Published: Aug. 7, 2023

By Hannah Stewart (Comm’19)

Many artists consider their mission to be documenting life—whether through 19th-century French realist painting or film. 

The Mimesis Documentary Festival, now in its fourth year, celebrates those creators.

The festival, which is hosted by the College of Media, Communication and Information’s Center for Documentary and Ethnographic Media, invites the general public and CU Boulder community to attend screenings, workshops and more from Aug. 15 through 20.

If you go

What: Mimesis Documentary Festival

When: Aug. 15-20

Where: Venues throughout Boulder as well as virtual screenings

Who: Festival passes ($80) and virtual passes ($30) are available to the public. Free tickets are available for CU Boulder students.

Learn more and purchase tickets →

These events are available both online and in person, around Boulder at the Dairy Arts Center’s Boedecker Cinema and B2 Center for Media, Arts & Performance. This year features more than 60 documentaries—some as short as three minutes, others lasting for more than an hour—curated from more than 200 submissions from more than 30 countries.

Given the eclectic selection of films, there are two different schedules: one for documentary blocks—which include multiple documentaries in a shared timeslot—and one for documentary arts. These films extend beyond the screen, often involving sound, installation and other interactive elements.

“We call it documentary arts because it’s really about expanding the documentary form beyond the single screen,” said Eric Coombs Esmail, director of the center. “We want to bring documentary back into an arts space, where it always really has belonged.”

The festival prides itself on spotlighting artists and focusing on underrepresented and culturally specific subjects. Many submissions are what would commonly be considered “experimental,” so rather than organizing the festival around perceived genre, the Mimesis team finds threads of continuity and intersectionality of themes when putting together the program.

“The goal is always to pair films not just because they resonate with each other, but because we think that by putting them together, both projects will be amplified,” he said. “We’re trying to provide the best possible platform for these artists’ work to really shine and have relevance.”

For example, the opening night programming is a combination of a feature documentary, “Rebel Objects,” and the 16-minute “Visão do Paraíso (Vision of Paradise).” 

This year showcases two individual artists—artist-in-focus Jessica Beshir and featured artist Saeed Taji Farouky.

Beshir’s 2021 documentary, “Faya Dayi,” is her feature debut and part of Friday night’s lineup. She will host a conversation after the screening, as well as a masterclass on Saturday.

Farouky is a filmmaker of Palestinian and British descent whose work focuses on conflict, human rights and colonialism; his film, “A Thousand Fires,” will screen Saturday evening. He is also set to host an artist walk through the ghost town of Caribou, Colorado, Sunday morning.

“It’s exciting to have something where we go out into the world and see how a documentarian sees a city,” Coombs said.

Notably, three CU Boulder films will be showcased, including “Junk,” a student film by Lily Fletcher (Jour, CritMedia). Cinema studies faculty member Laura Conway will present her film, “Venus in Ferns,” in the same documentary block as Riley Bartlett (EngLit’19), who created “The Caladium Garden.”

In addition to CMCI, the Dairy Arts Center and the B2 Center, festival supporters include CU Boulder’s Departments of Critical Media Practices and its Research and Innovation Office, festival partners and individual donors.

Tickets are available online through the Mimesis website. Space is limited, so members of the public must obtain a pass and reserve tickets prior to attending in-person or virtual screenings.