There may be no better illustration of just how popular Boulder City’s Dam Short Film Festival has become than the line for the sold-out comedy program on Saturday night, stretching around the block from the Boulder Theatre and into the next. In its 14th year, DSFF was bigger than ever, but the festival retained its small-town charm, its filmmaker-friendly atmosphere and its focus on the appealingly low-key art of the short film.
New this year was an experimental virtual reality lounge, set up in the lobby of the Boulder Dam Hotel, as a pilot program for a potential official festival category. The demo reel for the Oculus Rift VR setup was a little safe (if pretty), but it was more exciting to watch the original VR creation Welcome to Your Own Private Hell, from festival co-founder and executive director Lee Lanier, who put his retro pinup-style art into a rendering of a very groovy version of eternal torment.
Also new this year was an expanded program for Nevada filmmaking, which was split into two blocks (on Friday and Saturday nights) and featured a strong showing by locals, from Robert Bryant and J. David LeCompte’s delightful documentary Boomtown (about a fireworks store in rural Battle Mountain) to Hunter Hopewell’s sweet romantic comedy Prince of Magic. Some other festival highlights included the sardonic black-and-white French crime comedy Breakdown; the very dark French-Canadian workplace comedy Two Dollars; the Las Vegas-set period drama I Got You Babe, inspired in part by a true story; and the lovely animated DAM! The Story of Kit the Beaver, possibly DSFF’s first-ever short about an actual dam.
On Saturday morning, DSFF organizers hosted a productive breakfast summit for Nevada film festivals, with representatives from the Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival, the Nevada Women’s Film Festival, Sin City Horror Fest, the Las Vegas Black Film Festival and the Laughlin International Film Festival all in attendance. As DSFF takes its place as one of the most successful film events in the state, the people in charge are using their power for good.