Aspen Filmfest the schedule

The quirky U.K. comedy "Driving Lessons" shows Sept. 27 at the Wheeler. (Sony Pictures Classics)

From the nearby Roan Plateau to distant landscapes, the 28th annual edition of Aspen Filmfest traverses six continents, capturing the human experience through comedies, documentaries and foreign films. In all, 21 programs are set to play on area screens.Filmfest 2006 opens on Sept. 26 and continues through Oct. 1 at its home base Aspens Wheeler Opera House. Screenings at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale and The Springs Theatre in Glenwood Springs are also scheduled.Tickets go on sale to the general public on Sept. 19, priced at $12 for general admission and $9 for weekday matinees; call the Wheeler Box Office at 920-5770. Tickets are also available at Sounds Easy in Carbondale and the Book Train in Carbondale and Glenwood. Tickets to An Evening With Harrison Ford are $20 (go to open 25 minutes before each show (30 minutes for pass holders), but 15 minutes before the 10:30 p.m. shows. If screenings sell out in advance, get in line outside the Wheeler 45 minutes before showtime. Names for a wait list will be taken 30 minutes before the screening. A ticket guarantees a seat until 10 minutes before a film begins.And now, the lineup, as provided by Aspen Filmfest:TUESDAY, SEPT. 26Ten Canoes5:30 p.m. Wheeler Opera House(Sept. 27, 8 p.m., Crystal Theatre)Majestic, lyrical and often bawdy, this feature from Rolf de Heer (The Tracker) and the Ramingining Aboriginal community masterfully interweaves a depiction of traditional tribal life with the even more ancient past of mythic Dreamtime. The results are completely original. A cast of first-time Aboriginal actors, breath-taking cinematography, and engaging narration by Australian screen icon David Gulpilil (Rabbit-Proof Fence) make Ten Canoes both authentic and entertaining. Gulpilil’s meanderingly playful storyteller relates the tale of Minygululu, a tribal elder. While on a mission to harvest bark for canoes and gather goose eggs, he learns that his youngest brother, Dayindi, covets one of his wives. To show Dayindi the error of his ways and avert a disruption of tribal law, Minygululu relates an ancestral tale as they travel through the swamp region of far northern Australia. The film switches nimbly between their ongoing hunt and a cautionary parable of illicit love – replete with kidnapping, sorcery, bungling mayhem, and revenge gone wrong. Always respectful and never precious, de Heer and his Aboriginal collaborators have made a film that recognizes and celebrates a bygone culture. Surprisingly funny, human, and other-worldly, this Cannes Festival award winner is, in the words of its narrator, “a story like you never seen before.”Starter for Ten8:30 p.m. Wheeler Opera House(Sept. 29, 7 p.m. The Springs Theatre) Its 1985. Margaret Thatcher’s in office and college turntables are blasting New Wave vinyl (The Cure, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Smiths…). First year student Brian Jackson is busy navigating the hallowed hallways and social parameters of Bristol University. A working class kid, he has a lot to prove…and learn. Equally awkward at dorm kegger parties and anti-apartheid rallies, Brian decides to set his sights on University Challenge, the British equivalent of G.E. College Bowl; specifically, he’s obsessed with making the Bristol team that will compete on the country’s longest running television quiz show. When it comes to girls, Brian is equally unschooled and clueless, but that doesn’t keep him from becoming smitten with Alice, a comely blonde with acting aspirations, or attracted to Rebecca, a raven-haired campus activist. Alternately funny and sharply observed, Tom Vaughan’s debut feature is based on David Nicholls’ best-selling novel and is produced by Tom Hanks and Sam Mendes among others. The uniformly delightful cast, led by the terrifically talented James McAvoy as Brian and starring UK comedy sensation Catherine Tate as his mum, brings lively depth to this coming-of-age tale where the biggest lesson is discovering the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 27Beyond the CallNoon Wheeler Opera House Ed, a former mortgage banker, Jim, a cardiologist, and Walt, a rural Pennsylvania businessman, are not your average weekend warriors. Ordinary, inconspicuous Americans with wives, careers, and hobbies, these three friends realize their deepest passion in life through self-financed humanitarian missions to geopolitical hotspots around the globe. In Beyond the Call, documentary filmmaker Adrian Belic (Genghis Blues) tracks these self-styled knights in shining armor from Afghanistan and Tajikistan to Burma and the Philippines as they risk everything to bring cash, food, clothing, and medical supplies to desperate refugees. Indifferent to politics or religion and frustrated with bureaucracies that more often than not obstruct the flow of international aid, these intrepid world citizens embark on