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The Dam Short Film Festival returns to Boulder City, bigger and better than ever

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The Residents
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Josh Bell

When the Dam Short Film Festival launched in 2005, it was practically a one-man operation. Original festival director Lee Lanier, who founded DSFF with his wife Anita, handled most of the festival duties for years, as it grew from a small gathering at the American Legion Hall in Boulder City into one of the town’s major annual events. Now in its 16th year, DSFF has become the largest film festival in Nevada, and Tsvetelina Stefanova, a longtime festival volunteer and staffer, has taken over for John LaBonney as executive director.

“We’ve really grown so much over the last couple of years, and we have needed more people involved to take on all the numerous tasks involved,” Stefanova says of DSFF’s recent restructuring, which has the goal of keeping the festival running regardless of the people in charge. For attendees, the changes behind the scenes should mean a more efficient and enjoyable experience at what was already a smoothly run, audience-friendly event.

“We really do program to our audience, which is not what a lot of film festivals do,” Stefanova says, and this year’s program will showcase 146 short films across 22 different blocks, including many of the themes DSFF fans know and love. “We just try to stick with the things that are adored by our audience,” Stefanova says.

That means expanding the very popular comedy lineup into two blocks this year, bringing back perennial favorites like the always-interesting Underground program of experimental films, and programming two Nevada showcases, one for documentaries and one for narrative films. “The quality of Nevada films that are coming in is just getting better and better,” Stefanova says.

New this year is a retrospective of music videos from veteran art-rock band The Residents, featuring a discussion with Homer Flynn, longtime associate (and possible member) of the deeply secretive, pseudonymous group. The festival will also expand into a fifth day, reprising its best-of showcase of award winners on Monday, February 17. That’s another response to audience demand, since the single awards program is never long enough to highlight all the winners. “We’re already paying for the theater that day, why not utilize it?” Stefanova says.

As the festival continues to grow, Stefanova, who also runs music promotions company Bad Moon Booking and performs in Boulder City-based band Same Sex Mary, hopes to recruit more people to help things run effectively, continuing to evolve Lanier’s modest celebration of the art of short films into a premier destination event that promotes the best of small movies in a small town. “It’s an experience like no other,” she says. “Come to at least one program and you’ll be hooked.”

Dam Short Film Festival February 13-17, times vary, $10 per program. Boulder Theatre, damshortfilm.org.

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