Shortsfest topics endless, but films certainly aren’t |

Shortsfest topics endless, but films certainly aren’t

Stewart Oksenhorn

Brevity is the soul of wit – and drama, tragedy, documentation and visual effects – at Aspen Filmfest’s Shortsfest.

Shortsfest, set for April 7-11 at Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House and Carbondale’s Crystal Theatre, features nearly 60 films, none more than 30 minutes in length, and many that clock in at less than five minutes.

Within those brief bursts of creativity lies an entire world of imagination, technological wizardry, storytelling and personality. The films that make up the eighth annual Shortsfest come from 12 countries – from Canada to Iran, Brazil to Russia – and cover a universe of ideas, topics, themes and styles.

Inspiration for the short films come from everywhere: bubble wrap and bagpipes, the trials of motherhood and life in repressed Iran, a poem by Michael Ondaatje and the found-object art of Tyree Guyton. Some films explore the very edge of digital technology; others look into the most human of subjects, stories and experiences.

Just as the films themselves are a thoroughly mixed bag, so are the filmmakers responsible for them. Those represented in this year’s Shortsfest include the likes of actress Rachel Griffiths, nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role in “Hilary and Jackie,” and “The English Patient” writer Michael Ondaatje, both of whom served as directors; and former Concrete Blonde singer Jonette Napolitano, who narrates the short “Cry Radio.”

“There are a lot of filmmakers whose `day job’ is something really different,” said Aspen Filmfest executive director Laura Thielen. “They may be commercial directors; they may be editors. Some are actors getting behind the camera to put their idiosyncratic visions on celluloid; some are students completing a thesis, an assignment they need for their degree. There’s all different reasons for people to make these. It’s interesting: How do these people find their way to doing shorts?

“And some of them specialize in making shorts.”

Among that last category is Ken Boynton, whose entry in last year’s Shortsfest, “William Sexspeare’s `Much Ado About Puberty,'” earned an Audience Award; Todd Korgan, who contributed “Have You Seen Patsy Wayne?” to last year’s program; and the bolexbrothers studios, whose “Keep In a Dry Place and Away From Children” was an animated hit at Shortsfest ’98. All three add their latest works to Shortsfest ’99: Boynton’s “William Psychspeare’s `The Taming of the Shrink,” Korgan’s “Johnny Bagpipes,” and “Little Dark Poet” from England’s bolexbrothers studios.

Among the 58 films are 18 premieres, including five world premieres and three international premieres. Also on the program are director-writer Chris Wedge’s “Bunny,” winner of this year’s Academy Award for Best Animated Short, and director-writer Mark Osborne’s “More,” which earned a nomination in the same category.

Along with spending time with the filmmakers’ celluloid creations, Shortsfest attendees will have ample opportunity to mingle with the flesh-and-blood filmmakers. Forty filmmakers are expected to be in attendance – up from 36 last year – and the filmmakers are coming from at least seven countries to gather in Aspen.

The filmmakers will engage in post-screening question-and-an-swer sessions and the public is invited to two events to mingle with the artists: Lunch with the Filmmakers on Friday, April 9 at Jimmy’s An American Restaurant; and Off Screen Roundtable on Saturday, April 10 at the Given Institute. New to this year’s Shortsfest is an official festival headquarters at Club Chelsea, where filmmakers and filmgoers can meet informally.

Tickets for Shortsfest ’99 go on sale tomorrow at the Wheeler Opera House box office. Shortsfest programs are Wednesday, April 7 through Sunday, April 11 at the Wheeler in Aspen, and Friday and Saturday, April 9-10, at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale.

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