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Festival delivers on promise

It's Thursday morning, the historic Boulder Theatre has once again dimmed its lights and the 12th annual Dam Short Film Festival has shown its final movie.

For a few days each February the town comes alive as filmmakers and film afficionados gather to watch some "dam" good movies. This year's selection of films didn't disappoint.

There truly is something for everyone. Dramas, romances, comedies and documentaries fill the schedule. But that's not all. There are also science fiction, horror and animated films, as well as international selections and those made by students.

One of the unique features of the festival is its showcase of films made by Nevadans. Two were even recognized as part of the Best of the Fest, the top films voted upon by viewers after each program block. "Exchange" by Hunter Hopewell, which told the tale of a self-centered young man who learned how to appreciate others as his family hosted an exchange student, and the animated "Stellar" by Mike Bettinardi, a romance of sorts between a lonely alien and a scarecrow, won for Best Nevada Filmmaker and Best Animation, respectively. Both told poignant tales through humor and compassion.

Although it was impossible for me to catch all 129 films screened, this year I saw more than I had at previous festivals. And I am grateful for the opportunity.

As always, I came away amazed at the quality of films screened during the event. Organizers must spend hundreds of hours watching submissions and making agonizing decisions about which shorts to screen. It's not a job I am envious of; I have enough trouble casting my vote for my favorite among the half dozen or so shown during each program block.

I have no doubt that some of these filmmakers will go on to make larger, bigger budget movies that will be shown in major cinemas across the nation. Yes, they are that good.

As the festival has grown, it's become large enough to attract top-quality submissions from around the world yet has remained small enough to provide multiple opportunities for filmmakers and fans to interact. It's one of the things I like the most about the film fest.

Whether it's the question-and-answer sessions after each block, the mixer or the awards ceremony, there's always time to chat with filmmakers from near and far about their work, their inspiration and what brings them to Boulder City.

(Maybe I shouldn't tout all the things that make the festival so special and unique because it might be so packed that I won't be able to get a seat in the theater next year.)

But the festival does more than just bring filmmakers and their fans together. It's a boon for the city and local businesses.

Throughout the festival the downtown area was busy as patrons packed restaurants and stores in between screenings. Sidewalks were filled with folks having meaningful conversations and appreciating the city's small town charm, public art and friendly residents.

The popularity of the festival was evident by the lack of parking, which was at a premium on Saturday, the event's last day.

And, for the first time in its history, the festival sold out one of its program blocks, Saturday night's Best of the Fest.

Organizers deserve a healthy round of applause for all their hard work and commended for their work in putting Boulder City on the filmmakers' map.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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