay issue in the Native American community in Colorado, as well as issues that arise between Native Americans and non-Native Americans." These subjects will be hashed out in a panel discussion that includes "people from the film and the 'two spirit' community -- and Matthew Shepard's mother will be here as well." The results, Withey believes, "should be very interesting."

And heartrending as well. For more films with Colorado connections, click here.


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