Ones to watch at the virtual 2020 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 from 12:01 a.m. on March 31 through 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 Shortsfest is coming to you this year.
The Oscar-qualifying short film festival, now in its 29th year produced by Aspen Film, will run online starting Tuesday through April 5.
The virtual version of the festival — which had been scheduled at the Wheeler Opera House before COVID-19 forced closures of public gathering places — features a lineup of nine programs of short films. Other than the delivery system and venue, it is the same festival that’s been a pillar of Aspen culture for three decades and a springboard for filmmakers like Destin Daniel Cretton, Damien Chazelle and Sarah Polley.
As Shortsfest audiences have come to expect, it’s a diverse lot. There’s a mix of animation, live action comedies and dramas, international fare and brilliant escapist entries ready-made for respite from our fraught and quarantined moment.
The programs are not arranged by theme or style, each is a mix of style and form, with emerging and student filmmakers’ work alongside established auteurs and some famous faces.
There are award winners from the festival circuit and classically weird entries, like the documentary “All Cats Look Grey in the Dark” about a man’s quest to help one of his cats get pregnant; there are issue-driven documentaries, like the profile of first-generation Americans serving as immigration lawyers “Status Pending”; and there are stars like Michael McKean and Rachel Dratch.
“The films and audiences are well-served when you have a diversity of films, rather than too much of one thing,” Shortsfest director of programming Jason Anderson said.
These are some highlights to look forward to across all nine programs.
“Marcy Learns Something New,” Program Three. An oddly sweet sex farce about a widowed school teacher (played by “SNL” alum Dratch) who discovers a new life as a dominatrix.
“Coffee Shop Names,” Program Four. Dannny Pudi, of “Community” fame, leads this eight-minute tale about the simple names three Indian characters with hard-to-pronounce names give baristas when ordering coffee.
“Daddio,” Program Six. “SNL” alum Casey Wilson directs and stars in an autobiographical black comedy about a dad (McKean) and daughter (Wilson) dealing absurdly with grief.
“Postcards From the End of the World,” Program Two. A little close to home for this moment in Aspen, perhaps, this 23-minute film follows a family of four on a remote island vacation when human civilization collapses. “It’s droll, odd and funny,” Anderson said. “And not too bleak, hopefully.”
“I’m No Holiday,” Program One. A mock documentary, starring Steven Zahn as a fireworks photographer. “It’s great when more prominent actors are in shorts, because they get to do things they don’t often get to do,” Anderson said. “This is really sweet and a great performance by him.”
“Bag,” Program Three. A mind-blowing portrait of the long life of a plastic bag by Colorado filmmaker Robin Frohardt, this eight-minute film uses only cardboard, meticulous hand-crafting and in-camera effects.
“Daughter,” Program One. A stop-motion, father-daughter story from Oscar-nominated Czech filmmaker Daria Kashcheeva.
“Streets of Fury,” Program One. A funny, quirky, five-minute piece made in old-school 8-bit video game style by Irish filmmaker Aidan McAteer.
“Pitch Black Panacea,” Program Eight. A seven-minute head trip about a bizarre treatment for lazy eyes.
Family Program (Program Nine). This collection of seven shorts is aimed at families and children (recommended for age 6 and older). It ranges from the Aspen-produced Holocaust education film “The Tattooed Torah” to, as Anderson put it, “cute animals doing fun stuff.”
“Flower Punk,” Program One. From acclaimed documentarian Alison Klayman, who made the features “The Brink” and “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” a transcendent 29-minute profile of Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto.
“A Youth,” Program Four. A gripping profile of teen Afghan refugees in Athens shot over the course of two years. “This is a big one for us,” Anderson said. “We are thrilled to have it in the program.”
“Kachalka,” Program Three. A fond portrait of a Soviet-era outdoor gym in Kiev, where everything from power-lifting setups to elliptical machines have been constructed out of scrap metal in the forest.
“Dia de la Madre,” Program Two. An eccentric tear-jerker in which music students spend 24 hours secretly going into one another’s houses to perform for their moms on Mother’s Day.
“The Starr Sisters,” Program Two. An intimate story of “fun specialists” Patte and Randa Starr, this 15-minute doc earned praise at Sundance and elsewhere on the festival circuit.
“No Crying at the Dinner Table,” Program Five. Filmmaker Carol Nguyen interrogates her family history. “Everyone weeps at this, but it’s incredibly good,” Anderson said.
“South of Bix,” Program Six. “Succession” actress and Colorado native Justine Lupe goes behind the camera and stars in this bittersweet story of a young girl seeing her grandfather for what may be the last time.
“Broken Bird,” Program Five. A biracial girl preparing for her bat mitzvah spends a day trying to connect with her estranged father (played by Chad Coleman, aka Cutty from “The Wire”) and Indigo Hubbard-Salk (of Netflix’s “She’s Gotta Have It”).
“Darling,” Program Five. A portrait of a burlesque house in Lahore, this won the best short film prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival. “It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever seen from Pakistan,” Anderson said.
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With the likelihood that some level of COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings will still be in place come Mountain Fair weekend, July 23-25, organizers are taking some aspects of the fair to the streets and elsewhere around town.