Aspen Shortsfest 2020: ‘Flower Punk’ takes bouquets to space and the deep sea

Alison Klayman's "Flower Punk" is screening in Program One of the virtual 2020 Aspen Shortsfest.
Courtesy photo


“Flower Punk” is in Program One of the virtual 2020 Aspen Shortsfest, available for screening through 11:59 p.m. on April 5.

Digital access codes can be purchased at and 970-920-5770.

Individual programs are $10 ($7.50 for Aspen Film members) each. The full nine-program festival pass is now $50.

Viewers will receive via email a unique link to each program purchased for a one-time viewing on the Festival Scope platform.

Full program and more info at



Read the Aspen Times story on Shortsfest going virtual HERE

Our ‘Ones to Watch’ Shortsfest feature HERE

Our feature of Justine Lupe and Briana Pozner’s ‘South of Bix’ HERE

Our story on Aspenite Marc Bennett’s ‘The Tattooed Torah’ HERE

Our story on Robin Frohardt’s intricate stop-motion film ‘Bag’ HERE

While she was shooting her feature-length documentary about Steve Bannon, the Machiavellian nationalist and Trump campaign architect, filmmaker Alison Klayman was understandably drawn to another film project centered around the timeless beauty of flowers.

Thus her 29-minute “Flower Punk,” a transcendent profile of the Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto, was made while Klayman was at work on her acclaimed Bannon documentary “The Brink.”

“It served as a counterpoint and, in some ways, a palate cleanser,” Klayman said in a recent phone interview. “It was very much an opportunity to step away from some very intense and disturbing, upsetting situations and think about the beauty of flowers, the meaning of life and death.”

So this gorgeous and transporting new film, which is screening in Program One of the virtual Aspen Shortsfest through April 5, is also ideal quarantine viewing to take a break from the latest bad news about the coronavirus pandemic.

“’Flower Punk’ is definitely one that can exist in a more inspiring, meditative state,” Klayman said.

Shortsfest director of programming Jason Anderson calls Klayman “one of the strongest emerging documentary-makers in the U.S.”

Before “The Brink,” she was best known for films about the art world, which include the 2012 feature “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” and the 2015 short “The 100 Years Show,” a profile of minimalist painter Carmen Herrera.

She first came across Azuma Makoto’s work with flowers in 2014, when she was living in Tokyo and her friend and cinematographer Mark Silver tipped her off on the his work.

Klayman met the artist, spent some time in his studio and knew she wanted to make a film about him.

Funding and time for the film came in 2018, when she was in the midst of shooting the Bannon documentary.

“Flower Punk” captures how Makoto creates impossible-seeming scenes with flowers in places we’ve never imagined them, tracks his unlikely journey from punk rocker to internationally renowned florist.

“I never thought it would be flowers,” Makota admits in the film.

It goes inside Makoto’s studio and flower shop with his ultra-hip floral artist team, into the tactile process of procuring, cutting and arranging the flowers and the high-level conceptual work of his fine art projects. We see time-lapses of his elaborate arrangements blooming and dying, follow a mounted camera on his “Back to Earth” project from 2017, which sent a flower arrangement into space and back, and we join his crew on his deep sea project, which took years of work and sent a bouquet of flowers to the bottom of the ocean with cameras and lights to document its surprisingly resilient experience among sea life.

And the film follows Makoto during his work in the radioactive areas of the 2011 Fukusihima earthquake and nuclear disaster, where he’s planted fields of sunflowers and used his work to mourn and resurrect life since the tragedy.

Klayman has not yet solidified distribution for “Flower Punk,” which made its world premiere at DOC NYC late last year is having its festival run trimmed by COVID-19 cancellations. But Klayman counts herself lucky in one way creatively, as her current documentary projects are mostly archive-based, so she’s able to stay home in Brooklyn and continue to work on them throughout the public health crisis.


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