International and women-directed films win Aspen Shortsfest 2021 awards |

International and women-directed films win Aspen Shortsfest 2021 awards

Five winners qualify for Academy Award consideration


Audience Award: ‘Close Ties to Home Country,’ Akanksha Cruczynski, USA

Best Animation: ‘O Black Hole!’ Renee Zhan, UK

Best Comedy: ‘Affairs of the Art,’ Joanna Quinn, UK/Canada

Best Documentary: ‘We Have One Heart,’ Katarzyna Warzecha, Poland

Ellen Award: ‘We Have One Heart,’ Katarzyna Warzecha, Poland

Best Drama: ‘Marlon Brando,’ Vincent Tilanus, The Netherlands

Best Short Short: ‘The Fourfold,’ Alisi Telengut, Canada

Best Student Short: ‘Plaisir,’ Molly Gillis, France

Youth Jury Award: ‘Plaisir,’ Molly Gillis, France

Vimeo Staff Pick Award: ‘Sinking Ship,’ Sasha Leigh Henry, USA

Accepting the Aspen Shortsfest Audience Award in a live-streamed event on Saturday night, “Close Ties to Home Country” director Akanksha Cruczynski quipped, “I come from a poor single-mom family in India and to realize that my women ancestors had to be plowing fields and breeding children so that I could be here and pleasing audiences is significant.”

Across the nine categories awarded in the ceremony — capping a virtual film festival that ran April 6-11 showcasing 80 shorts selected from some 3,000 submissions — female directors and international films dominated the field. Winners in five jury-selected categories now qualify for Academy Award consideration.

The Polish immigration documentary “We Have One Heart,” directed by Katarzyna Warzecha, won both the Jury Award for Documentary and the Ellen Award (honoring Aspen Film founder Ellen Hunt, who died in January).

Ellen jury member Steve Alldredge said “Ellen Kohner Hunt valued originality, and she valued high artistic merit. Polish director Katarzyna Warzecha has achieved both by mixing animation with found footage to create a highly original family odyssey in a film with humor, love, and a lot of heart.”

In her acceptance speech, Warzecha called “We Have One Heart” “a movie about love without borders.”

Molly Gillis’ “Plaisir,” about a young American working on a French farm, also won two prizes — Best Student Short and the Youth Jury Award, selected this year by a group of high schoolers in Aspen and across the United States. The Youth Jury citation declared “This film should be shown to young adults because it provokes self-reflection and forces you to think about challenging yourself through uncharted territory.”

All but one of the films recognized in the Shortsfest awards was directed by a woman, significantly bucking the industry’s long-established gender inequity and lack of recognition for women behind the camera.

The Jury Award for Short Short went to the inventive 8-minute “The Fourfold” by Mongolian-Canadian director Alisi Telengut, who blended animation with plant-life for the film. The U.K.-produced space opera “O Black Hole!” about a woman who turns herself into a black hole won Best Animation, the jury citing it as “strange in the best possible way.” And “Marlon Brando,” a Dutch film about queer friendship, won the jury’s Drama prize for director Vincent Tilanus.

The annual Vimeo Staff Pick Award went to Sasha Leigh Henry’s surreal relationship drama “Sinking Ship,” which is now streaming on the popular Vimeo Staff Pick page as a result.

The animated “Affairs of the Art,” the latest from British two-time Academy Award nominee Joanna Quinn, won the jury’s Comedy award.

“We haven’t seen it with an audience yet,” Quinn said in her acceptance speech, “so we didn’t know if people actually laugh. That’s great.”

Echoing the sentiment of many winners beaming in to the virtual awards ceremony on the Eventive festival platform, Shortsfest programming director Jason Anderson said, “It’s been a fantastic festival despite us being unable to gather in person.”

Aspen Film, the year-round film society that produces Shortsfest, also recently announced that its 42nd Aspen Filmfest will run in-person at the Wheeler Opera House Sept. 21-26.


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