their privately funded missions simply because they can. Whether installing a solar-powered oven at a girls’ school in Afghanistan or delivering a million dollars worth of medicine to a refugee camp in Manila, the captivating subjects of Beyond the Call demonstrate time and again how altruism makes the world go round. Winner of Telluride Mountainfilm’s Grand Prize. (Adrian Belic expected.)Driving Lessons5:30 p.m. Wheeler Opera House Summer for Ben (Rupert Grint, Harry Potter series) looks very unpromising indeed, comprised as it is of bible study, church play rehearsals, volunteering in a convalescent home, and driving lessons with his overbearing mother (Laura Linney). Hardly a 17-year-old’s dream vacation, but with a steamroller of a mother who upholds Christian good works above all else and a passive vicar for a father, he doesn’t have much choice. The catalyst for change arrives in the form of Evie (Julie Walters), an eccentric retired actress who hires Ben as her assistant. Vulgar, dignified, and childish all at once, her unpredictable behavior unnerves the shy, innately conservative boy. But gradually Ben begins to gravitate towards his employer’s unconventional ways, even though it continually gets him in trouble at home. One day Evie drags Ben on a camping trip. What follows is a journey in which they help each other move forward in their radically different lives. Loosely based on his own experiences, accomplished screenwriter Jeremy Brock (Mrs. Brown, Charlotte Gray) adjusts effortlessly to directing in his feature debut, which is equal measures of family drama, quirky comedy, and heartfelt friendship.Ten Canoes8 p.m. Crystal Theatre(See Sept. 26 synopsis)Live and Become8:15 p.m. Wheeler Opera House(Sept. 30, 7 p.m. The Springs Theatre) Winner of audience awards at film festivals worldwide, Live and Become is an epic, emotional story of sacrifice and survival. Amidst the confusion of a refugee camp during the Ethiopian famine of the mid-1980s, a mother, desperate to save her young son, places him with a group of Falashas (Ethiopian Jews) bound for Israel as part of “Operation Moses.” Warned to never reveal his true identity, the boy, now called Schlomo, grows up pretending to be both Jewish and an orphan in modern Israel. He adopts Judaism and Western values, but must also confront the cultural divides – black and white, secular and orthodox, war and peace – that compete for the soul of his country. Warmly embraced by his new family, Schlomo maintains his secret as he comes of age, but growing tension between his hidden truth and outward facade challenges his deepest fears and his never-forgotten desire to one day reunite with his mother. Featuring a succession of remarkable performances by actors portraying Schlomo as a child, adolescent, and young man, Live and Become is brave, complex, moving, and compassionate. It is both the story of one small boy and anyone who starts over, reborn in a new land.

THURSDAY, SEPT. 28Smiling in a War ZoneNoon Wheeler Opera HouseAs a young girl, director and performance artist Simone Aaberg Kaern always dreamed of being a fighter pilot. As an adult, flying became not just her passion, but her mission. In the wake of September 11, when airspace became severely restricted, Simone was determined to “reclaim the freedom of the sky.” After reading a newspaper article about a 16-year old Afghan girl, Farial, who shared her pilot dreams, Simone knew what she needed to do: get to Afghanistan and show Farial how to fly. And so climbing aboard her tiny, canvas-covered Piper Colt, Simone takes to the wild blue yonder for an amazing adventure. Along the way, she dodges a series of obstacles: no fly zones, expired flight permits, questionable black market fuel, and strict Pentagon warnings. But it seems nothing can keep Simone down. For her, the right to fly is the very ideal of freedom. From the confines of her fishbowl cockpit, the glaring sunshine continually refracts our perspective as she buzzes above beautifully stark, lunar landscapes, and the dream of flying becomes a shared reality. Possible late addition (To be announced)2:30 p.m. Wheeler Opera HouseGod Grew Tired of Us5:30 p.m. Wheeler Opera House(Sept. 30, 8 p.m. Crystal Theatre) Moving and mind-expanding, God Grew Tired of Us follows three unforgettable young men – John, Daniel and Panther – on their odyssey in a strange New World. In the late 1980s, 27,000 Sudanese boys marched across thousands of miles of desert, fleeing a brutal civil war and settling in a Kenyan refugee camp. Recently the U.S. invited some of them to settle in America. Winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury and Audience Awards, this stirring documentary paints a compelling portrait of culture shock and gradual adaptation. It’s fascinating to witness the young men’s wonder at Western customs, and even more gripping when the film monitors their spiritual temperatures. For the first time, these immigrants find themselves well fed, yet painfully isolated