And the envelope, please: Aspen Film announces Shortsfest winners |

And the envelope, please: Aspen Film announces Shortsfest winners

Director Julia Elihu (left) and actor/writer Ava Lalezarzadeh (right) of "In the Garden of Tulips," accept the Youth Jury Award.
Daniel Bayer/Aspen Film

Aspen Film announced the winners of the 32nd annual Shortsfest in a presentation Sunday at 39° in the W Aspen.

One of four Oscar-qualifying festivals in the United States dedicated to short films, this year’s festival featured works from over 33 countries, 79 short films, and 74 premieres in 11 programs containing a variety of shorts from comedies to dramas and documentaries to animation.

Aspen Film’s Shortsfest Competition Jury awarded films in six categories – Animation, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Short Short (films 10 minutes in length or under), and Student Short. 

Winning films in all but the Student Short category become qualified for the 2024 Academy Awards.

Actor Jennifer Heylen of “Klette,” receives a Special Mention for Performance.
Daniel Bayer/Aspen Film

Awards were also presented by the Youth Jury, made up of students primarily from the Aspen area, as well as from Los Angeles and New York. The Ellen Jury, presented an award in honor of Aspen Film’s founder and longtime executive director, Ellen Kohner Hunt, who passed away in January 2021.

An Audience Award, voted on by Shortsfest viewers, was also presented at the ceremony.


Shortsfest award winners will receive cash prizes of $1,250 or $2,500, in the following categories:

Filmmaker, author and Shortsfest Competition Jury member Justine Bateman awards a Special Mention to “Teacups” Executive Producers Lenard Cassimatis (left) and Max Ohman (right), as Aspen Film Executive and Artistic Director Susan Wrubel looks on.
Daniel Bayer/Aspen Film


“Klette” directed by Michael Abay (Belgium) — Winner

Jury Statement: “Comedy is one of the hardest genres, and when it’s heartfelt the challenge is even greater. This short is insightful, well-observed, laugh-out-loud funny, and ultimately a deeply touching story about having the courage to trust that everything will be okay.”


“The Vacation,” directed by Jarreau Carrillo won Best Short Short.
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“The Vacation” directed by Jarreau Carrillo (U.S.) — Winner

Jury Statement: “This film offers the perfect encapsulation of a universally relatable moment: when one is tired and ready for a break with their favorite people. Brimming with well-drawn characters and well-timed comedic beats, this short left us wanting more from the four friends with well-aired soles.”


“The Debutante” directed by Elizabeth Hobbs (UK) — Winner

Jury Statement: “This short embodies the highly charged political commentary and witty satire of its source material in its frenetic form, managing to be both uncomfortable and funny as it is incisive.”


“Puffling”directed by Jessica Bishopp (UK, Iceland) won the Best Documentary category.

“Puffling” directed by Jessica Bishopp (UK, Iceland) – Winner

Jury Statement: “From its opening shot, this documentary declares an exciting directorial vision. As it unfolds, its quiet observational pace expands to draw moving parallels between its human and animal subjects, both on the precipice of embarking on new journeys.”


“Troy,” directed by Mike Donahue (US), took home the prize for Best Comedy.
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“Troy” directed by Mike Donahue (US) — Winner

Jury Statement: “Absolutely surprising, and emotionally engaging, this short film tracks an annoyance-turned obsession-turned embrace with consistently fresh comedic directing, acting, and editing.”


“All Inclusive,” directed by Duván Duque Vargas (Colombia, France), won Best Drama.
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“All Inclusive” directed by Duván Duque Vargas (Colombia, France) — Winner, which merits qualification for the Oscars.

Jury Statement: “This short touches the emotional flame many times with its beautiful and tight direction, its economical dialogue, and its flawless acting. We can’t wait to see a feature-length version of this.”


“The Debutante” took home two awards: Best Animation and the Ellen July.
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“The Debutante” directed by Elizabeth Hobbes (UK) — Winner

Ellen Jury Statement: “With a masterful, fluid use of ink, paint, collage and witty narration, this bold and humorous animated story unspools an act of rebellion, brilliantly challenging a class-based tradition. From a 1930s story by surrealist artist Lenora Carrington, a spirited woman persuades a hyena from the London Zoo to take her place at a party in her honor. The results are fun and startling.”


“Echo,”directed by Benjamin Wolin and Michael Minahan (US), took home the Audience Award.
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“Echo” directed by Benjamin Wolin, Michael Minahan, (US) — Winner

Runner UpHow “We Get Free,” directed by Geeta Gandbhir, Samantha Knowles (US)


“In the Garden of Tulips,” directed by Julia Elihu (US), won the Youth Jury.
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“In the Garden of Tulips,” directed by Julia Elihu (US) — Winner

Youth Jury Statement: “Over the past week, we have watched 60 films, telling unique stories from countless perspectives. These films shed light on important global issues including generational trauma, family, bravery, curiosity, and independence. Through watching these films, we were able to see a variety of film techniques and styles from stories that had us rolling with laughter, to leaving us in deep thought and utter awe. In light of persecution on gender, religion and overall personal freedoms, we felt this film illuminated the courage and determination that is integral on a global scale. We were enthralled with their strong use of cinematography, the engaging development of their story, the beautiful color palette, and the high stakes which kept us at the edge of our seats.”

In addition, Aspen Film’s Independent By Nature :32 second Video Challenge winner is Faryl Amadeus, who submitted a video via social media. 

Shortsfest award-winning films and special mention films will be screened between two programs on Friday, April 28, and Saturday, April 29, at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale, at 7 p.m. and 5 p.m. respectively. The full Family Program will screen at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 30. 

Info and ticketing links below:

Friday Program: 

Saturday Program: 

Family Program:

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