With Sayles, Altman and Hunter, Filmfest remaining independent | AspenTimes.com

With Sayles, Altman and Hunter, Filmfest remaining independent

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Entering its 25th year, Aspen Filmfest’s commitment to its slogan – Independent By Nature – hasn’t diminished.

Filmfest’s 25th festival, set for Sept. 30 through Oct. 5, reeks of the independent spirit. Filmfest ’03 includes the latest works by two icons of independent filmmaking, and a documentary of a local maverick by a local filmmaker.

An off-screen presentation looks at American filmmaking in the ’70s, an era crucial to the rise of independent cinema. And there are foreign films, films by first-time directors, an animated adult feature, and a children’s program – all alternatives to the usual Hollywood mix of blockbusters, star vehicles and sequels.

New films by John Sayles and Robert Altman will be screened at the upcoming Filmfest.

The latest by Sayles, whose films include “Lone Star,” “Matewan,” “Sunshine State” and “Men With Guns,” is “Casa de Los Babys.”

Featuring a female ensemble cast that includes Mary Steenburgen, Rita Moreno, Lili Taylor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Daryl Hannah and Marcia Gay Harden, “Casa de los Babys” is about a group of American women in Mexico, waiting to adopt Mexican children.

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Altman, whose films include “Gosford Park,” “The Player,” “Nashville” and “M*A*S*H,” will have his new film, “The Company,” screened at Filmfest. “The Company” takes a dramatized, in-depth look into the workings of a professional dance company. The film stars Neve Campbell as a company dancer and Malcolm McDowell as the company director, and also features members of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.

“Breakfast with Hunter,” a documentary of Woody Creeker Hunter S. Thompson, will show in Filmfest’s True Stories program. The first feature film by Wayne Ewing, “Breakfast with Hunter” is a verite profile of Thompson, and includes scenes from his early ’70s run for Pitkin County sheriff and interactions with Johnny Depp, John Cusack, P.J. O’Rourke and Benicio del Toro.

A panel discussion about American filmmaking in the ’70s will include directors Sydney Pollack (“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”) and Aspenite Bob Rafelson (“Five Easy Pieces,” “The King of Marvin Gardens”), producer Polly Platt (“Paper Moon”), and cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs (“Easy Rider,” “Shampoo”).

The Retrospective segment will also focus on the ’70s, with screenings of “Paper Moon,” “The French Connection” and “Shampoo.” Platt and Kovacs will participate in question-and-answer sessions following “Paper Moon” and “Shampoo,” respectively.

Filmfest ’03 will pay the usual attention to foreign filmmaking. “My Life Without Me,” an English-language film by Spanish director Isabel Coixet and executive producer Pedro Almodovar, is among the films with a foreign twist. The movie stars Sarah Polley as a young mother diagnosed with a terminal illness who sets out to accomplish a list of things before she dies. The film co-stars Mark Rufalo, Deborah Harry and Amanda Plummer.

Foreign films to be screened include the Czech movie “Some Secrets,” by director Alice Nellis, about several generations of a family on a road trip; and the French film “The Belleville Triplets,” an animated adult feature with no dialogue, but which tells the story of a kidnapped cyclist with visuals and music.

Also to be featured is “The Barbarian Invasions,” by Canadian director Denys Arand. The film, which earned awards for best screenplay and best actress at the Cannes Film Festival, is about a university professor at the end of his life, trying to make amends to those he has alienated.

Filmfest ’03 will also include a Surprise Film; a Sneak Preview of a film starring a past recipient of Filmfest’s Independent By Nature Award; and the ScreenPlay! presentation for young audiences.

The complete Filmfest program will be posted online Sept. 10 at http://www.aspenfilm.org. Tickets for Filmfest go on sale Sept. 23.

[Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com]

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