2015 Aspen Filmfest lineup announced | AspenTimes.com

2015 Aspen Filmfest lineup announced

Staff report

The movie lineup for the 2015 Aspen FIlmfest has been announced and includes a blend of documentaries, foreign films and features.

The 37th annual Aspen Filmfest will run Sept. 25 to 30, with screenings at Paepcke Auditorium and the Isis Theater in Aspen, and the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale.

“City of Gold,” a new documentary about Los Angeles Times restaurant critic, will open the festival on Sept. 25, followed by the Colorado premiere of “Room,” a new feature based on the book by Emma Donoghue.

The lineup includes a special presentation of “Experimenter,” the much anticipated Peter Sarsgaard-Wynona Ryder biopic about psychologist Stanley Milgrim.

Filmfest’s True Stories section, spotlighting documentaries, will on Sept 26 include “Rolling Papers,” a documentary about Colorado’s first year of legal marijuana through the eyes of the Denver Post’s Richard Baca.

Additional documentaries include “Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict” and “All the Time in the World,” about a family living in the Yukon wilderness. The closing night documentary is “Romeo is Bleeding,” about street violence and poetry in Richmond, California.

“Son of Saul,” which won the Grand Prix prize earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, plays on Monday, Sept. 28 and is among the titles in Filmfest’s New Voices section, highlighting emerging filmmakers. Other New Voices titles include “Tumbledown” and “Sworn Virgin.”

Foreign films in the Global Visions section include Columbia’s “Embrace of the Serpent,” Brazil’s “The Second Mother,” New Zealand’s “The Dark Horse” and France’s “The New Girlfriend.”

The 22-movie lineup closes Sept. 30 with a surprise film.

The festival will be the last programmed by retiring longtime Aspen Film co-directors Laura Thielen and George Eldred, and the first with the touch of new artistic director Maggie Mackay, who brought “City of Gold” to Filmfest.

“Aspen Film is honored to present Laura Thielen and George Eldred’s final Aspen Film program and we are thrilled to introduce audiences to our new artistic director Maggie Mackay,” said executive director John Thew. “Maggie and I look forward to continuing the growth of Aspen Film.”

Member ticket pre-sales begin Friday, Sept. 4. Tickets to the general public go on sale Friday, Sept. 11. Tickets for all Aspen and Carbondale shows are available through the Wheeler Opera House box office; tickets for Carbondale shows are also available through Bonfire Coffee.



CITY OF GOLD (dir. Laura Gabbert, USA, 2014, 96 min.)

Opening Night Documentary, Friday, Sept. 25, 5:30 p.m., Paepcke Auditorium

Arguably the foremost food writer of our era, Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold has long been a champion of the little guy, as represented by the mom-and-pop immigrant kitchens that sparkle in a sea of celebrity destinations. His passion, tenacity, and prodigious intellect have inspired his readers to boldly dine where they’ve never dined before—and director/co-producer Laura Gabbert has set out to ensure they do the same for moviegoers. Following Gold around L.A. as he goes about his delicious daily business, this documentary captures the free spirit of both the man and his city in thought-provoking, convention-challenging, and of course mouthwatering ways. Appearances by such pioneering chefs as Roy Choi and David Chang only sweeten the pot.

ROOM (dir. Lenny Abrahamson, Ireland/Canada, 2015, 113 min.)

Opening Night Feature, Friday, Sept. 25, 8:15 p.m., Paekpacke Auditorium

Both highly suspenseful and deeply emotional, Room is an unexpectedly tender exploration of the boundless love between a mother and child under the most harrowing of circumstances. Based on Emma Donoghue’s award-winning bestseller, Roomtells the extraordinary story of Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a spirited five-year-old who is looked after by his loving and devoted Ma. Like any good mother, Ma (a stunning Brie Larson) dedicates herself to keeping Jack happy and safe, nurturing him with warmth and love and doing typical things like playing games and telling stories. Their life, however, is anything but typical—they are trapped, confined to a windowless, 10-by-10-foot space. But as Jack’s curiosity about their situation grows and Ma’s resilience reaches its breaking point, they decide to enact a risky plan to escape. Lenny Abrahamson directs a stellar cast that also includes William H. Macy and Joan Allen.

