Aspen Shortsfest 2020: Ed Asner and local filmmaker educate kids about the Holocaust
Aspen Shortsfest digital access codes can be purchased at aspenshowtix.com and 970-920-5770.
Individual programs are $10 ($7.50 for Aspen Film members) each, or the full nine-program festival pass for $75. There will also be a limited number of student tickets available at $5 per program or $45 for the full festival, with a special code available to schools.
Viewers will receive via email a unique link to each program purchased for a one-time viewing on the Festival Scope platform.
Viewing will be open until 11:59 p.m. on April 5.
Each festival program is limited to 500 tickets. Full lineup, more info and Aspen Film memberships available at aspenfilm.org.
Aspen-based visual artist Marc Bennett’s debut film will screen at 2020 Aspen Shortsfest.
Bennett’s animated short adaptation of the children’s book “The Tattooed Torah” is in the family-friendly Program Nine of the Oscar-qualifying festival, which has gone virtual this year as the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered public spaces including the Wheeler Opera House, where Shortsfest had been scheduled to run March 31 to April 5.
The film is available for screening now through the Festival Focus streaming platform (see sidebar for details on tickets and access).
Bennett has been based in the Aspen area since 2007. His “History of the Star of David” collage for the Chabad Jewish Center on Main Street has become an international teaching tool for Jewish history and led him, unexpectedly, into filmmaking. He found himself directing “The Tattooed Torah” quite by accident as his educational mission has broadened in recent years.
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Bennett was showing one of the many iterations of his Star of David work at a juried art show in Chicago, where he met Marvell Ginsburg, the author of the enduring 1983 children’s book “The Tattooted Torah,” which tells the story of restoring a Torah from Czechoslovakia and introduces the history of the Holocaust to a young audience.
“She was looking to make the book into an animated movie,” Bennett recalled. “I looked at it and right away I said, ‘I’ll do it!’ I was blown away by the message and the importance of it.”
Bennett’s Star of David collages, which trace the symbol’s nearly 2,000 years of history, have given him an unexpected platform as an educator, partnering with institutions like Steven Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation and the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.
So using animated film seemed a natural next step, he said.
Bennett went to work on finding animators to bring Martin Lemelman’s original illustrations to life and actors to voice it.
Ed Asner — the Hollywood legend and “Mary Tyler Moore Show” star, now age 90 — came on board to narrate.
“He is very philanthropic and was excited about helping to reach a broader audience of children with the film,” Bennett said.
“This is how we never forget what happened,” Asner says in the film, “how we lost everything, but endured and overcame and never gave up hope. This little Torah is the history of our people, tattoos and all.”
Along with Bennett directing, the Aspen-based creative team includes executive producers Melinda Goldrich and supporters Brad and Kimberly Schlosser and Judi and Alan Altman. Part-time Aspenite and Mexican telenovela star Fernando Allende has voiced the Asner character for a Spanish language version.
Though the COVID-19 disruptions have delayed the international rollout of “The Tattooed Torah,” it is still expected to make a run at film festivals this year and to go into schools around the world with an educational curriculum on Holocaust history. Bennett was also hopeful it would find a home on broadcast television. It had its premiere in early March at the Chicago Jewish Film Festival.
The animated project led Bennett to another filmmaking undertaking — a documentary inspired by an annual community bike ride from the Auschwitz concentration camp to Krakow, which retraces the steps of survivor Marcel Zielinks.
The film is one of seven animated shorts in the family- and kid-friendly Program Nine (recommended for age 6 and up). While “The Tattooed Torah” is an educationally minded film, the lineup includes sillier fare about kid superheroes and cute animals, as well.
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