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Dam Short Film Festival returns in new venue

After two years of being virtual, a situation in which “attendees” could watch as many films as they wanted, when they wanted and, most consequentially, where they wanted, the Dam Short Film Festival is coming home.


The festival’s 19th installment will take place in person, Feb. 16 to 20, in downtown Boulder City. But it’s traded the Boulder Theatre, its longtime home, for the Elaine K. Smith Center.

Lee Lanier, the festival’s co-founder and director of continuity, knew at the end of last year’s event that, somehow, this installment would have to let people gather in front of a single movie screen.

“We weren’t sure exactly where we’d be or how it would be … but we knew we had to be back in person.”

As for the where, the Boulder Theatre was unavailable this year. The move to the Elaine K. Smith Center means fewer seats — roughly 250 compared with the customary 400.

“It’s going to be a bit smaller,” Lanier acknowledges, “but that’s the reason we’re running additional programs.”

This year’s Dam Short will screen 153 films as part of a record 31 thematic program blocks. The Feb. 20 schedule is dedicated to showing the four most popular blocks a second time, as well as two “Best of the Fest” blocks. (For tickets and a complete schedule, see damshortfilm.org.)

Lanier says he heard from plenty of people that the virtual festival meant they could see every film thanks to on-demand viewing. Virtual question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers from around the world were a hit, as well. But the idea of planning a hybrid festival with both virtual and in-person screenings was too daunting — it’s the equivalent of running two festivals.

“It takes a lot of extra manpower to do both the physical and the virtual,” Lanier admits. “One festival takes all year as it is.”

As a concession to the past two years, though, Sunday night’s awards presentation will be livestreamed.

In addition to two blocks highlighting films and filmmakers from Nevada, this year’s films hail from the likes of China, Brazil, Israel, France and Iceland. As for their content, Lanier praises the sci-fi programs and says he’s surprised there weren’t more pandemic-related entries.

He also advises early arrivals because of the venue’s smaller capacity. Organizers will start letting people in the theater about 10 minutes before each screening, and the lines will be outside.

“Dress in layers,” Lanier says. “Arrive early. Just give yourself plenty of time, because there will be more sellouts.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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