Short Films at Aspen Shortsfest-Rites of Passage to Poseurs
From black-and-white dramas set in hot Connecticut summers to rites of passage in which kids know too much, Aspenfilm curator George Eldred with executive director Laura Thielen created a perfect curatorial moment Thursday night of the Shortsfest program. Each short film in the 10-film program built upon the next, from droll and sophisticated animation to frank documentaries to themes spanning adolescent pranks to adult love and death, loss experienced, innocence regained. Frankly, it was the best 110 minutes of therapy Ive had in a long time.
Never pretentious or overzealous, this festival lacks only in poseurs. At the after-party theres just a group of people talking about film; sometimes theyre the directors or producers; always theyre just people who want to talk about what makes a good movie.
The 27-minute documentary, Home is Where You Find It, directed by 17-year-old Alcides Soares, lived up to what a good film can do – transform. The camera follows AIDS orphans in Mozambique. We see children picking for food on trash dumps; they face the camera with weary resignation. One of the more stoic boys filmed finally breaks down crying, covering his face with his hands when he reminisces about his father, “I would tell him how proud I am of him,” he says. Yet another teenage boy describes how grateful he is to have found his “surrogate” mother, despite the fact that she is crippled and he must struggle to push her wheelchair the mile and a half to church every day through rocky, dusty streets. Soares camera is unflinching – the faces say all. The film condenses the rawness and meaning of life.
After the film, American TV writer, Executive Producer and practicing pediatrician, Neal Baer (ER, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) fielded questions from the audience via Skype. Im still thinking about how this film, which has appeared in four festivals, should compel awareness from the public of the decimination of AIDS upon Africa.
My other top picks of this nights program included:
New Zealand Director, James Blicks Roof Rattling follows three mischievous boys. What begins as a usual days outing (peering into peoples windows and sneaking into peoples properties) turns out to be the story of one boys first serious encounter with love, loss and respect.
Family Jewels peers into one familys life, as a female soldier and mother of two children prepares to deploy to Afghanistan. Director Martin Stitt, a former British Army Captain who served in Northern Ireland, saw a friend killed in Irawq while he was studying at American Film Institute. This experience combined with his military service inspired this story. Stitt captures the tense relationship between husband and wife : the fear of the unknown, resentment and love that families endure on these occasions while highlighting the role reversal of a mother leaving for war.
In Director John McCloskeys 5 minute film, Guns, Bees and Tadpoles, McCloskey plunges the audience into one summer day in late 1970s Northern Ireland when one normal family gets caught up in a literal crossfire. The late night program offered up intense adult father drama with Man and Boy, directed by the young duo David Leon and Marcus Mcsweeney.
The perfect foil to melodrama was Lewis Teagues comedy Charlotta-TS: Episode 2. The campy, soap-operatic short follows Charlotta, a free-spirited woman lacking inhibitions who just wants to have fun. While shes trying to figure out who she really is, her lawyer is trying to keep her out of jail.
“I wanted to make a frivolous, funny movie, about serious topics,” said Teague. “I wanted to learn how to shoot and market a movie on the internet so I began fishing around for a web series idea. I quickly realized that I needed an entire season to tell the story. I was having too much fun to stop.”