Aspen Shortsfest winners announced |

Aspen Shortsfest winners announced

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Brett Garamella and Patrick McGowan's "The Champion" won Best Documentary at Aspen Shortsfest 2015.
Courtesy photo |

Aspen Shortsfest 2015 Award Winners

BEST ANIMATION: ‘Dissonance’

BEST COMEDY: ‘Two Dosaas’



BEST STUDENT FILM: ‘Mend and Make Do’

BEST SHORT SHORT: ‘The Girlfriend Experience’

SPECIAL JURY RECOGNITION: ‘De Smet,’ ‘Listen,’ ‘Lucy,’ ‘Rabbit,’ ‘Run Fast,’ ‘We Can’t Live Without Cosmos’

AUDIENCE AWARD: ‘How I Didn’t Become a Piano Player’


THE ELLEN AWARD: ‘Boogaloo and Graham’


“Shok,” a Kosovo-based story of friendship and war, won three Aspen Shortsfest awards Sunday, as the six-day film festival drew to a close.

Prizes for “Shok” included Best Drama, a special Audience Recognition Award — given when voting by the audience is extremely close — and the Youth Jury Prize, which is awarded by a panel of local high school students.

Writer-director Jamie Donoghue, accepting the Best Drama trophy in an awards dinner at Rustique Bistro, called Shortsfest “the best week of my life,” and said, “I can’t tell you what this is going to mean to the people back in Kosovo.”

The film is about two boys in Kosovo during the beginning of the 1990s ethnic cleansing there. It included a performance by actor-producer Eshref Durmishi, on whom one of the young Albanian characters was partly based, playing a soldier on the opposite side of the conflict. He and Donoghue shared the “Shok” backstory on stage after the film’s world premiere Friday evening at the Wheeler Opera House.

The Audience Recognition Award, based on post-screening ballots filled out by attendees, went to “How I Didn’t Become a Piano Player,” a wry British coming-of-age tale that played Wednesday.

The Best Documentary Award went to “The Champion,” a portrait of Chicago cab driver and former Iraqi boxing champion Estaifan Shilaita.

“We’re just glad that people finally got to see this film,” co-director Brett Garamella said.

Additional winners in the festival’s Academy Award-qualifying International Competition were Germany’s “Dissonance,” about a pianist and his dream world, for Best Animation; “Two Dosas,” about an Indian-English romance, for Best Comedy; “Mend and Make Do,” an animated documentary about an elderly woman’s memories, for Best Student Film; and the seven-minute “The Girlfriend Experience” for Best Short Short.

Special Jury Recognition went to “De Smet,” “Listen,” “Lucy,” “Rabbit,” “Run Fast” and “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos.”

The Ellen award, given annually since 1992 to honor Aspen Film founder Ellen Price, went to “Boogaloo and Graham,” a comedy about two young Irish boys and their pet chickens.

Winners were chosen from 70 short films in competition, representing 30 countries and chosen from more than 3,100 submissions.

“What I love about Shortsfest is that, through the work of talented filmmakers, it opens windows into the rapidly changing world of international cinema,” said screenwriter and International Competition Jury member Elias Davis, who chose winners with Denver Post film and theater critic Lisa Kennedy, Writers’ Guild Foundation spokesman Kevin Ott and screenwriter Laurence Andries.

Filmmakers and Aspen Film staffers also took time during Sunday’s awards ceremony to honor the organization’s co-directors Laura Thielen and George Eldred, who announced last month that they are leaving Aspen Film after two decades.

“What Laura and George have created over the last 20 years is simply epic: a special event where filmmakers find their artistic family and inspiration for future work,” said filmmaker Topaz Adizes, who hosted the interactive {The And} Game on Tuesday night at the Wheeler. “I’ve had seven films here, and every time I feel fortunate and grateful that I can participate and immerse myself in this one-of-a-kind environment.”