Experimental film fest plans to project “Birth of a Nation” on the Stapleton Airport tower

It’s the second year of the Unseen Festival.

Stapleton Airport's defunct air traffic control tower. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Stapleton Airport's defunct air traffic control tower. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)


The Unseen Festival is back for a second year of experimental film, this year advertising an exploration of “notions of the resistant, the excluded, and the unacknowledged” — plus some guerrilla film screenings.

The bulk of the screenings and events will take place at Counterpath, the East Colfax press, bookstore, gallery and performance space that organizes the event.

“Experimental film has been something that is difficult for people. And coming at it from that perspective, there’s a unseen element to the whole artistic practice,” said Tim Roberts, who runs Counterpart.

“We’re just this micro venue here in Denver … but we feel like — we’re trying to speak to that. We know there are these communities in Colorado, in Boulder, in Denver. There’s an urgency there that’s amazing. It ties into experimental art over the decades and centuries, art that has survived under the radar. It’s amazing, it’s interesting, it’s important, there’s loads of people doing it, but it does have a status of being underground.”

This year, Unseen will feature 190 participants and 200 films in the six venues in Denver and Boulder. The selection includes work from filmmakers in more 45 countries and over 50 percent of of the films were made by women. Other official venues include Georgia Art Space, Gildar Gallery, Peralta Projects, Dikeou Collection and the University of Colorado Boulder.

Then there are the mystery venues. Among the new programming at Unseen this year is a series of guerrilla film screenings they’re calling Unseen Offsite. The locations will be announced each night at the scheduled event, so you’ll have to be there to know where to go. Impromptu backdrops will include places like banks, grocery stores and government buildings.

“We’re doing our best to focus on institutional or heavily corporate presences that people might not otherwise think about to protest or bring into their consciousness,” Roberts said.

“We want to go to a branch of Chase Bank, we want to go to the Purina factory — something to do with the brown cloud — we want to go to government buildings, we want to focus on art establishments, the art museum, the MCA, possibly Black Cube, people who we’re really copacetic to their mission. We also want to focus on theaters.”

The biggest statement, though, might be happening at a Denver landmark-turned-Punch Bowl Social. Unseen plans to project “The Birth of a Nation” on the tower at the old Stapleton Airport. Yes, they want to show the film widely credited with inspiring the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan on the side of a building named for the former Ku Klux Klan-affiliated mayor of Denver.

“We have a mobile projector, stand, battery, speaker, microphone. We do the best we can, that’s all. It’s all very unpredictable. It’s me and two other people coordinating it,” Roberts said. “We’re just projecting. I can’t imagine anybody would truly mind.”

Many of the events will have the filmmakers or curators in attendance, and will be preceded by readings, dance and other performances.

“The other part of this, too, of course, is we’re just really looking at … political issues that are related to our contemporary political context, different populations losing their voices just as we thought they were gaining voices — people of color, immigrants, the undocumented,” Roberts said. “We’re looking at how that is tying into these different artistic communities and how we’re on a counter-path.”

You can find more information, including the full schedule of events, at counterpathpress.org. Tickets are $7 per event. A pass for the whole month of events is $100. Counterpath is located at 7935 E. 14th Ave.