ROLLING PAPERS (dir. Mitch Dickman, USA, 2015, 79 min.)

Documentary Spotlight, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2:30 p.m., Paepcke Auditorium

The impending death of old media and the legalization of recreational marijuana sound like two different stories. This offbeat yet revealing documentary indicates otherwise. As the first-ever marijuana editor for a major American newspaper, Ricardo Baca of The Denver Post covers all things cannabis-related, including the explosive growth of the Colorado industry. Upon being named to the position in early 2014, he in turn became the subject of much national coverage; suddenly the news was news itself. But whether the development of a whole new beat is enough to save traditional journalism proves a key, and compelling, question for this team of Colorado filmmakers— including director Mitch Dickman and frequent Aspen Film guest Daniel Junge, who acts as co-producer—albeit one lightened by interludes of spinning pot strains.

EXPERIMENTER (dir. Michael Almereyd, USA, 2015, 108 min.)

Special Presentation, Sunday, Sept. 27, 8:15 p.m., Paepcke Auditorium

In 1961, with World War II still fresh in the collective consciousness, an American social psychologist conducted an experiment whose subjects were instructed to administer what they believed were electric shocks to strangers. His findings about their tendency to comply became household news—but the controversies that swirled around them impacted his life and career in unexpected ways. This compelling biopic follows Stanley Milgram (a wonderfully wry Peter Sarsgaard) through it all, wife Sasha (Winona Ryder) by his side. And although writer/director/producer Michael Almereyda’s latest film investigates profound questions about the dynamics of social behavior, he infuses it with his trademark irrepressible style. Experimenter, peppered with surprise cameos and playfully unconventional cinematic effects, is smart and thought-provoking entertainment.

ROMEO IS BLEEDING (dir. Jason Zeldes, USA, 2015, 93 min.)

Closing Night Documentary, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 5:30 p.m., Isis Theater

As a native of Richmond, California—a town plagued by gang warfare—Donté Clark is on a mission to combat violence with poetry: he and his high-school students at arts center RAW Talent are adapting Romeo and Juliet to present-day circumstances. Documentarian Jason Zeldes follows the aspiring writers and actors as they come to terms with the issues underlying the feuds between not only the Montagues and the Capulets but also their own families, friends, and neighbors. The more real and fictional tragedies begin to overlap, however, the heavier the burden Clark shoulders becomes. Intercut with archival and performance footage, this portrait of a young man struggling to give voice as well as hope to a hurting community is as inspiring as it is absorbing.


THE PASSION OF AUGUSTINE (dir. Léa Pool, Canada, 2015, 103 min.)

Saturday, Sept. 26, 12:00 p.m, Paepcke Auditorium.; Sunday, Sept. 27, 5:00pm, Crystal Theatre

Mother Augustine’s convent in rural Québec has long enjoyed a reputation for discovering and nurturing young virtuosos. But the sound of classical music is quickly being drowned out by the sociopolitical upheaval of the 1960s. The Canadian government has begun secularizing the educational system, leaving the dedicated teacher and her fellow nuns little choice but to get with the program or risk closure. In the midst of the crisis, her own mischievous niece Alice arrives at the school. Standing at a crossroads between Vatican II and a burgeoning feminist movement, can Mother find a new path? Léa Pool’s light-hearted drama about the inevitability of change and the courage required to confront it is all the more affecting for its gently private moments and evocative soundtrack—but no less funny.

THE NEW GIRLFRIEND (dir. François Ozon, France, 2014, 107 min.)

Saturday, Sept. 26, 8:30 p.m., Paepcke Auditorium

Combining suspense and romance, farce and social critique, French master François Ozon (8 Women) delivers a bold and provocative adaptation of a story by mystery writer Ruth Rendell. Following the untimely death of new mother Laura, husband David must carry on as a widower with an infant. Laura’s best friend Claire, while grieving herself, aims to be of service—but gets more than she bargained for upon discovering David’s closely kept secret. As their friendship deepens, Claire finds herself keeping secrets of her own from husband Gilles, bringing into focus questions about the nature of identity, desire, and sexuality in the modern world. Nuanced performances by Romain Duris and Anaïs Demoustier ground the drama in poignancy even as it makes witty forays into surreal territory. Imagine Hitchcock with a twist of Almodóvar and a dose of heart.

EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT (dir. Ciro Guerra, Colombia, 2015, 123 min.)

Sunday, Sept. 27, 2:30 p.m.,Paepcke Auditorium

Nabbing the Directors’ Fortnight top prize at Cannes in May, this mesmerizing Colombian epic transports viewers into the heart of the South American rainforest, where Karamakate, a young shaman, has taken refuge from the ravages of early 20th-century development. When a German scientist seeking a sacred healing plant intrudes on his solitude, Karamakate begrudgingly serves as a river guide; four decades later, an American explorer comes to him on a similar quest. Part fever dream, part ethnographic exploration, director Ciro Guerra’s film evocatively interweaves these two journeys. Gorgeous black-and-white cinematography captures the languor and beauty of a lost world, as the seekers glide through a hypnotic, mysterious, sometimes frightening, ever-changing riverscape. Along the way, the young shaman’s anger over the depredations wrought by outsiders gives way to an aging man’s sorrow at the shattering aftermath.

EL CINCO (dir. Adrián Biniez, Argentina/Uruguay, 2014, 100 min.)

Saturday, Sept. 26, 8:00 p.m., Crystal Theatre; Monday, Sept. 28, 2:30 p.m., Isis Theater

Here’s a coming-of-age romance with a wry twist: its hero (of sorts) is 35 and already married. Facing the end of his run as a pro soccer player, Páton is experiencing a midlife crisis. His job qualifications are few, his self-defeating tendencies many, and for all his efforts to find a new sense of purpose, things are going from bad to worse. Lucky for him his better half, Ale, remains cheerfully patient. But can he keep his insecurities from finally straining the one good thing in his life? Argentinian writer/director Adrián Biniez delivers his engaging exploration of love’s redemptive power with sharp wit and genuine warmth, aided by the natural charm of stars Esteban Lamothe and Julieta Zylberberg—who happen to be partners off-screen as well as on.

DOUGH (dir. John Goldschmidt, U.K., 2015, 94 min.)

Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2:30 p.m., Isis Theater

Nat Dayan (played by the venerable Jonathan Pryce) has fallen on hard times: the Jewish widower’s bakery is dying along with its customer base in London’s East End. And considering his sons aren’t willing to breathe new life into the family business, a hostile takeover by the landlord seems inevitable. Enter Ayyash, a teenaged Muslim refugee from Darfur. Dayan’s new assistant seems to have a magic touch: suddenly, the shop is once again teeming with customers seeking out his special baked goods. But is it all too good to be true? Despite age and cultural difference, can this odd couple learn to have faith in one another? Director John Goldschmidt’s heart-warming dramatic comedy explores this unlikeliest of friendships.

THE DARK HORSE (dir. James Napier Robertson, New Zealand, 2014, 124 min.)

Tuesday, Sept. 29, 8:15 p.m., Isis Theater

Kiwi megastar Cliff Curtis (Whale Rider, Once Were Warriors) gives a towering yet tender performance in this spirited drama based on the life of Maori chess master Genesis Potini. Seeking respite from, if not redemption for, his struggles with bipolar disorder, Potini signs on to coach the at-risk members of a youth chess club. Among them is his own nephew, Mana, whose interest in the game constitutes betrayal in the eyes of his father Akiri, Genesis’s brother. Thus is the stage set for a showdown, at home as well as at the competition the students are practicing so hard for. Given such raw material in every sense of the phrase, writer/director James Napier Robertson refuses to smooth it over—and the rough-edged yet heartfelt results are all the more memorable for that.

THE SECOND MOTHER (dir. Anna Muylaert, Brazil, 2015, 110 min.)

Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2:30 p.m., Isis Theater

Regina Casé shines bright as Val, the longtime housemaid and nanny to a family of means in São Paulo. She cleans, cooks, and cares for teenaged Fabinho with the skillful care of a woman who accepts without question her station in life. Enter Jéssica, the smart and strong-willed daughter Val hasn’t seen in years. In town to take her university entrance exams, Jéssica flouts the class-based rules of Brazilian society, much to the dismay of everyone in the household—her mother included. Amid the tension, something has got to give; it’s a scenario that writer/director Anna Muylaert explores with both sensitivity and spirit, walking the line between family drama, social study, and sharp-edged comedy as captivatingly the characters themselves test the boundaries between old ways and new.


