Two Aspen Shortsfest 2014 winners nominated for Oscars (video) |

Two Aspen Shortsfest 2014 winners nominated for Oscars (video)

Sally Hawkins in "The Phone Call." The film won an Audience Special Recognition prize and the Youth Jury Prize at Aspen Shortsfest, and is now nominted for an Oscar.
Courtesy photo |

Two films that won prizes at Shortsfest in April are now nominated for Academy Awards, giving Aspenites movies to root for in the short film categories.

“The Phone Call” is nominated for Best Short Film – Live Action and “Our Curse” is up for Best Documentary Short Subject. Both became eligible for Oscar consideration by screening at Shortsfest.

“The Phone Call,” a searing look at depression, stars Sally Hawkins as a volunteer for a crisis hotline speaking with a widower (Jim Broadbent) on a life-changing phone call. The 20-minute film, which had its second North American screening at Shortsfest, won the festival’s Audience Special Recognition prize and its Youth Jury Prize, given by local high school students.

VIDEO: “The Phone Call” Trailer

“The film we have chose concerns a subject that has touched many people in our valley, as well as the world,” reads the youth jury’s citation. “This short changed our perspective on suicide. It offered an insight into the mental state of someone taking his or her own life.”

James Lucas, who co-wrote the film with director Mat Kirby, said the citation brought him to tears.

“That our film could profoundly affect and inform the youth of Colorado? That means more than anything in the world,” he said via e-mail.

Getting the film accepted at Shortsfest was a breakthrough moment, Lucas said.

“Initially, the pick-up on ‘The Phone Call’ was muted, to say the least, which puzzled us,” Lucas said. “Then we got accepted to Aspen Shortsfest and the rest is pretty much history. … Once we screened at Academy Awards accredited Aspen, then the doors began to open wide.”

The film, shot in England, and the acclaim that’s followed it has also opened doors for Lucas and Kirby, who are now looking toward writing and making feature films and television projects, whille preparing for an unexpected trip to the Academy Awards.

“Never in our wildest dreams, when making this film in a disused, freezing cold office in Enfield, London, did we think we would be (as of this week) being fitted for tuxedos in order to walk down that hallowed red carpet on Oscars night,” he wrote.

“Our Curse” follows a young Polish couple attempting to care for a baby born with a life-threatening breathing disorder called “Ondine’s Curse.” Unflinching but sensitive, the 29-minute documentary, which had its U.S. debut at Shortsfest, won the Best Documentary prize at the festival.

VIDEO: “Our Curse”

Director Tomasz Śliwiński said the positive reaction and win for the film at Shortsfest prompted him to submit it to more festivals in the U.S. where it went on to win prizes at several additional festivals.

“The audience reaction was amazing,” he said of his time in Aspen. “Even a few days after the screening, people were stopping me on the street to talk about my film and thanking me for sharing it with them. I’ve never experienced anything like that before or after, so Aspen was really unique.”

Śliwiński recently finished the script for his follow-up film – another short, but this time a fictional narrative.

Damien Chazelle, who screened the short “Whiplash” at Shortsfest in 2013, used the short as calling card to get backing for a feature version, which came out last year and is nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay (see related story, p. TK).

This year’s Aspen Shortsfest, presented by Aspen Film at the Wheeler Opera House, will run April 7 to 12.

“The Phone Call” i

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