Aspen Filmfest lineup announced |

Aspen Filmfest lineup announced

Michele Williams in "Certain Women." The film will open the 38th annual Aspen Filmfest on Sept. 21.
Courtesy photo |

Twenty new features, foreign films and documentaries will screen at the 38th Aspen Filmfest, the nonprofit Aspen Film will announce on Tuesday.

The festival will run from Sept. 21 to 25 at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen and the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale.

Four of the movies in this year’s lineup are U.S. premieres: the documentary “Gun Runners;” the Iranian drama “The Salesman;” the immigration story “Soy Nero;” and the Michael Fassbender-starring British gangster tale “Trespass Against Us.” All 20 films in the lineup will be making their Colorado premieres in Aspen.

The festival will open with director Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women,” which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Additional films announced for the festival include “11:55,” “Accidental Courtesy: Darryl Davis, Race & America,” “Always Shine,” “Burden,” “Burn Country,” “The Eagle Huntress,” “The Last Laugh,” “Little Boxes,” “Lovesong,” “Mr. Gaga,” “My Blind Brother,” “Peter and the Farm,” “Seven Songs for a Long Life,” “Spa Night” and “Trespass Against Us.”

Member ticket presales begin on Friday, Sept. 2. Tickets go on sale for the general public one week later.

Films were selected by guest programmer Rachel Chanoff.

“Aspen Film is elated to have a veteran like Rachel Chanoff heading up programming for our annual Filmfest,” Aspen Film executive director John Thew said in the program announcement. “She has brought us a truly impressive roster of films including four U.S. premieres, and all films will have their Colorado premiere here during the event. We’re especially excited to open with a Sundance premiere, ‘Certain Women,’ and close with a surprise feature that our audiences will love.”

Tickets will be available at the Wheeler Opera House box office and Tickets to Carbondale screenings will also be on sale at Bonfire Coffee. More information at



Nelson Sanchez has just returned from service in Afghanistan, and his first day back is full of joyful reunions with friends and family. But he soon learns an enemy from his old life as a gangster is on his scent and seeking revenge. As action transpires over the course of one day on the troubled streets of Newburgh, NY, Sanchez is met with a series of dead ends and impending doom – can he break the cycle of violence in his past? Infused with the desolate look and feel of classic Westerns, 11:55 is a modern, nail-biting take on timeless cinema. Colorado Premiere.


“Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America”

R&B musician Daryl Davis has an unusual hobby: in his free time, he enjoys meeting and befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. Daring to challenge bigotry one human at a time, he also collects robes and other white supremacist artifacts, aiming to eventually open a “Museum of the Klan.” As he crisscrosses the country to sit with grand wizards, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists, his journey amounts to one of the most remarkable series of interviews ever captured on film. Again and again he asks: How can you hate me when you don’t even know me? Colorado Premiere.


“Always Shine”

Betrayal, jealousy, and resentment lie at the core of this knotty psychological thriller. Beth and Anna are aspiring actresses, saturated with the most toxic elements of Hollywood’s competitive culture. Once close friends, they take a road trip to Big Sur to reconnect and heal old wounds. Instead, what follows on the secluded coastal cliffs is a dark and bizarre unraveling of both their friendship and their personal identities. Always Shine is a commentary on film industry success and an intimate portrait of a two women struggling to find themselves. Western Premiere.



The late great performance artist Chris Burden once said on television, with a shrug: “I don’t think my pieces always provide answers, they just ask questions.” He asked America a notorious political question when he had an ex-military friend shoot him in the arm in a Santa Ana gallery, and again when he nailed his hands to a VW bug. But later in his career, he moved away from “danger art” and made wild, large-scale, and generally underrated installations across the country. Burden is full-bodied portrait of the man and the artist who sparked such controversy in the 70s and then went on to a long and diverse career as one of high art’s heavyweights. Western Premiere.