TUMBLEDOWN (dir. Sean Mewshaw, USA/Canada, 2015, 105 min.)

Friday, Sept. 25, 5:30 p.m., Crystal Theatre; Saturday, Sept. 26, 5:30pm, Paepacke Auditorium

Bringing vibrant indie sensibilities to bear on a classic genre, husband-and-wife team Sean Mewshaw and Desiree Van Til present a romantic comedy that eschews cutesiness for subtler charms and trades sentiment for poignancy. Rebecca Hall co-stars as Hannah, the widow of a singer-songwriter in the brilliant-but-troubled Elliott Smith vein, who has fled to small-town New England to keep the late musicians morbidly curious fans at bay. But Andrew (Jason Sudeikis) will not be deterred: the academic is determined to write a biography about her husband, and Hannah reluctantly opts to join him rather than beat him. The decision forces her to traverse an emotional landscape that, it turns out, opens on to new horizons with a breadth she never imagined. Griffin Dunne, Blythe Danner, Richard Masur, and Joe Manganiello bring joie de vivre to supporting roles.

SON OF SAUL (dir. László Nemes, Hungary, 2015, 107 min.)

Monday, Sept. 28, 8:15 p.m., Isis Theater

October 1944, Auschwitz-Birkenau. Saul Ausländer is a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando, the group of Jewish prisoners forced to assist the Nazis in their large-scale exterminations. While working in a crematorium, he discovers the body of a boy he takes for his son. Even as his fellow inmates plan an uprising, Saul embarks on his own impossible mission: save the child’s body from the flames and find a rabbi to oversee a proper burial. The stakes of both rebellion and redemption couldn’t be higher or more harrowing; that the audience comes to see as much from Saul’s perspective only underscores what is, in its breaks with narrative and cinematographic convention, a singular achievement. Precisely as chaotic and unrelenting as it must be, writer/director László Nemes’s debut feature took the Coen Brothers-juried Grand Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

SWORN VIRGIN (dir. Laura Bispuri, Italy/Germany/Switzerland/Kosovo/Albania, 2015, 90 min.)

Tuesday, Sept. 29, 12:00 p.m., Isis Theater

In the remote villages of Albania, patriarchy endures. Women must resign themselves to a life of domestic servitude—unless they agree to the terms of an unusual social contract: tradition dictates that they may adopt the identities of free men, so long as they remain celibate. Taking the name Mark, Hana becomes one such “sworn virgin.” But 14 years on, the limitations of her situation have begun to seem as confining as the alternative. So she makes the decision to leave behind all she has ever known, traveling to Italy to join her sister, Lila, who had fled for the modern world years before. There, Mark begins to rediscover her roots as Hana. Filmmaker Laura Bispuri’s provocative yet sensitive exploration of the ways in which we receive and resist our gender roles unfolds in flashbacks and quiet present-day moments, driven by the careful performance of lead Alba Rohrwacher against a stunning backdrop that shifts dramatically from secluded mountain to bustling city.

THE GREAT MAN (dir. Sarah Leonor, France, 2015, 107 min.)

Wednesday, Sept. 30, 12:00 p.m., Isis Theater

Markov (Surho Sugaipov) and fellow French Legionnaire Hamilton (a superb Jérémie Renier of The Child and The Kid with a Bike) move as one, scouting behind enemy lines during their final days in Afghanistan. When an unauthorized mission triggers an ambush, Markov commits a courageous act of brotherhood that nevertheless puts him at odds with the Legion—and jeopardizes his future. He had enlisted as a foreign refugee, hoping to gain citizenship and provide a better life for his son; now he finds himselfin Paris as an undocumented civilian. Markov eventually reunites with Hamilton, and their friendship resumes until a sudden turn of events upends their fragile world. An affecting treatment of identity, trauma, and paternal and fraternal responsibility, Sarah Leonor’s finely wrought tale is so suffused with generous humanity that we’re never sure to whom the title actually refers.


SHERPA (dir. Jennifer Peedom, Australia/U.K., 2015, 96 min.)

