Aspen is, thankfully, a bubble of security in a not-so-safe world. Aspen Filmfest 2006, however, which runs Tuesday through Sunday, Sept. 26-Oct. 1, offers several reminders of the importance, even the rewards, of removing ourselves from the comfort zone. In “Smiling in a War Zone,” Simone Aaberg Kaern takes literal flight from her home in Denmark to connect with an aspiring teenage pilot in wartime Afghanistan. “Beyond the Call” examines the offbeat hobby of a trio of middle American men: traveling to the world’s danger zones to deliver all sorts of aid. “Days of Glory” is a fictional tale of the North African soldiers who fought on the side of France against the Nazis. “The U.S. vs. John Lennon” traces the late Beatles’ move from pop stardom to antiwar activism, while “Shut Up and Sing” looks at the political stance of a more contemporary music group, the Dixie Chicks. The politics of turmoil surface in two additional films: “God Grew Tired of Us” follows the resettlement in the U.S. of three Sudanese boys who escaped civil war at home; the narrative film “Live and Become” is set in the world of Falashas, the Ethiopian Jews who were taken from Africa to Israel during the famine of the mid-’80s. Those looking for a shot of escapism will find it in a pair of romantic comedies, both set in New York City: the ambisexual “Puccini for Beginners,” and “Ira and Abby,” written by and starring Jennifer Westfeldt (“Kissing Jessica Stein”).
For her first public showings of her art, Aspenite Shelly Marolt has painted images pulled from her family photo album. Sort of. In fact, the images that Marolt uses come from old home movies, made between 1928-36. And the setting for those images is not the family backyard, but the beaches and waters of Havana, Atlantic City and Coney Island. It is not the source material, though, that distinguishes the work. The 46-year-old Marolt, a stylist for Aspen Sojourner magazine, infuses her oil and mixed-media paintings with a sort of edgy, evocative nostalgia. Marolt is about to move her studio from the Gorilla Gallery to the Red Brick Center for the Arts, and she has events in both places. On Friday, Sept. 29, she will have a one-night exhibit of her work, plus a video presentation of her process. The Inspired Integrity show, which features Marolt’s work as well as paintings by Susie Allen and ceramic sculpture by Shari McWilliams, opens at the Red Brick with a reception Oct. 5.
When John Mellencamp pulled out of Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ Labor Day Festival, local music fans were left with their hunger for heartland rock. Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers might be the guys to fill that void. Singer-songwriter Kellogg isn’t from Middle America exactly; raised in Westchester, Pa., he went to college in Massachusetts and started his career in the rustic small town of Northampton (nickname: Paradise City). An introspective 29-year-old, Kellogg doesn’t have the attitude that Mellencamp had back when “Cougar” was part of his name and image. But on the band’s latest CD, a self-titled release from last year, Kellogg has that combination of acoustic guitar intimacy and grand rock ‘n’ roll, big-time aspirations and small-town sentiments. “Start the Day Early” fits the formula perfectly and could have come straight out of the summer of ’82. Kellogg and the Sixers, who played the Telluride Bluegrass Festival this summer, make their Aspen debut Friday, Sept. 29, at Belly Up. Fellow singer-songwriters Alice Peacock and Reed Waddle round out the bill.
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Officials are investigating the source of a loud explosion at Smuggler Mine on Saturday morning.