Move over, Morgan Freeman. There’s a new actor taking over the role of God, and his name is David Wenham. Wenham portrays the Almighty as a tie-wearing office worker in Frazer Bailey’s irresistible Australian short “Glenn Owen Dodds,” which picked up the Audience Favorite Award at the 2010 Aspen Shortsfest.
Over 100 international shorts screened at the 19th annual Aspen Shortsfest, which ran from April 6-11, 2010 in Aspen and Carbondale, Colorado. “This year the variety and quality were high enough that we decided to add a night – and two programs – to showcase this bounty of new talent,” reported George Eldred, Program Director for Aspen Film, who added that there were a record 86 films in competition.
This year’s Aspen Shortsfest jury consisted of actress Meg Ryan, Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker Daniel Junge, Smokewood Entertainment co-founder Sarah Siegel-Magness, and Oscar-nomination “Children of Men” scribe David Arata.
The jury honored Anita Killi’s “Angry Man” as the best animation of the fest. “Angry Man” was one of three Norwegian shorts screening in Aspen, all of which walked away winners. Iram Haq’s “Little Miss Eyeflap” took home the festival’s Ellen prize while Tomas Sem Lokke-Sorensen 5-minute “The Unhappy Woman” happily accepted the Best Short Short trophy.
The documentary prize went to the Cambodian-set “Born Sweet” by Academy Award-winner Cynthia Wade (“Freeheld”). Other short docs that impressed include Wendy Greene’s Oklahoma-set “Snake Fever,” which world premiered in Aspen; Vance Malone’s touching portrait of an aging circus performer, “The Poodle Trainer;” and Matt Faust’s haunting, impressionistic look at his Katrina-destroyed family dwelling, “home.”
The jury selected “Seeds of the Fall” as the festival’s Best Comedy. Fans of Patrik Eklund’s previous short, the Oscar-nominated “Instead of Abracadabra,” will share the jury’s enthusiasm for the warm-hearted suburban quirkiness that has become Eklund’s trademark.
Best Drama went to “The Six Dollar Fifty Man,” Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland’s memorable look at schoolyard bullying.
Shorts centering on little boy leads were a definite trend at Aspen – and were some of the most memorable shorts playing the festival. In addition to “The Six Dollar Fifty Man,” there was Bassam Ali Jarbawi’s “Chicken Heads,” Hannah Hilliard’s “Franswa Sharl,” Tim Dean’s “Fences,” Steve Audette’s documentary “Nico’s Challenge,” and Gregg Helvey’s Oscar-nominated USC student film “Kavi,” which was given Aspen’s Youth Jury Prize.
Strong shorts from film schools was another trend. While Esther Siton was singled out by the jury for her Israeli student film “I’m Ready,” there were many outstanding student films, including another Israeli student short, Maya Tiberman’s “Ramlod.”
The Polish National Film School delivered two tense dramas: “Echo,” in which two teenager suspects are forced to recreate their crime in an open field, and “Birthday” in which a woman ruins her partner’s birthday party when she’s told that their plans for artificial insemination are no longer necessary.
From the NYU’s Tisch Asia program in Singapore came Eric Flanagan’s captivating “Teleglobal Dreamin,'” a twisty cautionary tale that could only take place in the current era of celebrity worship.
Columbia University’s contributed Lauren Wolkstein’s stunning soldier’s homecoming story, “Cigarette Candy,” and Isold Uggadottir’s unflinching drama showcasing a female drug addict unraveling, “Clean.”
Animation schools in London also made notable contributions, with NFTS offering up Philip Bacon ‘s “Yellow Belly End” and the Royal College of Art presenting Rafael Sommerhalder’s two remarkable pieces, “Wolves” and “Flowerpots.”
Another trend at this year’s Shortfest was the emphasis on shorter pieces, with more work falling in the five to fifteen minute range, and fewer in the over twenty-five.
Five noteworthy shorts in the fifteen-or-less category include Evan Wolf Buxbaum’s six-minute charmer, “Anything You Can Do,” which delightfully captures the energy of its preteen heroine. Clocking in at 12 minutes, Ruben Oestlund’s “Incident by a Bank” must be appreciated for its bystander point of view of a crime in progress. Thierry Espasa’s 14-minute “Park” expertly utilizes a classic short film formula in which seemingly unrelated stories intersect with unexpected results.
Mike and Tim Rauch’s four-minute animation/documentary “Q&A” depicts a simple yet very touching real life conversation between a straight-talking mother and her inquisitive special-needs son. David O’Sullivan’s 6-minute “Moore Street Masala” is best described by the filmmaker himself as “an Irish director doing his take on Indian cinema in a Dublin setting.”
There were so many impressive films at this year’s Shortsfest that the jury felt the need to give five additional special recognitions. Jon Goldman’s “Diplomacy,” Jason Stutter’s “Careful with That Powertool,” Ruben Ostlund’s “Incident by a Bank,” Bassam Ali Jarbawi’s “Chicken Heads,” and Luke Matheny’s “God of Love” were all honored.