Friday, Sept. 25, 8:15 p.m., Crystal Theatre; Sunday, Sept. 27, 12:00 p.m., Paepcke Auditorium

For decades, Westerners tended to view Himalayan Sherpas as the mascots of Mount Everest—eager, loyal, ever-enduring—with good reason: it was easier than admitting they were all-too-human, easily exploited cogs in the treacherous machine that is the commercial-expedition market. But all that began to change a couple of years ago, after tensions between some European climbers and their guides boiled over mid-trek. Compelled to tell the story from the natives’ perspective, award-winning Australian filmmaker and veteran climber Jennifer Peedom traveled to Nepal at the onset of the 2014 climbing season—only to become embroiled in the tragic, and politically mobilizing, aftermath of an avalanche that killed 16 sherpas. At once breathtaking and heartbreaking, epic and intimate, this documentary explores the impact that our dream of conquering nature has on the people bound by economic circumstance to help make it come true.

PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT (dir. Lisa Immordino Vreeland USA, 2015, 96 min.)

Sunday, Sept. 27, 5:30 p.m., Paepcke Auditorium

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel director Lisa Immordino Vreeland returns with yet another striking documentary about a 20th-century socialite turned legendary cultural power broker. A combination of archival footage, recently re-discovered audio recordings, stills, and commentary from myriad present-day tastemakers serves as the judiciously straightforward frame for a portrait that derives all its luster from the colorful—and indeed lusty—subject herself: Peggy Guggenheim. The doyenne of modern art founded some of the most influential galleries of their day in London and New York City before moving to Venice to open the world-class museum that bears her name. Along the way, she befriended creative titans like Duchamp, Beckett, and Ernst and nurtured the talents of Pollock, Rothko, and Motherwell, among others. The zeitgeist of 20th-century modernism comes to life in this personal exploration of one of its guiding luminaries—candor, passion, and all.

FRAME BY FRAME (dirs. Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli, USA, 2015, 85 min.)

Saturday, Sept. 26, 5:30 p.m., Crystal Theatre; Monday, Sept. 28, 12:00 p.m., Isis Theater

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, taking a photo was a crime. After the regime fell from power in 2001, a fledgling free press emerged and a media revolution was born. The award-winning Frame by Frame follows four brave souls at the forefront of Afghanistan’s post-war photojournalism. Turning a compassionate lens on the social realities of their strife-torn country, the four photographers courageously hold to their belief in the unique ability of the picture to bring about understanding and change. Interweaving revealing interviews, powerful photojournalism, and never-before-seen archival footage, documentarians Alexandria Bombach and Mo Scarpelli create an urgent and inspiring portrait of these dedicated professionals determined to reclaim their country’s humanity.

ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD (dir. Suzanne Crocker, Canada, 2014, 88 min.)

Monday, Sept. 28, 5:30 p..m., Isis Theater

Like Thoreau before her, Suzanne Crocker went to the woods because she wished to live deliberately. Unlike Thoreau, she captured the experience on film. A multi-award-winning hit on the festival circuit, this thoughtful documentary follows the Canadian director/producer herself, along with her husband and their three young children, into the Yukon wilderness, where they live off the grid for nine months, learning to fend for themselves in the absence of a single modern amenity. Without electricity or plumbing, never mind the Internet, they live by their wits according to the earth’s natural cycles; what they discover about connecting with nature and each other is sometimes funny, sometimes moving, and always fascinating.

A BALLERINA’S TALE (dir. Nelson George, USA, 2015, 85 min.)

Tuesday, Sept. 29, 5:30 p.m., Isis Theater

Among a handful of dancers with household-name recognition, American Ballet Theatre star Misty Copeland personifies the drive to realize one’s dreams against all odds. In this stirring behind-the-scenes documentary, director/producer Nelson George traces the obstacle course she has been navigating with extraordinary courage since the beginning of her career: not only is she black and muscularly built in a white and waiflike world, but she has also endured injuries from which only the rarest of athletes could recover. Encapsulated by her recent struggle to come back from shin surgery and take her place as a company soloist in the ballet of ballets that is Swan Lake, Copeland’s story bears all the hallmarks of the greatest sports dramas. That it happens to be true is all the more astonishing.