from the brotherly fellowship that once enabled theirsurvival. They face hints of racism and are perplexed by American values like monogamy and the obsessive need for privacy. Yet John, Daniel, and Panther – each radiantly charismatic and thoughtful – meet their challenges, fueled by a desire to help others. Though they grew up in unspeakable circumstances, their integrity and honor are impeccable, raising profound questions about the conditions necessary to create a civilized society. (Film guests expected.)Jesus Camp7 p.m. Crystal Theater(Sept. 29, Noon Wheeler Opera House) In this multi-award-winning documentary, filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady offer a fascinating tour into the heart of America’s Evangelical movement. Through the eyes and voices of its participants, we experience an unusual summer camp in Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. The “Kids on Fire” camp is run by children’s minister Becky Fischer, whose self-proclaimed mission is to groom a young army of proselytizers who will “take back America for Christ.” Instead of Barbies or video games, these kids are inflamed by a different passion. Twelve-year-old Levi, who was “saved” when he was five, is a shy boy except when he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Nine-year-old Rachael is outspoken in her love for the Lord. In between typical camp activities like go-carting and water balloon fights, Fischer’s articulate charges learn to preach, speak in tongues, stage protests, and choreograph dances set to Christian rock music. This film is a first-ever look into an intensive training ground that recruits born-again Christian children to become an active part of America’s political future. Jesus Camp is a provocative and eye-opening must-see.After the Wedding8:30 p.m. Wheeler Opera House(Oct. 1, 5 p.m. Crystal Theatre)Jacob Petersen has dedicated his life to helping street children in India. When the orphanage he heads is threatened by closure, he receives an unusual offer. A businessman named Jorgen offers to make a substantial donation to his project, but Jacob must leave his young charges and travel to Copenhagen to seal the deal. Upon meeting, the benefactor says he needs a few more days to finalize the arrangement. Figuring Jacob has no weekend plans, Jorgen invites him to a family wedding, a celebration which proves to be a critical juncture between past and future and catapults Jacob into the most intense dilemma of his life. Following the international acclaim of their last collaboration, Brothers, director Susanne Biers and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen have once again joined forces to create a story filled with surprising revelations and difficult choices. The tight script, sharp direction and uniformly excellent cast make this adult drama both emotional and engaging. A critical and commercial hit in Denmark, After the Wedding plumbs the deep waters of family – exploring how we define it and how circumstances can reshape it.

FRIDAY SEPT. 29Jesus CampNoon Wheeler Opera House(See Sept. 28 synopsis)Puccini for Beginners2:30 p.m. Wheeler Opera HouseEveryone is love-crazed in Maria Maggenti’s light-hearted, quick-witted comedy. But Allegra (Elizabeth Reaser) is by far the most commitment phobic of all as she fumbles for love after being dumped by her girlfriend. Just as our dashing, adorable heroine is drowning her sorrows in a giant slice of Camembert in walks Philip (Justin Kirk), a dapper Columbia University professor who lights her fire. Meanwhile, she can’t help but fall for the irresistibly gorgeous Grace (Gretchen Mol), a recently single, straight woman, setting in motion a romantic juggling act that is advancing way too quickly for comfort. Divided into three acts, like the operas Allegra adores, this screwball comedy playfully orchestrates the inevitable rude awakenings for Allegra, and then her unwitting rival lovers. Smart, snappy dialogue and effortlessly charming performances by the three leads make this triangular tale soar. Like an accomplice, New York City operates as an enchanting cosmopolitan village, where chance meetings alter destinies and anything is possible.Surprise film5:30 p.m. Wheeler Opera HouseAs is the tradition, Filmfests lips are sealed.Starter for Ten7 p.m. The Springs Theatre(See Sept. 26 synopsis)Family Law8 p.m. Crystal Theatre(Oct. 1, 11:30 a.m. Wheeler Opera House)Family Law is a deft, witty, and emotionally rewarding study of a thirty-something man seeking to define his roles as father and son. Perelman Jr. (Daniel Hendler) is a lawyer-turned-teacher, a loyal husband to Pilates instructor Sandra, and a good, if slightly nervous, dad to toddler Gaston. He lives his life under the long shadow cast by Perelman Sr., his widowed father who is a respected attorney and the kindly, wise center of their community – and as such, a tough act to follow. So what, exactly, is the good son to do? Filled with self-doubt, Perelman Jr. is disarmingly affecting as