For some reason, the 2003 Breckenridge Festival of Film ended up overlapping the prestigious Toronto fest - probably something to do with the turn of the calendar that put labor day so early this year.

Breckenridge is a small festival, but I've always felt it outperformed its size. The filmmakers who come enjoy the more laidback atmosphere, and critic Jeffrey Lyons has the pull to bring in some good studio films year in and year out.

This year, Lyons trumpeted the fact that Woody Allen offered his Anything Else without even being asked, which certainly should be evidence that the festival's star is rising. At the same time, the force that is Toronto eclipsed the proceedings, nearly unaware of the small mountain fest.

Take for example, the opening night film - Matchstick Men, which was aborted shortly after its start when it was discovered one of the reels the studio sent belonged to another movie. As it turns out, there was a mixup that sent the reel to Toronto, while Breckenridge got a reel from something that was to show up there. Fortunately, Anything Else had already arrived, and they showed that instead, moving Matchstick Men from being the Thursday opener to a special screening on Saturday - a day after the film opened nationally.

Interestingly, an earlier copy of the schedule showed Anything Else on opening night. As almost every year, Breckenridge shows local premieres of Toronto's films, I'm sure there was some scrambling for material. The lineup of studio films was fairly strong, but with four of them open within a week of the final curtain, there's a certain lack of prestige in the line up. Only Veronica Guerin (which admittedly had played in the UK for a month already) and the closing night film Out of Time had any real lead time for the American market.

On the independent front, the year was a little disappointing as well. While it's certainly possible I missed some contenders - my schedule didn't allow for some intriguing possibilities as The Dogwalker or Cock and Bull Story - there was only one independent feature that really got my attention, the refreshing home-movie-eque Don: Plain and Tall, which is decidedly not trying to be a typical artsy independent flick. I can't blame this on Toronto, though, as they are very different festivals in terms of programming. Here, it must have just been an off year - unfortunately coinciding with the Toronto overlap.

I should at least mention the independent, socially conscious The Event, which is getting some attention for its content, star power, and in fact, its performances. While I feel everyone involved with film means well, it fell victim to some common sentimental mistakes that got in the way of the power the film could have had.

If it's not obvious by now, my best recommendation for the Breckenridge folks is to stay off of Toronto's schedule. Maybe they'd find a way to compete over time, but what if I decide I want to hit Toronto as well? How would I decide? No, just keep them separate, and I'll be happy - this is all about me, right?

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