Aspen Filmfest 2010 reaches deep and far

Stewart OksenhornAspen Times WeeklyAspen, CO Colorado
Samuel Goldwyn FilmsJames Gandolfini and Kristen Stewart star in "Welcome to the Rileys," showing at Aspen Filmfest 2010.

ASPEN – From Louisiana to the Czech Republic, from a pretend Belgian village to right here in Aspen, Colo.; from the 1930s to the 2000s, with stops in the ’50s and ’70s; from the world of magic to the universe of pastry to the game of chess – Aspen Filmfest 2010 is set to take filmgoers on a trip. Aspen Film has announced the full program of 19 movies for Filmfest ’10, which is set for Sept. 29-Oct. 3, with programs at the Wheeler Opera House, and the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale. Among the films are features set in the Czech Republic, Utah’s canyons, rural Thailand, and two in England – one in the mid-1930s, one in the mid-’50s. There are documentaries about young magicians and young musicians, about young Americans bonding with young Africans, and one about a man visiting, in his mind, an imaginary Belgian village. And for Francophiles, there are three French films in the World Cinema segment.”127 Hours” takes viewers to eastern Utah’s Blue John Canyon, and focuses on a local adventurer – Aron Ralston, who lived in Aspen when his arm got pinned by a boulder in the canyon, forcing him to take extreme measures to free himself. In his first film since the Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire,” director Danny Boyle dramatizes the harrowing ordeal, with James Franco playing Ralston. Ralston, who now lives in Boulder, attend for a post-screening conversation.The opening night film, “Nowhere Boy,” delivers viewers to England in the ’50s, and introduces a familiar name – John Lennon – who has not yet helped form the Beatles. The film stars Aaron Johnson as Lennon, who is in the middle of a tug-of-war between his mom (Anne-Marie Duff) and his strict aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott-Thomas), while he wants to chase his musical visions. The screening will be followed by a concert by the surviving members of Lennon’s first band, the Quarrymen.Also set in England of yore is “The King’s Speech,” starring Colin Firth as King George VI, struggling to overcome a debilitating speech impediment just as he needs to lead his country into the early stages of a confrontation with Hitler’s Germany. And “Skeletons,” from first-time British director Nick Whitfield, is a dark comedy about a pair of exorcists who delve into other people’s pasts, as well as their own.Derek Cianfrance, who studied film at the University of Colorado, will be in attendance for a screening of his “Blue Valentine.” The drama stars Michelle Williams (“Wendy and Lucy”) and Ryan Gosling (“Half Nelson”) as a couple looking to put a spark back into their fading marriage.”Welcome to the Rileys” follows Doug Riley (James Gandolfini) as he ventures to Louisiana to ease his long-term grief. There he finds Mallory (Kristen Stewart), a teenage runaway who leads Doug and his wife, Lois (Melissa Leo), into the next phase of their healing.From France come three features. “Hideaway,” from director Franois Ozon (“Swimming Pool”), stars Isabelle Carr as Mousse, a pregnant woman who takes refuge from tragedy in a beach house far from Paris. “Queen to Play” focuses on a hotel maid (Sandrine Bonnaire) who, obsessed with learning chess, enlists the assistance of an American expat (Kevin Kline, in a French-speaking performance). “Heartbreaker” is a comedy about a brother-and-sister team who have one week to stop an attractive young woman (Vanessa Paradis) from marrying the man of her dreams.From Thailand comes “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” a comic fantasy that recalls such tangled American films as “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Here, Apichatpong Weerasethakul directs a story about an ailing farmer visited by ghosts and scenes from his past lives. The film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.Czech director Jan Hrebejk, an Aspen Filmfest regular who has shown “Beauty in Trouble” and “Teddy Bear” here, returns with “Kawasaki’s Rose,” the story of an eminent psychiatrist whose past is called into question. The film earned a pair of awards at the Berlin International Film Festival.Aspen Filmfest’s True Stories segment brings viewers inside real-life situations in Tibet and Brooklyn and ’70s Texas, and into the worlds of magic, pastries and menopause.”Summer Pasture” presents an intimate look at a young Tibetan family struggling to maintain their traditional way of life in the face of a fast-changing world. “Brownstones to Red Dirt” focuses on an enlightening pen-pal program between students in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and war orphans in the West African country of Sierra Leone. Directors Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker are scheduled to attend. “Thunder Soul” reaches back in time to tell the story of the Kashmere Stage Band, a high-school funk band in ’70s Texas that, under the tutelage of Conrad “Prof” Johnson, went on to tour in Europe and Japan. Director Mark Landsman will engage in a post-screening conversation.”Marwencol” documents the unusual case of Mark Hogancamp who, a decade after a traumatizing beating, seeks to heal himself by turning to his childhood hobby of toy soldiers. In Jeff Malmberg’s award-winning documentary, Hogancamp builds a miniature replica of the fictional World War II Belgian town and infuses it with emotion. Producer Kevin Walsh will be on hand for a Q&A.”Kings of Pastry,” by D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus (the team behind 1993’s “The War Room”), tracks three competitors in the 2008 Meilleur Ouvrier de France, the Olympics of pastry-making. “Hot Flash Havoc,” co-produced by Aspenite Heidi Houston, attempts to set the record straight, with facts and humor, about menopause. Filmmakers and medical experts will have a discussion after the film, and a reception following the event will benefit Aspen Film. “Make Believe” follows six young magicians as they make their way towards the Teen World Championship competition. Producer Steven Klein will appear out of thin air to lead a conversation with several of the magicians.And for the truly adventurous cinema lover, Filmfest ’10 presents its Surprise Film, with no clues at all about the film’s identity. Past Surprise Films have ranged from the comedy “Bernard and Doris” to the documentary “Fast, Cheap & Out of Control” to the French film “Joyeux Noel.”Tickets for Aspen Filmfest will go on sale Wednesday, Sept. 15 at the Wheeler Opera House box office. For further information, including a detailed schedule, go to