he charts his future and weighs whether or not to walk in his father’s big steps. Effortless in its combination of shrewd observation and intimate detail, and in its use of casual, apparently banal dialogue to communicate deeper truths, Argentinean director Daniel Burman’s Family Law is one of the warmest and most human films of the year: a refreshingly understated comedy-drama, thick with the flavors of Buenos Aires street life, and filled with a nostalgic sense of family and community.Ira and Abby8 p.m. Wheeler Opera House This sweetly hilarious second feature penned by and starring Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein) is a worthy successor to the best of Woody Allen’s romantic comedies. The chronically indecisive Ira (Chris Messina) has just been dumped by his psychoanalyst, after more than a decade of visits with no apparent progress. In reaction, he joins a gym, where he meets the utterly charming Abby (Westfeldt), who, after six hours of flirtation, impulsively proposes marriage. Their whirlwind romance throws everything into question, including the supposedly happy marriages of the couple’s respective parents who are perfect reflections of their offspring: overly analytic and neurotic in Ira’s case, free-spirited and effervescent on Abby’s side. What follows is a flurry of infidelity, soul-searching, and a climactic group therapy session, all highlighted by Westfeldt’s gift for intelligent, lively dialogue. This thoroughly modern meditation on marriage, family, and fidelity won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Los Angeles Film Festival. Westfeldt and Messina are buoyed by a stellar supporting cast including Robert Klein, Frances Conroy, Fred Willard and Judith Light, who shines as Ira’s Gorgon-with-a-heart-of-gold mother. (Judith Light and Brad Zions expected.)The U.S. VS. John Lennon10:30 p.m. Wheeler Opera House(Oct. 1, 8 p.m. Crystal Theatre)Before the Dixie Chicks, Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam…there was John Lennon, the celebrated musical artist who used his fame and fortune to advocate for world peace and an end to the Vietnam War. In The U.S. vs. John Lennon, David Leaf and John Scheinfeld trace Lennon’s metamorphosis from lovable “moptop” to anti-war activist to inspirational icon as they reveal how and why the U.S. government tried to silence him. Focusing primarily on the decade from 1966 to 1976, this story places Lennon’s activism in the context of those fractious times. As anti-war protests gained momentum, it was Lennon’s voice that served to perfectly encapsulate the frustration felt by many. The filmmakers interview a diverse array of the era’s notable figures – Walter Cronkite, Carl Bernstein, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, G. Gordon Liddy, John Dean, George McGovern and Gore Vidal. But it is Lennon himself who is the film’s preeminent voice and galvanizing central presence. Filled with his music and granted unprecedented access to the Lennon-Ono archives, this documentary captures a public and private figure that many may not know: a principled, funny, and extraordinarily charismatic young man who refused to be silent.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 30Be With Me10:30 a.m. Wheeler Opera House(5:30 p.m. Crystal Theatre) An ode to love, destiny, and, ultimately, hope, Be with Me blends fiction and documentary with rare emotion. Director Eric Khoo, an impressive talent from Singapore, weaves the stories of four distinctly different characters: a security guard who longs for the woman of his dreams, two teenage girls who meet online, and an elderly shopkeeper grappling with the winter years of his life. While these stories are fictitious, one character beating at the heart and soul of this film is not. Her name is Theresa Chan, a 61-year-old who plays herself and shares her remarkable story. The film’s beacon, Theresa walks through life emanating strength and joy and profoundly affects one of the characters. While exploring themes of loneliness, desire, and the struggle to communicate in a modern world, Khoo has created something truly special and deeply moving. In a media landscape teeming with a blitz of images and nonstop chatter, Be with Me offers an oasis, a cinema of tenderness and poetry that sneaks up to take you by gentle surprise.A Land Out of Time2 p.m. Wheeler Opera House(Oct. 1, 5:30 p.m. The Springs Theatre) With the biggest public land grab in American history well underway, time is running out for the last wild swaths of the Rocky Mountain West. America’s appetite for energy has put places like Colorado’s Roan Plateau, Utah’s canyon country, Wyomings Red Desert, and Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front on the auction block. The oil and gas industries have already leased more than 35 million acres of federal land and are moving aggressively to lease millions more. Over 100,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled from Montana to New Mexico: 100,000 more are