The Dragon Boat Film Festival aims to do more than entertain. Since 2016, the annual event—which will take place March 14–17, 2024, at Denver’s SieFilm Center—has fostered cultural exchange and connection through an immersive lineup of programs.

Over the past eight years, the festival has grown from a modest two-day event showcasing a few Asian feature films to a four-day affair with nine programs celebrating the culture, contributions and accomplishments of Asian and Asian-Pacific American individuals. In addition to highlighting great movies, the event shines the spotlight on what the AANHPI community deems important in the current moment.

“This year's theme is connecting through cultures, art, cinema, food and beyond,” says Sara Moore, executive director of Colorado Dragon Boat, which also puts on a huge summer festival that showcases local Asian cultures.

To align with this year’s theme, the Dragon Boat Film Festival will feature two community conversations or discussions with locals. “Connecting Through Cultures with Asian American Adoptees” (Saturday, March 16, 10 a.m.) will explore how transracial adoptees navigate the complexities of their cultural identities, while “Connecting Through Cultures with Food and Food Ways” (Sunday, March 17, 10 a.m.) will focus on how what we eat can connect individuals to their home cultures.


“The public panel discussions are about 45 minutes with Q&A afterward that are free and open to the public,” Moore says. “It's an attempt to invite everybody to come to the event and learn something.”

The film fest will also have a marketplace (Saturday, March 16, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.) with Asian American vendors, including chocolates, art prints, soaps, Indian meal kits and goodies.

Since “Parasite” won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2020, Moore says that there’s been more widespread interest in movies produced by Asian artists and encouraged filmmakers in Hollywood to produce works with all Asian casts in genres beyond those that are typically associated with the demographic (think: martial arts).

“I think that's been really instrumental as well in increasing just the visibility of AANHPI cinema here in Colorado,” she says of how the increased popularity of Asian cinema and actors nationwide coincides with the growth of the Dragon Boat Film Festival.


While the panels and marketplace are free and open to the public, admission to the other events starts at $15. But even if you only plan to see a couple of the films, Moore recommends purchasing an all-access pass for $75, which includes entry to the culinary event on March 17. The popular program features bites from more than a dozen local restaurants, including James Beard–nominated Sap Sua and beloved Japanese eatery Kokoro, and has sold out in the past.

The pass will also gain you access to all of the films; this year, including highly anticipated works such as “Happy Sandwich," a documentary/fiction hybrid from Japan; “Becky & Badette,” a comedy from the Philippines; and “Smoking Tigers,” a coming-of-age tale from Korea.

Moore also urges newcomers who aren’t members of the AANHPI to attend the festival and not be daunted by the programming.

“We welcome anyone and everyone and hope that everybody feels comfortable and excited to come,” she says. “It’s just a really amazing way to create conversations. That's really the goal… So I just encourage everybody to come and see at least one film if not more.”

See the complete lineup of films and buy tickets to the Dragon Boat Film Festival here (also look out for information about the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival in July).