Estonians peacefully gaining their independence, a dystopian future where everyone is equal, a philosophy realized through a man that stopped the engine of the world, a warning of the next financial crisis, parents struggling to get their kids out of failing schools, a brutal alliance between Nazis and Soviets, and an Australian family struggling to save their home from an expanding airport… all in one weekend. This was what we experienced at the 1st Annual Free Minds Film Festival.

The Free Minds Film Festival is an idea that was originally conceived and suggested about a year ago by my brother and mother. I initially rejected the proposal because I didn’t know anything about planning film festivals. However, after months of mulling over the idea, I was motivated by the power of film to promote liberty and decided to take up the project in February of this year.

The initial idea was to have the festival as a summer event in a venue somewhere in Colorado Springs. Then, in April, Jason Walker contacted me on Facebook about starting a Young Americans for Liberty chapter at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. We later decided that our new YAL chapter should host the event at our campus from October 7th- 9th to attract students. After months of work obtaining film rights, booking speakers, securing sponsorships, and navigating my university’s red tape, it was finally time for the festival!

The event began on Friday night with The Singing Revolution. Almost 50 people joined us for this historic account of the revolution that brought freedom to the Estonian people without shedding a drop of blood. After the film, actor and filmmaker Robert Anthony Peters gave a presentation on the connection between art and liberty throughout history from the Ancient Greeks to the Renaissance to the French impressionists. The night concluded with drinks and conversation at a local brewery.

Saturday saw an even greater turnout as almost 60 people watched the futuristic, dystopian film 2081 based on Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron.” Immediately following the short film, we continued the theme of dystopian warnings with Ayn Rand and the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged. The film explored the life and philosophy of Ayn Rand and illustrated the parallels of the world described in Atlas Shrugged and what is happening today. Dr. Diana Hsieh of Front Range Objectivism followed the films with a presentation about Objectivism, focusing mainly on the myths that many believe about the philosophy.

After cinematically exploring the past and two visions of the future, we watched Overdose: The Next Financial Crisis for an economic view of what caused the housing crisis and why the next financial crisis is going to be even worse. Dr. Paul Prentice, an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, gave an overview of the problem from an Austrian perspective and offered some advice on how we can protect ourselves from the coming financial collapse.

The evening concluded with the award winning film The Cartel to look at the tremendous need for choice in our school system. Filmmaker Bob Bowdon joined policy analyst Ben DeGrow and author Ari Armstrong for a discussion about education reform options and the progress being made.

Sunday started with an incredibly painful film about what happened when two of the most brutal governments fought side by side to exterminate millions of people. The Soviet Story showed in graphic detail how the USSR and Nazis worked together in the early days of World War II to slaughter millions of Ukrainians, Poles, Jews, and anyone else that stood in the way of realizing their collectivist utopia. This was both the most popular film of the weekend and the most emotionally draining. After the film, Dr. Yuri Maltsev, Senior Scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and former member of an economic team that advised President Gorbachev, spoke about the Soviet Union as someone who experienced it first hand.

The weekend concluded on a lighter note with the Australian comedy The Castle. This story of a simple family that lives next door to the airport illustrated the importance of property rights and how destructive it is when governments trample those rights. In one of the greatest scenes in the film, after a judge reminds him that he will be compensated, the protagonist Darryl Kerrigan responds, “I don’t want to be compensated, you can’t buy what I’ve got!” After the screening, Dr. Joshua Dunn, professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, elaborated on the film with a Lockean view of property rights as the guardian of all other rights.

By the end of the weekend, the festival had drawn over 90 attendants, many of which stayed for most of the films. I received great feedback from those who came and look forward to organizing the event next year and possibly expanding it to other areas of the country. In the meantime, if you are interested in submitting a film for next year or would like to partner on an event in your area, please email me at freemindsfilmfestival@gmail.com.