Michael “Brit” Withey, the artistic director of the Denver Film Society, died Sunday in an automobile twist of fate in Colorado. He turned 50. Withey changed into a well-known parent within the Denver movie community who worked for the Denver Film Society for 23 years. The nonprofit is answerable for the Denver Film Festival, local screening series, and other Colorado film activities.
News of Withey’s dying, which become first said in The Denver Post, jarred the global pageant Monday. In Denver, in which the June tv festival Seriesfest became getting ready for a board meeting, the news left lots of Withey’s longtime colleagues in shock while processing the reminiscences of his legacy at the pageant, offering a microcosm of the long-term impact of nearby programmers on their local audiences.
“He changed into a singular, irreplaceable human, first and principal,” stated competition director Britta Erickson in a cellphone interview. “The quantity of mentorship that he gave to such a lot of human beings coming up as programmers or other factors of the movie society and the competition turned into just incomparable.”
Withey traveled to Berlin and Cannes each yr to deliver more than a few worldwide films lower back to the pageant for a popular application that targeted one kind of nation each year. He turned into known for showcasing darkish, edgy work. “It becomes a chunk of a dichotomy,” Erickson said. “If you observed his programming, you would possibly suppose he had a darkish soul — however, he turned into one of the maximum loving, compassionate, being concerned people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.”
Withey commenced operating for the festival as a volunteer within the mid-’90s while moving to Colorado from Iowa. Denver Film Society founder Ron Henderson quickly increased Withey to club director. He created the primary internet site for the pageant and turned later accelerated to a pinnacle programming role while Henderson retired.
Withey was among several pinnacle staffers who resigned from the corporation in 2009 in a showdown with govt director Burleigh Smith over managerial selections. Withey and Erickson again to their positions in time for the competition that falls, when Smith becomes replaced by Tom Botelho. In recent years, the competition’s attendance has improved as audiences have skewed more youthful. The festival reported a 20 percent increase in price ticket income for its 40th anniversary in 2017. In addition, it has won currency at the awards circuit, attracting high-profile names like “The Favourite” celebrity Emma Stone’s final fall.
“Brit loved filmmakers,” Erickson stated. “He didn’t have a taste for the glitz and glamour of things, but we did make him put on a suit and walk the crimson carpet every 12 months. He felt most secure introducing the cinema he was most enthusiastic about.”
He prepares complete applications for the pageant in current years that threw the highlight on Spain, Poland, Hungary, and Denmark. He additionally confirmed the occasional hobby in lighter fare, consisting of a mini-retrospective on French directors Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon.
“I’ve been listening to from such a lot of those who just chose their competition timetable based totally on what Brit programmed because they knew they’d be challenged,” Erickson stated. “He changed into always up for the verbal exchange later on, even though they have been stunned. He had a knack for no longer taking that for my part. Instead, he revealed within the possibility to have that communicate.”
Withey changed into additionally regarded for his culinary cinema application, which becomes regularly paired with food from nearby eating places. One of the recent picks turned into Eric Khoo’s “Ramen Shop.” The application had non-public ramifications for Withey, who changed into married neighborhood food author Ruth Tobias. “It has become a love letter to Ruth,” Erickson said.
Withey turned into returning from an excursion in New Mexico while the crash took place on Sunday. Before his departure, he had completed programming for the film society’s upcoming Women+ Film Festival, which runs April nine-14. Erickson started the pageant would hold as planned, and the movie society could be placing an endowment collectively in his call.
According to a police document cited through The Denver Post, Withey was riding on his own on Sunday while his car crossed the southbound lane and hit timber before coming to a stop. He turned into declared lifeless on the scene but had been wearing a seatbelt. Police did now not locate any indication of medicine, alcohol, or dashing as factors in the crash.
The Denver Film Society released the subsequent declaration: “The Denver Film Society and the whole movie enterprise community are mourning the lack of our longtime buddy and Denver Film Festival Artistic Director Brit Withey who changed into killed in an unmarried-automobile accident on Sunday, March 31 at the same time as returning to Denver from a holiday in New Mexico. Brit becomes an enormously reputable creative director who lived and breathed movies. He traveled the sector to watch, examine and convey his innovative vision again to Colorado, in which he curated award-winning Festival lineups for Colorado film-fanatics for greater than two many years. There are no words to describe the loss that his circle of relatives, friends, and our community are going via. Our prayers are with Brit’s companion, Ruth, and his complete prolonged family. We will get a percentage extra information regarding memorial services and tributes to honor Brit because it will become available.”