Get ready to be transported to Mumbai, where renting a house can be harder than it is in Aspen; to 1960s Argentina during the hunt for a high-ranking Nazi war criminal; and to a long-running quilting circle in rural Alabama. This trio of locales is just a small sampling of the places that will be spotlighted, along with a diverse range of people and the full spectrum of emotions, in the 27th Aspen Shortsfest, April 3–8, 2018.
Among the 77 works that will screen at Aspen Film’s annual Oscar-qualifying celebration of short form cinema will be a slew of premieres: four world, four international, nine North American, and six US. The selections include drama, comedy, documentary, stop-motion animation, and more. What they all share is a running time of 40 minutes or less.
“Each film is really special,” says Aspen Film executive director Susan Wrubel, as if referring to children in an especially large family. Indeed, as the nonprofit’s five-person Shortsfest programming team, aided by a corps of volunteers, winnowed down the entries from an initial 2,500 films screened, each of these final selections continually rose to the top.
New this year, Landon Zakheim headed up the team as director of programming. The film industry vet has worked with Sundance and the Los Angeles Film Festival, among other high-profile showcases. “Bringing on someone of Landon’s caliber is a real boon,” adds Wrubel. “He’s a world-class programmer and has his finger on the pulse of what’s going on in short form content today.”
This year’s filmmakers represent almost 30 countries. A huge part of Shortsfest’s appeal comes from the multiple opportunities to meet and mingle with the creatives behind the camera; 50 some filmmakers at a time have attended past festivals. In addition to Q&As after each program, those opportunities, free to passholders and that day’s ticketholders, include an opening reception at the Wheeler; daily afternoon happy hours at Jimmy’s Bodega (also open to the general public); nightly après screenings at various venues; Breakfast at the Fest before the Sunday noon family program; and a closing dance party at Silver City Mountain Saloon with DJ Folami ($25–$35 for the general public). Several other filmmaker panel discussions and professional development sessions are also open to the general public for $20 each (free for passholders). A pop-up soccer match Sunday afternoon at Wagner Park—play or just watch—speaks to the festival’s international breadth.
Another of the fest's outstanding aspects: education. While in Aspen, many of the visiting filmmakers travel to area classrooms to inspire and inform younger viewers, and groups of schoolkids come to the Wheeler; this year, aspiring filmmakers from high schools in Denver and Texas will join locals among the audience.
Shortsfest’s individual programs—11 at Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House, four at Carbondale’s Crystal Theatre—are like mini-festivals unto themselves. “Each program is like a roller coaster ride,” says Zakheim. “Each one takes you into a number of different worlds, showing a wide range of all the wonderful things that can be done in contemporary short form cinema.”
With that in mind, buy your tickets stat, buckle in, and enjoy the thrills.
How to Fest
Aspen Shortsfest, April 3–8, 2018, aspenfilm.org
Tickets: $20 per program (children receive complimentary admission to Sunday’s family program at the Wheeler Opera House).
New this year for young professionals (ages 35 and under)—the $150 Super Screener Pass, which includes access to all programs and events plus a one-year membership to Aspen Film.
Tickets for all shows are available at the Wheeler Opera House box office and at aspenshowtix.com.
Tickets for Carbondale shows are also available at Bonfire Coffee (cash or check only).