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CU’s International Film Series celebrates 80 years with diverse lineup:

In the beginning of the pandemic — when we found ourselves bound to the house — few things offered comfort like movies.

Projectionist Ana Mathews stands in the projectionist booth at Muenzinger Auditorium before a Sept. 25, 2021 screening of “Walker” for CU’s International Film Series. (Rolf Kjolseth/Courtesy photo)

Whether streaming a new release or revisiting a film whose dialogue lives rent free in your brain, something about logging on to Netflix, or dusting off a cherished Blu-ray, brought a bit of joy to quarantine. Heck, it was almost a passport to the outside world.

University of Colorado’s International Film Series is celebrating its 80th year. The series kicked off in September at Muenzinger Auditorium and will continue to offer a variety of free and ticketed flicks well into October.

IFS will give a $1 discount to anyone with a bike helmet and attendees can see movies for free on their birthdays or when assisting someone in a wheelchair.

Tickets are only available 30 minutes prior to showtime the day of the show, so patrons are encouraged to get to the auditorium early, as these can’t be purchased online.

General admission is $9 and CU Boulder students and seniors get in for $7. Admittance for CU Cinema Studies students is free.

There is also an option to purchase a punch card for $60 that allows access to 10 IFS films.

On Sunday, moviegoers can revel in the wonderous and bittersweet heartbreak of “Blue Valentine,” a flick whose score was composed by Brooklyn rockers Grizzly Bear.

Writer and director of the 2010 award-winning film Derek Cianfrance, also a CU alum, will be in attendance for a Q&A after the screening.

A few other upcoming IFS movies include “The Sleeping Negro,” “The Social Dilemma” and David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.”

Thursday, “Filmmakers Panel: Cultural Crawl” — with industry pros like Skinner Myers, Trent Harris, Michael Brown, Cory McAbee and Emelie Upczak — will take place at Fiske Planetarium at 7 p.m. While the event is free, tickets are required and will be given at a first-come, first-served basis at the Fiske ticket office. Live music will begin at 5:45 p.m. in the Fiske lobby.

We caught up with Pablo Kjolseth — IFS’s director — to find out about how many folks are masking up and taking advantage of this cinematic tradition at CU, his podcast, what movies he enjoyed watching in the chaos of 2020 and his must-see IFS pics for this year.

Kalene McCort: How have ticket sales to the films been going so far? I imagine folks are ready to gather and take in films again as part of an audience.

Pablo Kjolseth: Attendance, so far, has been about a third of where it was pre-COVID. Despite the mask mandate and high vaccination rates in Boulder, people are still wary. I think we’ll get back to normal attendance levels eventually, but after a long shutdown it was inevitable that old habits would be replaced with new ones — which is why I’m glad we still have the option to show some titles virtually via our website, with distributors splitting the proceeds with us.

For those eager to get out of the house and who miss the big-screen experience, the good news is that Muenzinger has 400 seats and there’s plenty of space for people to physically distance themselves, as we remind them of some of the reasons why the IFS has been around for 80 years. This includes our reel-to-reel projection ability to screen rare, archive prints on 35mm film. That’s just not something you can get at home.

KM: I understand in conjunction with CU’s International Film Series, you host a weekly podcast. What can listeners expect from this offering?

PK: Back when director Alex Cox taught here at CU, we used to watch movies at the IFS together and then go out for a beer afterwards to talk about what we had just watched. When he left CU to return back to Oregon, we continued to connect by phone every week when the clock hit beer-thirty to talk about movies and our podcast grew out of that. I wanted the conversations to be short, basically the length of one 35mm film reel, which is about 20 minutes.

Whether it’s me telling him about the movies I saw at the Telluride Film Festival or that are screening at the IFS, or him telling me about movies he worked on or saw recently, it’s always movie-related. It’s just two friends who like movies talking casually about movies. Jason Phelps, who does the technical stuff that makes the podcast possible, also puts out “The CINE podcast” which highlights work by CU Cinema Studies faculty members and that’s much more polished while also still focusing on movie-related topics.

KM: I see a showing of Derek Cianfrance’s 2010 film “Blue Valentine” is scheduled for Sunday. I remember this film stayed with me for a while. What prompted you to add it to the lineup and what do you find particularly moving about it?

PK: I met Derek when he was a student at CU in a film history class. Derek was always ambitious and talented. He also has a big heart and he really loved celluloid and he watched a lot of movies at the IFS as a student. He still loves celluloid and, in fact, he convinced HBO to shoot “I Know This Much Is True,” with Mark Ruffalo, on 35mm film. Derek even did a side-by-side comparison for HBO executives to showcase how film still trounced digital in terms of depth, color and a specific look he wanted.

For our 80th anniversary I wanted to bring back some of my favorite filmmakers along with the movies that originally put them on the map for IFS customers. The choice for “Blue Valentine” was cemented when, after a few months, we finally found a nice print to screen with Derek in attendance. What I find particularly moving about “Blue Valentine” is that I remember Derek talking and working on that project for many years and I got to the point where I thought it might only be a pipe dream. But then fate intervened — and Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams got attached — and the rest is history.

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