Mountain Mayhem: Virtual Shortsfest |

Mountain Mayhem: Virtual Shortsfest

May Selby
Mountain Mayhem

The show must go on and what a show it will be! Adapting to today’s #stayathome restrictions, Aspen Film is offering its annual festival, Shortsfest, online as an alternative to in theater. The virtual rendition is underway through April 5, which means you still have time to turn on, tune in and take a seat in the comfort of your own home (see related story, page 19).

Personally, I’m thrilled the festival is proceeding as such, having long been a Shortsfest-goer. It’s been a spring tradition to see the assortment of stories from all over the world. I’ve also come to love how Shortsfest gives way to connect with the filmmakers, as many travel here to present their work. I first discovered this way back when a friend of mine named Michelle Silver from Los Angeles came to town with the short “Talk to You Later” (2000), which she wrote and starred in, and we spent the week together with her posse who loved the festival and their time in Aspen.

As this element, understandably, won’t be a part of this year’s event, Anderson connected me with a few of the filmmakers over email, whom I would have loved the opportunity to meet in person. He posed several questions, the first one being, “In light of the cancellation of the festival’s physical incarnation, what benefits do you see in still being able to present the film in the virtual version?”

Tom Hardiman, director of “Pitch Black Panacea,” who lives in the UK, replied, “When you lock yourself away to work on something with no real idea if people will wanna watch it, getting selected for Aspen is like a magical thumbs-up. The weeks, months, years were worth it! Especially when you’re from a small place across the pond and anyone watching in any foreign land is obviously extra special. I was over the moon to be selected.”

Animated by Chris Cornwell, who’s based in Los Angeles, “Pitch Black Panacea” is a short film about characters Amy and Carl who both have lazy eyes. In an effort to find a DIY cure, they’ve signed up for an unusual treatment.

“We wish everyone affected by the virus a speedy recovery,” he continued. “There’s a strange kinship between how (our film) was made and how it might now be viewed — as Chris and I worked on the animation for months, communicating across a wide divide with him being an LA resident and me being a Londoner. The virtual world made ‘Pitch Black Panacea’ possible, and its importance to all our lives (and psychological states!) is now being emphasized by this strange moment we’re enduring.”

Ashley Brandon, director of “Día de la Madre,” described her film about a group of young mariachis who journey across Connecticut conducting a covert operation. The mission: awake the neighborhood with a Mexican tradition unpracticed within the U.S. and make their mothers cry.

“I’m so happy that the festival is able to still proceed in some form,” she said. “This isn’t just for the filmmakers’ benefit, but for the audiences.”

For Kaveh Tehrani, who wrote and directed the film “The Manchador,” this will be the U.S. premiere of his short. A feminist, subversive comedy, it tells the story of Mina who is trying to come to terms with the strict rules for female headdress in Iran. One day her husband Saeed invents a chador (a religious garment for women) for men and this turns their lives upside down.

Tehrani is grateful, “thrilled, happy and excited about screening in Aspen and for ‘The Manchador’ to be presented to a US audience.”

He added, of course, “we would love to be there! But the situation not allowing, we are very grateful that the festival is moving forward. Health first!”

Visit for further details and purchase screening codes online at or by calling 970-920-5770.

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