“Burn Country”

The unsavory underbelly of a small town in Northern California is exposed in this 2016 crime drama. Osman (Dominic Rains) has secured asylum in the U.S. after a hazardous stint of working with Western journalists in Afghanistan, but when his friend Lindsay (James Franco) is implicated in a local murder, he finds that life in the bucolic redwood country is not as safe as it first seemed. A colorful ensemble cast, including a wealthy New Age guru and the fearsome mafia family Sokurov Brothers, round out this tale of intrigue and misadventure. Also starring Academy-Award winner Melissa Leo. Colorado Premiere


“Certain Women”

A quiet and mesmerizing portrayal of various intersecting lives in Montana which follows a married couple (Michelle Williams and James Le Gros) who falters after buying a new home, a young lawyer (Kristen Stewart) who is roped into teaching an adult education class, and another lawyer (Laura Dern) who finds herself in a peculiar hostage situation. Their lives become inevitably intertwined in these luminous vignettes. Colorado Premiere


“The Eagle Huntress”

The Eagle Huntress tells the inspiring story of Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a 13-year-old nomadic Mongolian girl who dares to break the gender barrier of an ancient hunting tradition. For over 2,000 years, hunting game on horseback with the help of a golden eagle has been a hallowed and exclusively male custom. But when Nurgaiv, who comes from a seven-generation eagle hunting family, shows interest and aptitude, she becomes the catalyst for a great paradigm shift through her craft. Uplifting and enlightening for all ages, Nurgaiv’s story is fable-like in its simple beauty, especially as accompanied by breathtaking widescreen Mongolian landscapes. Colorado Premiere.


“Gun Runners”

Gun Runners tells the inspiring story of Matanda and Arile, two warriors in Northern Kenya who chose to put violence in their past. As part of a Tegla Loroupe’s foundation to disarm the conflict-ridden region, they trade in their guns for sneakers and pursue the lifelong dream of becoming professional marathon runners. Shot over eight years, the film follows their progress as they work to make positive choices for their families and nation – Arile ultimately enters international marathons, and Matanda starts working in the political sphere. It is an urgent and uplifting reminder that cycles of violence can be broken with vision and willpower. United States Premiere


“The Last Laugh”

“Comics are the conscience of the people,” Mel Brooks says with a trademark wry smile. Where, then, is the line between dark comedy and plain bad taste? The Last Laugh gathers an A-list group of comedians, including Sarah Silverman and Rob Reiner, to explore the outer limits of permissible humor – a journey into the ethics of entertainment that is at once hilarious and thought-provoking. Topics range from the “too soon” rule, which condemns 9/11 jokes but offers a pass to Spanish Inquisition jokes, to the humor of World War II – why are Nazi jokes commonplace while Holocaust jokes remain taboo? Prepare for some cringe-worthy one-liners and a parade of the great humorists of our time. Colorado Premiere.


“Little Boxes”

A young family of three from the Big Apple adjust to suburban life in this sharp social commentary. It’s the summer before 6th grade for Clark, and he is the only biracial kid in the lily-white Washington town – a badge that earns him admiration and also some bizarre expectations of how he should act. Meanwhile, his urban intellectual parents are encountering their own struggles, both misunderstanding their new peers and being misunderstood in turn. Little Boxes touches on issues of race, class, and drama, but first and foremost it is a nuanced portrait of a family unit, complete with all of its squabbles, tenderness, and codependence. Starring Melanie Lynskey (HBO’s Togetherness) and Nelsan Ellis (HBO’s True Blood). Colorado Premiere.



So Yong Kim brings us a graceful and delicate portrait of two women, once childhood best friends, who discover a new chapter of intimacy in their 20s. Sarah, a young mom whose husband is perennially away on work, bears the weight of adult responsibility and emotional isolation. When she is reunited with the free-spirited Mindy, their chemistry teeters between platonic and romantic, and they struggle to define the hazy borders of their relationship. The deep and subtle heroines of Lovesong never cross into clichés, and are elevated by quietly stylized cinematography and a rippling, subdued score. Starring Jena Malone (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Into the Wild) and Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road, Starz’s The Girlfriend Experience). Colorado Premiere.


“Mr. Gaga”

At last! An authoritative and long-overdue documentary on the life and work of visionary Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. In his three decades as artistic director of Tel Aviv’s Batsheva Company, Naharin has developed a revolutionary and electric new vocabulary known as Gaga, characterized by jagged movements and the subversion of dancers’ “familiar limits.” In Mr. Gaga, we are offered unfettered access to the rehearsal room, with high-grade, multi-camera shoots that might recall 2011’s Pina. The history of the company – including their notorious withdrawal from Israel’s 50th anniversary gala after being pressured to perform a military-themed piece – is told in rich detail, with Naharin’s larger-than-life personality at the center. Colorado Premiere.


