Aspen Film Academy Screenings: International cinema slate includes ‘Julieta,’ ‘Toni Erdmann,’ ‘Sand Storm,’ Elle’ and ‘Neruda’

Sandra Huller as Ines in "Toni Erdmann." The German dramedy plays at Aspen Film's Academy Screenings on Friday, Dec. 23 at 3 p.m.
Courtesy photo |

The Aspen Film Academy Screenings lineup boasts some of 2016’s most acclaimed international films. Here’s a run-down on what to expect in the movies from beyond our borders.

Julieta” (Spain)

When: Today, 3 p.m.

Where: Wheeler Opera House

This much talked-about melodrama pairs the legendary Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar with the Nobel prize-winning Canadian short story writer Alice Munro. “Julieta” is based on three Munro stories from her 2004 collection “The Runaway.” As it opens, the title character, played by Emma Suarez, puts off a move from Madrid to Portugal in order to write the story of her daughter’s estrangement. From there, it plays out like a suspense thriller in flashbacks to the 1980s — rendered in Almodovar’s signature high style — and the present, where Julieta searches in earnest for her long-lost daughter.

“Julieta” was nominated for the European Film Award for Best Film and won a spot in the National Board of Review’s Top 5 Foreign Films.

Toni Erdmann” (Germany)

When: Friday, 3 p.m.

Where: Paepcke Auditorium

Since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, Maren Abe’s quirky father-daughter story has been one of the best-reviewed movies of 2016. In recent weeks, it’s earned a well-deserved place on nearly every critic’s “Best of 2016” list.

The German deadpan dramedy centers on Ines (Sandra Hüller), a workaholic corporate executive, as she attempts to avoid her irreverent practical joker of a father, played by Peter Simonischek. To ingratiate himself into her life, he disguises himself — with a bad wig and worse fake teeth — as the rogue-ish Toni Erdmann.

“Toni Erdmann” swept the top prizes at the European Film Awards, winning Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenwriter, Best Actor and Best Actress trophies. And it has been shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

Sand Storm” (Israel)

When: Tuesday, 3 p.m.

Where: Wheeler Opera House

An intimate portrait of the lives of women in a Bedouin village in Southern Israel, “Sand Storm” opens and closes with a wedding. Between each of the bittersweet ceremonies, teenager Layla (Lamis Ammar) guides us through the complicated lives of women in a society still that subjugates them even as modernity encroaches on its traditions.

“Sand Storm” won the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Dramatic section at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was Israel’s entry for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards, though it missed the short list for nominations.

Elle” (France)

When: Wednesday, Noon

Where: Paepcke Auditorium

Not for the faint of heart, “Elle” is the latest study of power, violence and sexual deviance from the ever-provocative Paul Verhoven (of “RoboCop” and “Basic Instinct” fame in the U.S.).

The film stars Isabelle Huppert in one of the most acclaimed performances of 2016. A steely video game executive, she is attacked in her home by a masked assailant. Rather than going to the police, she keeps a watchful eye on the men around her, awaiting and inviting her masked foe’s return.

Huppert has won nominations and awards from critics around the world already, including a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama).

Neruda” (Chile)

When: Dec. 30, 3 p.m.

Where: Wheeler Opera House

Rather than a traditional biographical portrait of the poet, politician and Chilean icon Pablo Neruda, the Larrain brothers have made what they’ve called an “anti-biopic” in the meta-fictional film noir masterpiece “Neruda.” It centers on Neruda’s period living underground in the late 1940s, when Chile outlawed communism and declared him an enemy of the state. The film invents a dashing policeman (Gael Garcia Bernal) to hunt down Neruda (Luis Gnecco) in an atmospheric story about the power of storytelling itself.

Pick up the Weekend section of The Aspen Times on Dec. 30 for a feature on “Neruda” and an interview with producer Juan de Dios Larrain.