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Aspen Shortsfest Embraces International Work for 14th Edition

Aspen Shortsfest Embraces International Work for 14th Edition

Aspen Shortsfest Embraces International Work for 14th Edition

by Brian Brooks

A scene from “The Big Empty,” which will screen in competition at the 14th annual Aspen Shortsfest later this month. Image courtesy of the Aspen Shortsfest.

Short subject enthusiasts and filmmakers from around the world will descend on the tony ski resort of Aspen April 6-10 for the 14th edition of Aspen Shortsfest. An international line up of work, including 65 works from 27 countries will participate in the competition this year, vying for $20,000 in cash and other prizes. The festival will open at the local Wheeler Opera House with its fourth annual “Local Filmmaker Showcase,” a free program showcasing local talent of all ages.

AMPAS president and screenwriter Frank Pierson (“Presumed Innocent”) returns to the festival to moderate the event’s “master Works: The Director’s Chair” symposium on Saturday, April 9. The program consists of “film clips and conversation [that] will focus on the art of directing with a panel of award-winning independent and studio directors,” according to a festival release.

The Shortsfest family program, “ScreenPlay!” meanwhile, is a selection of animated and live action films, including the Oscar-nominated “Birthday Boy” (Australia) and “Little Terrorist” (UK/India). “Australian Cool: The Best of Tropfest” will be the festival’s final special presentation on Sunday, April 10. Considered one of Australia’s to shorts events and attracting upwards of 130,000 people (and celebs) on a single night, the 13-year old Tropfest spotlights shorts seven minutes and under. The event’s founder, director John Polson (“Hide and Seek”) will present a selection of his favorite Tropfest winners during the event.

“Aspen Shortsfest has become a creative crossroads where works by accomplished student filmmakers — witness the acclaimed animation, “‘Birthday Boy’ will play along new shorts like ‘The Lost Cause’ and ‘The Big Empty,’ directed by screenwriter Jim Taylor and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel respectively,” commented competition manager George Eldred in a statement. “This year’s collection of films embraces the gamut, from flights of fantasy to the serious issues of the day.”

“Sideways” director Alexander Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor as well as Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jon Bloom (“Overnight Sensation”) will team with producer Jason Blumenthal (“The Weather Man”) and Atom Films VP of acquisitions and development, Megan O’Neill to judge the competition. In addition to the festival, highlights from the event will screen April 15 and 16 at Denver’s Starz FilmCenter in association with the Denver Film Society.

“Shorts are so much more than the calling card. They’re a truly distinctive film medium,” commented Laura Thielen, the festival’s executive director in a statement. “Shorts serve as an incubator for emerging talent. They are also an important cultural expression, especially in countries with limited production resources. Perhaps most importantly, they are about exploring film’s potential to tell new stories in new ways. As the chance-taking mavericks on the movie-making landscape, their voices [are] reinventing the future of film.” Organizers of the Aspen Shortsfest also host the annual Aspen Filmfest, taking place later this year September 28 – October 2.

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