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True stories take the spotlight

Stewart Oksenhorn
Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin star in David O. Russell's "I (Heart) Huckabees," showing at Aspen Filmfest '04, which opens later this month.
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Documentary films have long received much attention from Aspen Filmfest. Now that documentaries have become relatively big draws at commercial theaters, Filmfest is taking a close look at the recent phenomenon.Fahrenheit, Fries, Fox and Fairness: The New Political Documentary, a panel discussion featuring documentary filmmakers, is among the lineup of special programs at Aspen Filmfest 2004, which opens later this month. The discussion, set for Oct. 2 at the Wheeler Opera House, will include directors Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”) and Robert Greenwald (“Outfoxed,” “Uncovered”), and Jeff Gibbs, co-producer of “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Media critic and professor Pat Aufderheide will moderate the event.

In addition, three documentaries will be featured in Filmfest’s True Stories segment: “Born Into Brothel,” a film about a photography workshop for a group of child prostitutes in Calcutta that earned a Sundance Audience Award; “Monumental: David Brower’s Fight for Wild America,” about the first executive director of the Sierra Club; and “Tarnation,” a self-portrait of a traumatic upbringing by Jonathan Caouette.Among the other special programs at Filmfest 2004 are a screening of the Italian film “The Best of Youth,” and the previously announced presentation of the Independent By Nature Award to Michael Douglas.”The Best of Youth,” presented as the Festival Centerpiece, is a six-hour film made for Italian television and then suppressed by the Berlusconi government. The film will be shown in two parts.

“A lot of people compare it to ‘The Godfather,'” said Aspen Filmfest executive director Laura Thielen. “But it’s contemporary, an Italian social and political history of the last 40 years of as experienced by a middle-class Roman family, focusing on two brothers who go down two different roads.”The presentation of the Independent By Nature Award to Douglas is set for opening night, Sept. 29, at the Wheeler Opera House, and will feature an onstage interview with the Academy Award-winning actor and producer by Joel Schumacher. The event will be followed by a benefit dinner. Filmfest will also screen two Douglas films, “Falling Down,” directed by Schumacher, and “The China Syndrome,” which Douglas starred in and produced.The closing-night film is “Les Choristes,” a French hit set in the harsh environment of a boys’ school just after World War II that will have one of its first stateside screenings in Aspen. “The Wool Cap,” co-written by William H. Macy and starring Macy as a mute building supervisor left with a troubled 12-year-old girl, will be screened as a Free Community Presentation.

Other films to be shown at Filmfest 2004 include “Around the Bend,” the directorial debut of screenwriter Jordan Roberts (“Road to Perdition”), starring Michael Caine and Christopher Walken; “I (Heart) Huckabees,” an existential comedy by David O. Russell starring Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law and Naomi Watts; and “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” a biopic of the comic actor starring Geoffrey Rush.Also, “The Motorcycle Diaries,” adapted by Walter Salles from the journals of left-wing revolutionary Che Guevara and his traveling companion, Dr. Alberto Granado; “Stage Beauty,” starring Billy Crudup as a gender-bending actor in 17th-century London; and the Bhutanese film Travelers and Magicians, about a young man obsessed with America.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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