Remember that episode of South Park where a film festival comes to town and the kids revolt — arguing that no one needs yet another film festival in yet another small, snowy mountain town? You know, it’s the one where the sewers get all backed up? It was gross.

Well, the organizers of the Vail Film Festival must have seen it. The Vail event debuted last year and treated the 5,000 attendees who doubled the tiny Colorado town’s population to, yes, clean water and picturesque scenery. The festival also managed to distinguish itself from hundreds of other similar film fests, including the well-known ones in the nearby mountain communities of Telluride and Aspen. Someone at Vail’s chamber of commerce might want to thank Richard Linklater for that. His Before Sunset, a critical darling starring Ethan Hawke, debuted at Vail. The chamber can also thank festival organizers for being open to lighter fare. Where many indie film events are dominated by dark movies, Vail’s top 2004 prizewinners had plenty of laughs. Best documentary? My Date with Drew, a comic chronicle of a filmmaker’s attempt to score a date with his childhood big-screen crush — Drew Barrymore.

This year’s lineup wasn’t made known in time for our deadlines, but organizers promised more fun, including a series of screenings of TV pilots that were never aired, and screenings of sports action films. Right. Sports. Both on-screen and off, sports are probably the most distinguishing feature of Vail’s fest: Screenings are timed so that attendees have all day to ski and all afternoon and evening to warm up, relax, and watch movies. Take that, South Park.
— Joseph Guinto

WHEN: March 31-April 3

WHERE: Vail, Colorado

TICKETS: $95-$750

CONTACT: (970) 333-9689, www.vailfilmfestival.org