Apr 3, 2009

Aspen ShortsFest 09' - Dispatch #1

This week the 18th annual Aspen ShortsFest takes place against the overwhelmingly gorgeous backdrop of the rocky mountains. Fifty-nine films, culled from over 2,500 entries, will screen this week in the international competition. A quiet, stately affair which really does capture the imagination of this wealthy resort town where everyone seems over 60 or under 20, is run by veteran programmer George Eldard and executive director Laura Thielen. The oscar qualifying fest boasts a reputation built on strong programming and one of the most impressive slates of international shorts of any North American film festival, placing it among the most prestigious festivals devoted solely to short films in North America.

This year, midway through the festival, it has proven just as strong as ever. I'll have more on some of my favorite films over at Hammer to Nail this weekend and in the Summer issue of Filmmaker Magazine, but among my favorites so far is Dustin Daniel Cretton's narrative look at an at-risk teen's facility, the Sundance grand jury prize winning Short Term 12. Also very strong is Palestinian Muayad Alayan's look at a pair of young Arabs living in Jerusalem who's love cannot overcome the constant psychic terror of their otherness in Lesh Sabreen? Lastly, Derek Jacobi (yes, from I Claudius) is absolutely unforgettable as an aging homosexual con man who pawns mourning British jews out of their dignity and a few of their possessions in Tristram Shapeero's Sidney Turtlebaum.