Aspen Film’s Shortsfest returns next week
The watchword for Shortsfest – Aspen Film’s 32nd annual Oscar-qualifying short film fest next week – is excitement. The organizers are excited. The filmmakers are excited. And the audience for the week chock full of these films is familiar enough with it all to be excited, too.
“We can’t wait for audiences to experience the magical curation of our Shortsfest programming and the energy created by filmmakers from around the globe,” said Aspen Film Executive and Artistic Director Susan Wrubel. “Ten of our films are world premieres, and we’re quite proud that 48% of our 79 titles are either directed or co-directed by women.”
Shortsfest is one of only four Oscar-qualifying festivals in the United States strictly dedicated to short film in the fields of animation, documentary, and live-action narrative. Featuring new works from over 33 countries, 79 short films, and 74 premieres, each of the 11 programs contains a variety of shorts that will introduce viewers to an array of filmmakers.
“We have a problem of abundance because we have so much terrific work that deserves the exposure,” said Jason Anderson, Shortsfest director of programming. “The best things about working in shorts is that because there’s so many barriers to production that exist in film and TV, you just get a much greater amount of work from people who haven’t had as much exposure. The audience will get the chance to see work that is fresh, compelling, personal, and just exciting.”
Anderson, who has been with Shortsfest since 2020, approaches programming the festival in a way that is varied enough to keep audiences engaged. He said the team received about 3,000 submissions for this year’s festival, with about 60%-70% falling into the live-action narrative genre.
“We always like to have like a strong presence of documentary and animation, as well,” he said. “We probably skew more towards live-action narrative because it’s a greater abundance of what we received. Whatever genre the film is, the factor that I am looking for is are the people on screen compelling, are they interesting, are they magnetic? That’s really what I gravitate towards.”
Among the animated shorts featured is “Candlelight,” a charming seven-minute film about two candles that fall in love but realize that when they get too close, the heat from their flames begins to melt each other. It was written and directed by Scott Newton.
He’s from Templepatrick, a small village in the north of Ireland, with a population of 1,500, and both he and his film will be making their U.S. debut in Aspen.
“I’m thrilled that my film will be making its American premiere at the Aspen Shortsfest, and just as thrilled that I’ll be making my debut in America to attend it,” he said.
Israeli-American filmmaker Noam Argov said she was excited to attend the premiere of her personal coming of age film “Sulam” (“The Ladder”) about an immigrant teen struggling to assimilate while helping her mother.
“It’s a true highlight to be premiering at Aspen Shortsfest,” she said. “I’ve always heard that the town shows up in full force for the films, and one of the best things about this festival is its engaged and thoughtful audiences. For me, the audience is the final element that makes any film truly come to life. That’s why we do what we do. I feel incredibly lucky that Aspen’s audience will be the first one to share in our film.”
Regardless of genre, all the films will be competing for nine prizes, awarded by three juries, as well as an Audience Award. Shortsfest award winners will receive cash prizes of $1,250 or $2,500.
Notable 2023 Shortsfest jurors include filmmaker and author Justine Bateman, who has a decades-long resume in film and TV that includes a Golden Globe nomination and two Emmy nominations; Opal Hope Bennett, an Emmy-winning co-producer and shorts producer at POV; and Kiva Reardon, vice president of film at PASTEL, the filmmaking collective founded by Barry Jenkins, Adele Romanski, and Mark Ceryak.
The Ellen Jury will present the annual Ellen Award for artistic merit and originality to a distinguished filmmaker. This award honors the memory of Aspen Film’s founder and first executive director, Ellen Kohner Hunt, who retired in 1995 and passed away in January 2021.
The Youth Jury, comprised of middle- and high-school students, awards a student prize to the film that they feel best reflects the impressions, experiences, and thoughts of today’s youth.
“The great privilege of my work is finding all these amazing talents, said Anderson. “To have this range of experience – whether it’s something that’s funny or touching or exciting or surprising or just totally beautiful – is what makes this festival so rewarding.”
Who: Aspen Film
What: 32nd Annual Shortsfest – Oscar-qualifying, short-film festival
When: April 10-16, Monday through Sunday
Where: Wheeler Opera House and other locations
More info: For available pass options, visit: http://www.aspenfilm.org. For tickets, visit aspenshowtix.com
*Complimentary tickets for students are secured by showing a current student ID at the box office. Teachers with groups of students must reserve tickets by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.