Aspen Shortsfest: ‘The World’s Middlest Fish’

"The World's Middlest Fish" will screen during the kid-friendly 1 p.m. Aspen Shortsfest program on Sunday.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go. . .

What: ‘The World’s Middlest Fish’ at Aspen Shortsfest, Program Eleven

Where: Wheeler Opera House

When: Sunday, April 9, 1 p.m.

How much: $20/general admission; $15/Aspen Film members

Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office;

More info: The program will include six kid-friendly short fils. It will be followed by a filmmaker Q&A.

At her seaside Norwegian town’s fishing contest, the young Ingeborg pulls in the most average fish in the world. While other anglers take home prizes for the smallest and largest catches, she quickly becomes a global celebrity for her astoundingly medium-sized fish.

But as the charming and family-friendly animated short “The World’s Middlest Fish” makes clear, that notoriety is fleeting and doesn’t really matter in the end. The 11-minute film is one of six family-friendly movies playing in today’s afternoon program at Aspen Shortsfest.

It’s whimsical and fun but also speaks with wisdom to questions of competition, fame and child-rearing. Director Cathinka Tanberg said the story — written by playwright Per Schreiner — called to her in recent years as she read about Norweigian children as young as 10 and 11 who suffered physical effects from over-training for sports, and of adolescents falling into depression from the extreme pressure to achieve in academics.

“What I want to say with this film is, ‘Relax, it’s gonna be fine,’” Tanberg said via email from Norway.

In Ingeborg, Tanberg crafts a loveable sort of antihero for the age of over-achieving youngsters. Her parents are less than perfect, too — they can be inattentive and self-indulgent.

“They practice what I would call ‘slow parenting,’” Tanberg explained. “You can certainly criticize that, but I would choose them over pushy tiger moms any day.”

Tanberg said that in the handful of private screenings “The World’s Middlest Fish” has had, children are most concerned with Ingeborg and the fate of her famous fish, while adults are interested in the parents’ blase attitude about their famous daughter.

The film is Tanberg’s directorial debut, for which she worked with a team of animators, including newspaper cartoonist Marvin Halleraker.

“I wanted a combination of cut-out style animation and hand-drawn animation,” she said.

During their first conversation about the project, Malleraker doodled a version of Ingeborg — with her big eyes and glasses, pointy limbs and bright dresses — that they stuck with throughout the creative process and built the film’s aesthetic around.

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