A parade of people marched through downtown Boulder on Friday night.
Guiding the long line of people were sisters Kathy Beeck and Robin Beeck, who held up their hands to clap along with the beat of the music.
People swayed to the tune “When the Saints Go Marching In,” played by brass band Guerilla Fanfare, while they waited to enter the Boulder Theater, anxious to be back in a venue many had missed.
Hundreds of people attended the Boulder International Film Festival’s opening night gala and film on Friday.
This is the 18th year of the annual event, and it is the first time it has returned to its original venue since 2020.
“We kind of grew up (at the Boulder Theater) — not only at the festival but as teenagers — we used to go to the Boulder Theater to see concerts,” said BIFF Executive Director Robin Beeck.
Kathy Beeck, BIFF’s director, said the opening night gala did not sell out, but they were happy with the attendance.
“You never know,” she said. “Again, it’s an odd time to be putting on a festival, and it’s really difficult to know what’s going to happen.”
More than 50 films will be played during the festival, which continues through Sunday in Boulder and Longmont.
The festival comes less than a year after last year’s, which was held in the summer at Chautauqua’s green fields, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was a short timeframe because we just had a festival, so that was a challenge, but we know how to do this festival,” Kathy Beeck said.
Before walking to the theater to see “The Duke,” starring Helen Mirren, people gathered at either the Hotel Boulderado or Rembrandt Yard — or switched back and forth between both — chatting, listening to live music and interacting with actors and directors.
Over at Hotel Boulderado, Sandy Younghans, a BIFF advisory board member, sipped on wine and talked with other guests.
Younghans said she became a part of the annual event during its second year. She was happy to see so many people back out, enjoying the night.
“I just feel like it’s a coming out party for the whole community,” Younghans said.
Boulder resident M.C. Pfeiffer said she and her husband, John, have seen films that were aired during previous BIFFs but had never attended opening night until Friday.
“It’s really nice to be out and about in town with something so positive,” she said.
Chris and Melissa Buckley spent part of the evening on Friday at Rembrandt Yard.
Chris Buckley, stars in the film “Refuge,” which is screening Saturday. The documentary takes place in Georgia, where he and his wife live. The documentary tells the story of his time serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, and the challenges he faced after he developed a drug addiction and joined the Ku Klux Klan.
After his service, Buckley cultivated a relationship with Heval Kelli, a Syrian refugee who is also Muslim. At first, it seemed like an unlikely, friendship, but Buckley quickly learned he and Kelli had more in common than not.
“I think it was really important for me to challenge myself with the things that I was afraid of,” Buckley said. “I got to see Islam through a very narrow lens during my time in combat.”
Kelli added that the film shows the audience that people can find common ground, despite whatever their differences are.
“I think the division in America is really a division of social status,” he said. “The poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer, and nobody is really finding a common ground.”
Buckley said the “Refuge” is important because it comes at a time when America is divided.
“The division in this country is so stifling that we just wanted to take the time to show people that no matter how different you are, you can build a relationship and lead by example,” he said.
University of Colorado Boulder graduates Holly Morris and Susan Capitelli said they were excited to be a part of the festival and share their documentary “Exposure,” which captures an all-female cast during their journey through the North Pole.
Morris said she graduated from CU Boulder with a degree in women’s studies. For her, making a film with an all-female cast and crew, was in her wheelhouse.
“(In the film, there is) this idea of women coming together to achieve something that nobody thought they could achieve that everybody counted them out,” she said.
She said her hope is for viewers to see the importance of women leadership, which is needed in order to combat climate change.
“It’s a tricky thing to make an environmental film that ignites action, and I’m hoping that this one does that.”
Lori Krug, filmmaker liaison, waived to attendees who approached the theater and welcomed them to their last stop of the night.
Krug said she’s helped with the festival for 12 years.
“My day job is in IT, and so I really like having a chance to connect with all of these fun artsy activities and connect with creative people,” she said.