Ouray Film Festival Creates an Inviting Space for the Arts | Festivals & Awards
3 mins read

Ouray Film Festival Creates an Inviting Space for the Arts | Festivals & Awards

The programming this year was strong, and I’ll discuss a few must-see shorts, but the most important thing I took away from Ouray was what drives the co-founders: a sense of community, an attempt to reclaim what was lost in years of Zoom meetings and disconnected online interactions. The conversations weren’t just about what had just been shown, but about what people were working on, and perhaps even future collaborations. (Two well-known directors left the festival, insisting they’d work on a film together.) As Abell says, “It was exciting to see such strong relationships form between seasoned filmmakers and newcomers over the course of four days.” And Ouray organized panels to reinforce that sense of encouragement, including a phenomenal one with Chicago producer James Choi (“Saint Frances”) and Chicago filmmaker Linh Tran (whose “Waiting for the Light to Change” had its local premiere at the Chicago Critics Film Festival last year).

The majority of the program is short, which by its nature helps foster a sense of building for the future, as producers like Choi and the charming Ben Wiessner (“Thunder Road”) would offer advice to short filmmakers on how to get their films seen and future projects made. LaCroix explains that the emphasis on shorts is a way to attract more people to the festival—more directors for the shorts program than for a feature—but also that the draw comes from the fact that LaCroix and Abell are short filmmakers themselves. They were looking for an encouraging environment that they weren’t getting at their own festivals. “Like us, a lot of filmmakers get introduced to filmmaking through shorts, and there’s something magical about getting into an art form,” LaCroix says. “There’s a lot of ‘beginner’s mind’ and openness to shorts, which often translates into open and curious people (who are fun to be around).”

One of the most influential events of the festival was a full program of short films on the conflict in Ukraine. Last year, Ouray hosted a short film by Ukrainian director Maria Pankova called “Breathing,” and this year she returned with the striking “The Sound of the Wind,” a documentary about a Ukrainian woman living in Scotland that won an award for its striking cinematography. The block also included one of the best short films I’ve ever seen, Max Rykov’s “Hindsight,” which won the Grand Jury Award this year (along with Sisa Quispe’s “Urpi: Her Last Wish”). Rykov’s film is composed of VHS tapes his parents made in the 1990s as their country was changing and developing, but it’s much more than just home movies. Rykov uses footage from trips they’ve taken to other places of generational trauma, such as Cambodia, to underscore how cyclical destruction can be in history. He takes a personal connection and ties it to the past and future of his country. It’s extraordinary.