“My Blind Brother”

Robbie is a macho and impossibly virtuous small-town hero, running marathons, making televised appearances, and even operating a small charity. He is also blind, and his lovably unaccomplished brother Bill spends most of his days guiding and tending to him. Resentment is already in the air when Bill’s recent hookup, Rose, becomes Robbie’s steady, and the stage is set for a screwball comedy with no shortage of awkward, endearing punchlines. Perhaps we’d feel worse for Robbie if he weren’t such a jerk, and if his brother weren’t such a charming deadbeat. My Blind Brother is the rare romantic comedy that is both hilarious and heartfelt, elevated by truly memorable performances from the leading love triangle. Starring Nick Kroll (Comedy Central’s The Kroll Show), Adam Scott (NBC’s Parks & Recreation) and Jenny Slate (Obvious Child, Saturday Night Live). Colorado Premiere.


“Peter and the Farm”

68-year old Peter Dunning runs an idyllic family farm in rural Vermont, a seeming haven of barns, animals, and wide acreage. His white beard invokes the days of Puritan settlers, and his charismatic sense of storytelling has a beatnik charm. But beneath the surface lies a deeply troubled soul – a former artist whose alcoholism and depression have long since driven his children, wife, and friends away from the farm. “I care more about the farm than I care about me,” he says, going about his daily work in boozy isolation. Peter and the Farm is an enthralling portrait of one man’s struggle to find meaning in the great outdoors. Colorado Premiere.


“The Salesman”

Internationally acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi brings us another understated masterpiece about intricate relationships and inevitable revenge. Emad and Rana are a married couple of actors in Tehran, lovely and sympathetic if a bit high-strung. When an intruder randomly assaults Rana in her own home, she begins to emotionally unravel. The incident becomes a pivotal moment in their collective well-being and Emad begins to aimlessly investigate the crime. What will he do if and when he finds the perpetrator? Observant, suspenseful, and straight-forward, The Salesman is an enquiry into the psychology of vengeance and devotion. United States Premiere.


“Seven Songs for a Long Life”

Seven Songs for a Long Life journeys into the lives of six patients at Strathcarron Hospice as they live their last days, processing feelings of fear, acceptance, grief, and love. One is a retired midwife, another a 23-year-old cancer victim, and all six find a collective and transformative experience in mourning. With the help of the beloved nurse Mandy Malcomson, these patients take on a difficult challenge: to write songs and make music videos for their friends and families. Their extraordinary creations are interwoven with footage of everyday life under hospice care, reminding us of the importance of self-expression, the beautiful fragility of life, and the power of creativity. Colorado Premiere.


“Soy Nero”

Soy Nero traces the epic and circuitous path of young Nero, a Mexican teenager who hopes to join the U.S. Army to earn citizenship under the DREAM Act. We first meet him on the border, attempting the treacherous crossing to America under the glittering decoy of Fourth of July fireworks. His journey brings him from scorched desert to the lush mansions of Beverly Hills, before returning in fatigues to another arid expanse in Iraq. There, Nero becomes one of many “green card soldiers” who would risk their lives rather than return to their places of origin. A timely story of sacrifice and opportunity, Soy Nero arrives at an urgent crossroads of American foreign policy and deeper investigation of immigration and national identity. United States Premiere.


“Spa Night”

In the karaoke bars, restaurants, and 24-hour spas of Los Angeles’ Koreatown, 18-year-old David Cho grapples with a forbidden but undeniable sexual awakening. His family seems to be at a fork in the road – after his parents run out of money and are forced to close the family restaurant, David takes a job at a Korean spa to help make ends meet. He discovers an underworld of gay hookups that is at once thrilling and terrifying, and finds himself caught between his own desires and the hopes and dreams of his traditional parents. Ethereal and atmospheric, Spa Night is both a family drama and an inspired coming-of-age film. Colorado Premiere.


“Trespass Against Us”

A tragic hero is torn between his loyalty to his father and the future of his children in this high-octane British gangster drama. Chad Cutler of the notorious Cutler family comes from a long lineage of outlaws, living off the grid and raiding the estates of aristocrats. As Chad enters his middle age, he begins to reassess his treacherous way of life, fearing his children will end up behind bars, or worse. He tries to save his children without betraying his roots, but the law is already hot on his heels, and his redemption may be too little too late. Featuring an original score by the Chemical Brothers and a moving performance by Michael Fassbender in the lead role. United States Premiere.

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