planned. Ranchers, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts are joining conservationists in an effort to save their beloved West. In his new documentary, Mark Harvey sketches a timely and sobering portrait of where we’re headed. Westerners who have lived on this land for generations recount the dramatic changes to their landscape and livelihoods. Our screening will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers and some of the documentary principals including Tom Bell (rancher, conservationist and founder of High Country News) and Randy Udall (visionary energy analyst and director of Community Office for Resource Efficiency, CORE). A Land Out of Time promises to generate an essential dialogue.An Evening With Harrison Ford5:30 p.m. Wheeler Opera House With this year’s Independent by Nature Award, we are delighted to honor Harrison Ford, one of the most iconic and acclaimed actors of our time. Beginning as a contract player, Mr. Ford made his film debut in 1966. After a small role in Getting Straight (1970), he resolved not to let financial concerns dictate his career choices and turned to carpentry while waiting for the right role. That came with American Graffiti three years later. The next year he landed a prominent supporting part in Francis Coppola’s The Conversation (1974). Another couple of years passed and then came his indelible performance as hotshot pilot Han Solo (Star Wars, 1977). Synonymous with one of the most intrepid adventurers of all time, Indiana Jones, Mr. Ford has appeared in close to 40 films and worked with some of the greatest directors, including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Mike Nichols, and Peter Weir. In addition to his often-wry portrayals of action heroes, Mr. Ford has played in everything from drama to sci-fi to romantic comedy with starring roles in Witness, The Mosquito Coast, Working Girl, Patriot Games, Blade Runner, The Fugitive, and Sabrina. Our evening of film clips and conversation will be followed by a dinner at The Little Nell to benefit Aspen Filmfest. (To attend the dinner, please contact Aspen Filmfest directly.)Be With Me5:30 p.m. Crystal Theatre(See prior synopsis in todays schedule)Live and Become7 p.m. The Springs Theatre(See Sept. 27 synopsis)God Crew Tired of Us8 p.m. Crystal Theatre(See Sept. 28 synopsis)Days of Glory8 p.m. Wheeler Opera House At once a gripping war tale and a film with a powerful message, Days of Glory recounts the largely forgotten story of the Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian “native” recruits who bravely fought for France against the Nazis during World War II. Though valiant soldiers, they were treated as second-class citizens by their “Mother” country, denied the leave, food rations, and feminine companionship their French counterparts enjoyed. Sweeping in scope, with widescreen scenes ranging from the ruggedly arid North African mountains to the lush green forests of French Alsace, Days of Glory seeks to step beyond history and concentrate on its human subject matter as it focuses on a quartet of North African soldiers and their sergeant in their campaign across Sicily, Italy and France. Of Algerian heritage himself, French director Rachid Bouchareb pays overdue tribute to the heroism and humanity of his subjects. With exceptional performances (the ensemble lead cast received the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival in May), Bouchareb crafts a compelling group portrait of men struggling against both “foe” and “friend” to maintain their human dignity.Shut Up and Sing10:30 p.m. Wheeler Opera HouseLate addition: Fresh from the Toronto Film Festival comes this powerful new documentary profiling the Dixie Chicks from two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple and producer Cecilia Peck.

SUNDAY, OCT. 1Family Law11:30 a.m. Wheeler Opera House(See Sept. 29 synopsis)The Queen2:15 p.m. Wheeler Opera House With Helen Mirren in the title role as HM Elizabeth II, this is the newest film from director Stephen Frears, one of contemporary cinema’s finest talents (Dangerous Liaisons, High Fidelity, Dirty Pretty Things, Mrs. Henderson Presents). The Queen offers an intimate, revealing, and often acidly funny portrait of the British royal family during the dramatic days immediately following the death of Princess Diana. Tony Blair (played by Michael Sheen) has just been elected as Britain’s new Prime Minister and the first crisis he must negotiate is not an international incident, but one much closer to home. Frear’s fictionalized account explores the behind-closed-doors interaction between the royal household and the Labor government as they struggle to reach a compromise that honors privacy for a personal family tragedy and the public’s demand for an overt display of mourning.After the Wedding5 p.m. Crystal Theatre(See Sept. 28 synopsis)A Land Out of Time5:30 p.m. The Springs Theatre(See Sept. 30 synopsis)The U.S. vs. John Lennon8 p.m. Crystal Theatre(See Sept. 29 synopsis)