From political to personal, festival showcases film aimed to inspire, inform, entertain

The Moab International Film Festival returns for its fifth year March 4-6 at Star Hall, featuring a collection of independent films that organizers say will “inspire, inform, and entertain.” The nonprofit festival aims to showcase films, ranging from the political to the personal, that bring “powerful” stories and ideas that have a positive effect on society.

“Our festival brings to Moab highly curated films from around the world that they cannot see anywhere else,” said organizer Nathan Wynn.

He said the festival began with that exact idea — bringing films “worth watching” to Moab. Wynn told The Times-Independent that he and co-organizer Denise Felaar loved watching movies, but saw a dearth of quality work actually available to enjoy on the big screen.

“ … The majority of people we know find Hollywood movies run of the mill and commercialized, yet they still like going to a movie house and watching one on the big screen,” Wynn said.

This weekend that “big screen” can be found at Star Hall, where the festival will showcase a wide range of feature-length and short independent films.

And this year, the volunteer-run festival is funded entirely through sponsors, which Wynn said shows that the event is truly about the inspirational films.

“There is no way we could come close to paying our expenses without [our sponsors],” Wynn said. “We put the festival on for people to enjoy and be inspired by, not for monetary gain.”

That means showcasing films from around the world, Wynn said. Highlighting the importance of the international bent to the festival, Wynn said the festival attracts interesting films that avoid “an ethnocentric, locals-only kind of feel.”

The festival starts off March 4 with that worldwide focus, screening “Gun Runners,” a 2015 film about two “notorious” warriors in Northern Kenya who trade their weapons for a life as professional runners. The Canadian-made film is told entirely through its central characters, and promises a story about tradition and modernity as well as retribution and reform.

The festival also highlights worldwide environmental issues, including this year’s “Antarctic Edge 70° South,” which follows a team of scientists studying climate change, and “Fractured Land,” which tells the story of an indigenous lawyer trying to protect traditional territory in northern British Colombia from expanding mineral development.

Also featured are closer-to-home stories like “Martin’s Boat,” a short film about conservationist Martin Litton, who pioneered whitewater dories on the Colorado River in the 1960s.

When asked what he’s most looking forward to this year, Wynn mentioned the 2014 documentary, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,” noting that film’s focus on second-wave feminism alludes to “our current political times.”

Felaar said director Mary Dore will attend the screening in Moab, and host a question-and-answer session after the film. Dore’s documentary explores the birth of the women’s liberation movement from 1966 to 1971, from the founding of the National Organization for Women to more radical factions. The film utilizes dramatizations as well as archival imagery to tell the story.

Although he is particularly looking forward to that film, Wynn said festival-goers can expect quality work from the entire 2017 lineup.

“There’s not a film in our lineup that should not be there,” Wynn said. “I can’t just look forward to this one.”

For a full schedule of the 2017 film festival, including showtimes, visit moabfilmfestival.org.

Tickets are $5 per film, and full passes are $32. Both are available online at the festival website, at Canyonlands Copy Center, 375 S. Main St., or just prior to the screenings at Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.

ByBy Molly Marcello

The Times-Independent