The 19th Annual Dam Short Film Festival Readies Largest Lineup in History

In addition to the films, there will be mixers, parties and presentations throughout the festival for fans

For small towns like Boulder City, its upcoming 19th Annual Dam Short Film Festival (DSFF) is about as big as it gets.

With 153 short films spanning over 31 programs from February 16–20, 2023, it offers one of the festival’s most extensive lineups in history. The Elaine K. Smith Center in downtown Boulder City will house the festival when it kicks off this Thursday. The programs range from Student, Animation, Sci-fi/Horror, Documentary, Comedy, and even a Nevada program. Plus, the film festival will also screen projects from Mexico, Brazil, Israel, France, and Poland, to name a few.

In addition to the films, there will be mixers, parties, and presentations throughout the festival for fans to take part in. The livestreamed Awards Presentation on Sunday night will make it possible for everyone to watch which films take home awards chosen by the audience.

The Long History Of The Dam Short Film Festival

“It’s amazing every year,” says Ken Cioe, director of operations for the Dam Short Film Festival. “It’s always the same reaction that people come down with. If they see it for the first time, they fall in love with the city and in love with the film festival.”

When it comes to the Dam Short Film Festival, Ken knows what he’s talking about. He’s been with the festival since the very beginning, having been introduced to co-founders Lee and Anita Lanier. The Laniers, a married couple, developed a love of short films while traveling North America. The two settled in Nevada and began forming what is now known as the Dam Short Film Festival in Boulder City. A year and a half before the first film was screened, Ken was invited to join the board, and he’s been involved with it ever since.

Almost two decades later and screened over 2,500 films, the Dam Short Film Festival has become one of the most sought after film festivals in the country. It is a fact that Ken could not have imagined all those years ago. “To be honest, most film festivals don’t have a very long shelf life. Most of them, you know, kind of die out within 10 years.” 

Photo Courtesy of the Dam Film Festival / Image Credit Vivian Martin

It’s not only the longevity of the film festival that is impressive; it is the reputation that has been earned over 19 years that is a source of pride.

“On FilmFreeway we’re ranked in the top 1 percent in the world,” Ken says. Considering there are somewhere between nine and 12,000 film festivals worldwide, that is a remarkable feat.

He continues, “We’ve had filmmakers from all over the world tell us stories about how when they were trying to submit a film you have to be very particular about which film festivals you submit to because you don’t have unlimited funds. And we’ve had a lot of filmmakers tell us that they were told specifically, ‘Oh absolutely, without a doubt, you have to submit to the [Dam Short] film festival.’”

Perfecting The Pandemic Pivot

During the pandemic, the Dam Short Film Festival was forced to pivot and opt for a virtual experience in 2021 and 2022, but this year they will raise the curtain for filmmakers and audiences in Boulder City. “We were lucky in 2020, we were able to get the festival off just before everything hit,” says Ken. “Then going into 2021 was brand new to us. We really had no idea of what to expect.”

Like many challenges in life, the pandemic offered up new opportunities for growth for the film festival. While the Dam Short Film Festival lacks the resources to host a hybrid festival that allows for both in-person and online viewing, there is one new option available this year. “One of the things that we’re doing [this year] that we’ve done the last two years is that we’re gonna be live streaming the award ceremony,” says Ken. “This will give filmmakers who are still unsure of travel the option to see the awards ceremony.” 

Moviegoers attending the annual film festival / Photo Courtesy of Dam Film Festival

Watch Films while helping a Non-profit organization

Unlike some film festivals, the Dam Short Film Festival is a non-profit organization. According to Ken, that fact is another source of pride. “All of our funds go towards running the festival. That’s the main focus. But, we do have events throughout the year,” Ken says.

Those other events include the Boulder City Beat Dam Wine walk that occurs September through April. The Dam Short Film Festival also gets support from the Nevada Arts Council who in turn gets funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Deets

What: 19th Annual Dam Short Film Festival

When: Thursday, February 16 – Monday, February 20, 2023

Where: Elaine K. Smith Center, 700 Wyoming St, Boulder City, NV, 89005. 

Ticket Info: Tickets start at $12.50 per film block, $45 day passes for Thursday and Monday, and $50 day passes for Friday and Saturday or $150 for the full five-day pass.

Schedule: See the schedule of films here

Feature image credit Vivian Martin

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