And the winner was … Shortsfest |

And the winner was … Shortsfest

Stewart Oksenhorn

Judging from the mood in the Festival Lounge, a room at the top of the Mountain Chalet Aspen, almost all of the 40 or so filmmakers who attended Aspen Shortsfest felt at least a little victorious.And there was good reason for such feelings. Shortsfest, the 14th edition of which wrapped up Sunday evening, has always prided itself on its selectivity. Far from the massive short-film festivals that screen movies till the eyes bleed and the mind screeches, the five-day Shortsfest included just 64 films – ranging in length from two to 30 minutes – in its International Competition.In an interview on Friday, Adam Collis, after moderating a discussion about the business side of making short films, said, “Any film that is selected for Shortsfest means the director is a promising filmmaker. This is a small festival, and everything is high quality. The level of quality at Aspen Shortsfest is the best in the world.”At the awards ceremony on Sunday evening, Alexander Payne, director and co-writer of the Academy Award-winning “Sideways,” said, “It’s unfair to judge a festival so good. It was a constant Sophie’s Choice. We were only unanimous in picking one winner – Aspen Shortsfest itself, a brilliantly conceived, miracle of a festival.”Still, for all the “everybody’s a winner here” talk, the jury did need to fulfill its mission to spotlight the best of the best. The jury – comprising Payne; Jim Taylor, co-writer of “Sideways”; Megan O’Neill, vice-president of acquisitions and development for Atom Films; producer Jason Blumenthal; and Jon Bloom, a filmmaker and chair of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Short Films and Animated Features branch – picked the following:• Best drama: “Smoke-Flavored Life,” South Korean director Eunjung Ryou’s story of the troubled relationship between a feisty young girl and her troubled mother;•Best animation: “Ryan,” a bittersweet documentary of legendary Canadian animator Ryan Larkin, directed by Chris Landreth;• Best documentary: “Family Portrait,” Patricia Riggen’s update of photographer Gordon Parks’ photo essay of the Fontonelle family that appeared in Life magazine in 1968;• Best comedy: shared by “Home Game,” by Norwegian director Martin Lund, and “Our Time Is Up,” Rob Pearlstein’s film about an alternative sort of mental therapy;• Best student film: Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “Victoria Para Chino,” a heartbreaking immigration story;• Best short short: “My Head,” a three-minute film by Norwegian director Knutt Petter Ryan;• Best innovation: the animated fantasy “City Paradise,” by Gaelle Denis;• Best cinematography: “Rain Is Falling,” a character drama by German director Holger Ernst;• Special jury recognition: “Rave Against the Machine,” a documentary set in war-torn Serbia; the Belgian comedy “Alice and Me”; the Iranian drama “Silent Companion”; the spoof “La Vie d’un Chien”; and “Goodnight Irene,” set in an Oklahoma hospital.Also, the Ellen Award, named for Aspen Filmfest founder Ellen Kohner Hunt and given to honor originality, was presented to “Ryan.” Also earning Ellen recognition were the New Zealand drama “Tama Tu” and the British comedy “Goodbye, Cruel World.”And the Los Angeles chapter of the British Academy for Film and Television Arts gave “Rain Is Falling” its award for excellence and honorable mentions to the Irish thriller “Screwback,” the drama “Little Terrorist” and “Victoria Para Chino.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is

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