For many years, Colorado College has been lucky to host North America’s longest-running women’s film festival right here on campus. The Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival has been operating for 31 years with a principal mission to make women’s voices heard in the film industry.
“It’s been doing that for way, way longer than any of the current emphasis on underserved and underrepresented voices in filmmaking,” said Dylan Nelson, a CC professor of Film and Media Studies who also had a piece in the festival Nov. 9–11. “All of the films in the festival are either made by or about women.”
“They have great taste,” she said of the festival’s organizers. “I’m really pleased that it’s starting to get a little bit better known within the CC community because it takes place here and it’s such a phenomenal opportunity.” Nelson has attended and showcased films at numerous festivals — Sundance, Tribeca, and Cannes, along with some smaller regional festivals — and puts this at the top of her list. “The way that they support and treat their filmmakers in addition to the way that the filmmakers work with and are exposed to the audience … they make us work,” she said.
In addition to the screenings, the festival includes panels and various programs designed to interact with the college and with the local community.
Linda Broker began volunteering with the festival in 1994 and has been working as the executive director for the past 17 years. She explained that this event is unique from others: “I think there is a certain level of intimacy that exists that isn’t found at many other festivals,” said Broker. “Because all of our venues are all located in such close proximity to each other, everyone feels like they are all experiencing the same event, even though they may not be watching the same films.” Broker also said that the organizers “provide opportunities throughout the day for people to connect with one another, whether it’s to discuss the film they just watched or grab a treat at the afternoon cookie/coffee break.”
Nelson also commented on the virtues of CC as a venue for the festival: “We’re so lucky to be able to have this event at Colorado College because we have five really good venues,” she said. “Between Cornerstone, Armstrong, the Fine Arts Center, and Gaylord Hall for panels, they’re within a stone’s throw from each other, and for the two days of the festival, they’re packed.”
“It’s an incredible cultural event with a big legion of volunteers from across the community with incredible audiences,” Nelson added. “That’s just something that many regional film festivals don’t have; they just don’t have these packed audiences.”
Nelson’s own short film in the festival — created in collaboration with her husband and fellow CC professor Clay Haskell — depicts “the end of a prairie tradition outside of Fargo, North Dakota.” While she has worked on many full-length documentary features, making this movie helped her realize her love of shorts. The features are “expensive and long and involved, and this made me very interested in the form of a documentary short,” Nelson said. “It has to be this little perfect jewel, but it can be a small jewel. I think that what particularly appealed to me about this particular story is that it has resonance to larger themes even though it’s very specific to this one topic as well.”
To Broker, the other aspect that sets this event apart from other film festivals is its small, intimate size. “Because we only select 40–45 films, we are able to maintain a consistently high level of programming,” Broker said. “Many larger festivals are programming over 100 films (and sometimes hundreds). With that kind of volume, your quality is bound to drop off at some point.”
Both Broker and Nelson are thrilled about the festival’s connection to and involvement with the college. “Without our collaboration with Colorado College, we simply would not be able to produce this event,” Broker said. The connection goes much further than just using the school’s venues: “Every year we benefit greatly from the support we receive from students in the Film and Media Studies program,” she said.
The festival is held every fall and all screenings, panels, and events are open to the CC community.