This year, the Denizen Theater is hosting its very first Fall Film Series, running from Sept. 8 through Dec. 16. The series features documentaries and fiction pieces from “The Automat” directed by Lisa Hurwitz to “Little Town” directed by Dani Menkin.
Just this past weekend, the Denizen showed the second movie in the series, “Potato Dreams of America,” a campy story of a Russian mother and her young son’s journey to America based on director Wes Hurley’s childhood.
Lead film programmer at the Denizen, Warren Etheredge, picked the films purposely with the contrast between documentaries and fiction in mind. “I don’t make a big distinction, frankly, between fiction and nonfiction. With that said, I think there’s something about fiction that can get us closer to the truth of something because it allows us a little more flexibility to get to the emotional experience of individuals,” he said.
“Potato Dreams of America” is set partly in Soviet Union Russia and partly in Seattle. Potato and his mother move to America where Potato struggles to come to terms with his sexuality while his mother navigates her new life with her “mail order” husband. Some familiar faces, like Jonathan Bennet and Lea DeLaria, play witty and funny characters. The movie features plot twists, musical numbers and even Jesus Christ himself. The sets resemble that of a play and the color palette of the movie made it all the more captivating and entertaining. In the end, Potato and his mother surprisingly get their Hollywood happy ending.
“Despite going from a documentary, which would seemingly get the closest to the truth, to virtual reality, which immerses you in a truth, I really think it’s ‘Potato Dreams of America’ that gets us closest to it, even though it includes fantastical segments within it,” Etheredge said.
You won’t be able to find any movies in the Fall Series at a Regal or AMC theater, and the Denizen does this purposefully. “We all know what the biggest movies are opening in theaters, and we have access to a ton of stuff online, but there really is something to the fact that there are tons of movies that you simply may not be aware of,” Etheredge said. “We’re really trying to do something at the Denizen which is to introduce movie-goers, movie lovers, to films that they would not otherwise know or find and discover that their value is greater than the latest blockbuster.”
Etheredge admires the community that these films have created. “The funny thing from a programmer standpoint, is that obviously I love the movies, but the thing I love most is programming something and then watching an audience watch what’s been programmed because I love seeing not just a person, but seeing a whole room full of people sharing an experience,” he said.
The next film playing at the Denizen is “Exposure,” a documentary directed by Holly Morris about a group of women attempting to reach the north pole.