Aspen Film announced the award winners for the 2020 Aspen Shortsfest on Monday, tapping an international slate of films for Oscar-qualifying prizes and additional honors.
The festival, in its 29th year, ran March 31 through April 5 in a virtual version online. The in-person festival, held annually at the Wheeler Opera House, was canceled due to public health restrictions during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The private online festival, hosted on the Paris-based Festival Scope platform, preserved the festival’s Oscar-qualifying status in five award categories.
This year’s list of Award winners includes nine films from nine different countries. The Audience Award went to documentarian Alison Klayman’s “Flower Punk,” about Japanese artist Azuma Makoto. Other award highlights include “A Youth,” a Shortsfest world premiere garnering the Best Documentary award, and “Bag,” a film by Colorado-born and New York-based artist and animator Robin Frohardt which was honored with both The Ellen Award, and a Jury Award Special Mention for Animation.
For the third year, Aspen Film presented the Vimeo Staff Pick Award, a prestigious honor from the creator-first platform and a live iteration of Vimeo’s Staff Picks laurel. The Award was given to “Bye Bye, Body” by filmmaker Charlotte Benbeniste which is now available on Vimeo.
2020 ASPEN SHORTSFEST AWARD WINNERS
Audience Award: “Flower Punk” (Japan), directed by Alison Klayman
Best Comedy: “Postcards From The End Of The World” (Greece), directed by Konstantinos Antonopoulos
“Deadpan humor propels this acidly romantic and wholly original story about a crumbling marriage amidst the end of civilization. Beyond the impending cataclysm, the film’s portrayal of the personal tragedy of lost love and the possibility of rekindling it deftly shows us that once our mundane burdens lose meaning, we can focus on what really matters,” reads the statement from Shortsfest’s competition jury, consisting of critic and journalist Carlos Aguilar; Canal+ acquisitions executive Pascale Faure; and producer Marie Therese Guirgis.
Special Mention for Comedy: “Marcy Learns Something New” (USA), directed by Julia Kennelly
“The film offers us a very unexpected vision of a middle-aged woman who finds her way through the practice of SM,” reads the jury statement. “A skillful script and original characters make this fictional tale a story for consenting adults.”
Best Drama: “Bablinga” (France), directed by Fabien Dao (Not screened in the virtual festival)
Special Mention for Drama: “I’ll End Up In Jail” (Canada), directed by Alexandre Dostie
“It’s rare to discover a truly original filmmaking voice and even rarer to have no idea what’s going to happen from one moment to the next while watching a film,” reads the jury statement. “A delight.”
Best Animation: “And Then The Bear” (France), directed by Agnes Patron (Not screened in the virtual festival)
Special Mention for Animation: “Bag” (USA), directed by Robin Frohardt
“The originality of the technique joins the theme of the film, an animation made with recycled materials that tells us the tragedy of a plastic bag,” reads the jury statement. “The result is a cinematic symbol of a new ecological consciousness.”
Best Documentary: “A Youth” (UK, Italy, Greece), directed by Giorgio Bosisio
“There have been a number of recent documentaries depicting the lives of refugees in Greece and other European countries,” reads the jury statement. “But ‘A Youth’ never ‘others’ nor pities its subjects. We care about them because they are, essentially, so much like us. We respect them because they are braver than we are.”
Special Mention for Documentary: “The Starr Sisters” (USA), directed by Bridey Elliott, Beth Einhorn
“This film captures an unforgettable moment alongside these incredible sisters,” reads the jury statement. “They tell us their stories of life – even the most intimate ones — and give us an inspiring lesson of freedom!”
Best Short Short: “Something To Remember” (Sweden), directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr
“As melancholic as it is bewildering, this exquisitely achieved stop-motion creation finds profound humanity in its animal protagonists through an eerily soothing song,” reads the jury statement. “It’s a bittersweet, bite-size confection that blew us away.”
Special Mention for Short Short: Asmahan The Diva (France), directed by Chloe Mazlo
“We would have happily watched another hour of this lovely, clever, fascinating, and moving film,” reads the jury statement.
Best Student Short: “Heading South” (China, USA), directed by Yuan Yuan (Not screened in the virtual festival)
Special Mention: “No Crying At The Dinner Table” (Canada), directed by Carol Nguyen
“Formally intelligent and deeply emotionally affecting, this film gives viewers such a strong sense of each character in such a short time and we cared about all of them,” reads the jury statement.
The Ellen Award: “Bag” (USA), directed by Robin Frohardt
Youth Jury Award: “The Manchador” (Norway, Germany), directed by Kaveh Therani
“The relevant themes of the male gaze and women’s autonomy pertain to not only our generation, but the whole world,” reads the citation from a jury consisting of local students Mac Lampe, Riley MacArthur, Haver Muss, Sebastian Pedinielli, Harper Rafelson, Richie Simeone and Tilly Swanson. “While the film focuses on Middle Eastern religious practices, we see the objectification of women in our society and generation today. We appreciate the implementation of comedy and satire around this serious topic. The role reversal, in limiting men’s freedom instead of women, opens the door to a conversation around this issue with a new and creative take. The director’s choices with movement among the actors, the emotional writing, and the powerful cinematography created a fully immersive and comprehensive experience.”
A total of $15,000 in cash prizes were awarded to the Shortsfest Competition and youth jury winners.