Aspen Shortsfest: ‘Mountain Fever’
If You Go …
What: ‘Mountain Fever’ at Aspen Shortsfest, Program Eight
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Saturday, April 8, 2:30 p.m.
How much: $20/general admission; $15/Aspen Film members
Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office; www.aspenshowtix.com
More info: The program will include eight short films. It will be followed by a filmmaker Q&A included ‘Mountain Fever’ director Frédéric Hambalek. ‘Mountain Fever’ will also screen Sunday during the 5 p.m. program at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale.
With the proliferation of outdoor film festivals in these parts over recent years, a lot of us have been numbed to the high drama and tired tropes of adventure movies — we’ve seen a lot of bearded men shivering in tents, battling fear, tempting death and pushing the limits of human endurance.
But we haven’t seen anything quite like “Mountain Fever,” an eight-minute short from German writer-director Frédéric Hambalek, which has its international premiere at Aspen Shortsfest on Saturday.
This clever little film opens with a foreboding shot of a tent glowing red on a dark and snow-stormy night somewhere in the remote high country. We meet three mountaineers — yes, bearded and shivering in the tent, wearing headlamps and panic-stricken faces. The fourth member of their expedition team has gone missing and left his GPS tracker behind. Has he gone mad with mountain fever and run into the blizzard?
No spoilers here for what comes next in this potent comedic thriller, but suffice it to say there are some very dramatic highs and lows and one big twist that will leave the mountain town crowd at the Wheeler screaming Saturday.
“I was going for this tone of irony and happiness and hopelessness,” Hambalek said.
The filmmaker, not a mountaineer himself, couldn’t get the image of a tent glowing in the night out of his head, he said, and decided to build a short film around it. He and his crew filmed in January of last year on a small ski hill outside of Frankfurt that doesn’t get much real snow.
“We decided to film it there and to have tons of artificial snow — like 200 kilos of artificial snow — and a huge industrial fan to create the wind and storm effect,” he explained. “It was quite a night, quite an intense shoot, but it was fun.”
Around 1 a.m. on the night of the shoot, an icy rain started pouring down, complicating things yet more. But those complications didn’t impact the film, which has the authentic mountain aesthetic of any of the short documentaries at 5Point or MountainSummit or Wild & Scenic.
Hambalek debuted the film in Germany in March, before bringing it to Shortsfest. It’s the second short he’s helmed as director. A television and film screenwriter, Hambalek is working toward writing and directing a feature of his own.
“I want to make the films I want to make under the circumstances I want to make them,” he said. “I’d rather make smaller budgeted movies, but make them the way I want to make them. I want to do one or two more shorts and then I want to direct my first feature.”
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