Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

Starz festival screens two films with DU ties

If you’re going to shoot an improvisational film using nonactors improvising most of their dialogue, you might want to consider shooting it in Italy.

“The beauty of it is that every Italian is an actor, so it kind of works out,” says director Joel Stangle (BA communication ’06). “I ask everyone not to act, and that way at least they’re natural.”

Stangle’s feature-length drama Il Profumo di Lumia (The Smell of Lemons) is one of two films with DU ties that will screen at this month’s Starz Denver Film Festival. Filmed in Sicily, where Stangle’s sister and her husband live, the 90-minute drama follows a teenage boy named Giole, whose friends trick him into thinking the girl he is love with lives in a dilapidated building in their village. When his love letters to her go unanswered, he sets out on a quest for a magic stone that is rumored to have the power to make women say yes.

Stangle, a Denver native, shot the film in a neorealistic style, using nonactors, natural light and real locations. According to the Starz website’s description of Profumo, written by Joey Porcelli, “[Stangle] wrote his improvisation-friendly script in one month, then had the original English translated into Italian for the Sicilian cast. For six weeks, he and his ‘crew’ of one assistant rode bicycles loaded with equipment to their locations. The result is simply gorgeous.”

“Since I’m fairly young in the game, I don’t always have the financing to do these bigger productions,” says Stangle, who studied film at DU and spent a semester abroad at a film school in Prague. “What I like to do is get the locations together and get the people together and then get the story together, rather than creating a story and saying, ‘OK, now I have to find all the pieces that are going to fit.’ My approach is to find the people, find the locations and tell the story that wants to be told with that combination.”

Director Paul Pendell (MA mass communications ’05), a DU grad who now works as an event media technician at Penrose Library, had to make similar discoveries with his Starz submission, Battle for the Boot. He and co-director Ryan Demers shot more than 40 hours of film for their documentary about the musician- and artist-friendly Denver Kickball Coalition, then started whittling it down for the final product. 

“Making a documentary is kind of like making a movie backwards,” he says. “You don’t have a script or anything, you just go shoot it and then you cut it down and try to make a story.”

Founded in 2002, the Denver Kickball Coalition is unofficially headquartered at sister Denver bars the hi-dive and Sputnik. The hipsters who typically spend their evenings drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and watching local indie bands come out in the daylight hours to compete in a league that’s surprisingly legit, complete with standings, a championship and a trophy — the titular Denver Boot. As one participant puts it in the trailer, “We just don’t look like we should be good at anything outside, but we are.”

Battle for the Boot was shot over the 2009 season, from the opening draft party to the final championship game. Pendell wasn’t a member of the kickball coalition when he started shooting the documentary, but he is now. Drawn by the coalition’s sense of community, he signed up for the 2010 season.

“I think it’s funny for sure, and I think it has a really good story, how this bunch of creative, interesting people from all over the city come together and play this kickball game,” he says of his movie. “There’s only been one fight — and it’s in the film.”

Il Profumo di Lumia screens at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 and 9:15 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Starz FilmCenter, 900 Auraria Parkway; Joel Stangle will appear with the film. Battle for the Boot screens at 9:15 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Denver FilmCenter, 2510 E. Colfax Ave., and at 4 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Starz FilmCenter; Paul Pendell, Ryan Demers and Denver Kickball Coalition founder Joe Phillips will appear with the film. Visit for tickets and more information. 



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