A guide to 2022’s Aspen Shortsfest, Colorado’s only Oscar-qualifying, bite-sized film gathering
Aspen Shortsfest isn’t just snapping back, it’s going full beast-mode to defend its title as a world-class, if boutique, destination festival.
The return to in-person events — after two years of all-online screenings — looks promising. Shortfest is a highly competitive, Oscar-qualifying event, and winners there have gone on to nab regular Academy Award nominations and, occasionally, wins (see below for more on that).
Shorts can scream into Aspen on Sundance acclaim, or build their own momentum at world premieres attended by well heeled industry. But the in-person format also means $10 to $20 screenings, family-friendly programming, casual and constant access to filmmakers, and the usual collection of new (and occasionally world-premiering) international shorts.
Losing the online-streaming component drastically reduces the potential audience for these socially conscious, animated, narrative and documentary shorts, which fly under the radar at most film fests. While that’s an unfortunate blow to accessibility, it’s not unique to Aspen’s fest.
An in-person return was always the goal. And this year will be a recharging event — a pandemic-era show of resilience by filmmakers, Shortsfest leaders have said. In that spirit, here’s a guide to to getting the most out of its (hopefully) triumphant comeback.
The 31st Aspen Shortsfest takes place Tuesday, April 5, through Sunday, April 10. Individual programs are $10 for students and $20 for everyone else. A full-fest pass is $300. Buy via aspenshowtix.com and donorbox.org/shortsfest-2022-pass, respectively.
Films are curated into 11 separate programs at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen (320 E. Hyman Ave.), plus four programs at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale (427 Main Street) — the latter over the weekend of April 8, organizers said. As of this writing, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is required to attend.
Aspen Shortsfest’s renown is real, lately in the form of 2020 entries “Daughter” (by Daria Kashcheeva) and “Sister” (by Siqi Song), which were nominated for Best Animated Short Films at the Academy Awards. The 2021 Shortsfest Comedy award winner, “Affairs of the Art,” was also nominated for a 2022 Best Animated Short Film Academy Award (it didn’t win). Recent Shortsfest winners that went on to nab Oscars include 2016’s “Bear Story,” and more before that.
With prestige comes costs. Aspen is hilariously unaffordable, and staying there during the festival only slightly less so. The Annabelle Inn and Limelight Hotel are offering 10% discounts off regular rates, which are $300-plus per room per night. Visit aspenfilm.org/aspen-shortsfest-2022/where-to-stay for details before making reservations.
Parsing the lineup
Aspen Film, Shortsfest’s producer, has grouped the 77 entries (culled from 3,000 or more submissions) by genre, including notable filmmakers (see films starring Amanda Seyfried, Rose Byrne, Mariama Diallo, Molly Ringwald and others); immigration, migration and refugee experiences; mental health; performing arts; teen experiences; nature and the outdoors; and life in the pandemic.
That should give you a sense of this year’s subjects, although scrolling through all the films — most of them completely unfamiliar to any viewer — is a bear, so don’t be afraid to go with your gut. aspenfilm.org/aspen-shortsfest-2022/2022-shortsfest-films
Aspen Film is promoting these particular titles, and we’re OK with that because they all look great. (We’ve screened a few of them in advance).
“Skin and Bone,” starring Amanda Seyfried (“The Dropout,” “Mean Girls”) and real-life husband Thomas Sadoski makes incredible use of its brief runtime to establish an atmosphere of dread and mystery. Director Eli Powers has worked with Seyfried and Sadowski before, and their natural chemistry is apparent. Bring your mental poncho.
“You and Me Before and After,” starring Yael Stone (“Orange is the New Black”) will finally get its U.S. premiere, having previously been praised for its depiction of two sisters as they sit side-by-side, getting tattoos.
The celebrity draw for “Shark” is strong, given star Rose Byrne (“Bridesmaids”) and her co-star/director Nash Edgerton (the TV series “Mr. Inbetween”). The 14-minute dark-comedy features Byrne as Sofie, a woman getting married to a man whose past flames have all met their ends in bizarre ways.
“White Devil” stars and is co-directed by Mariama Diallo — of the recent Sundance selection and (now) Amazon Studios title, “Master” — as well as Benjamin Dickinson, offering a look at their interracial relationship and the challenges couples have faced during the pandemic.
Eighties teen icon Molly Ringwald narrates “A Brief History of Us,” directed by Israeli author and filmmaker Etgar Keret, about a couple whose longtime relationship finds them merging into one another (don’t freak out; it’s animated).
Programmers also highlighted “The Martha Mitchell Effect,” a Netflix documentary from Anne Alvergue and Debra McClutchy; “Enjoy,” starring Himesh Patel (“Don’t Look Up”); “Daddy’s Girl,” with Peter Friedman (“Succession”); “Don Vs. Lightning,” with Peter Mullan (“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”); and the gorgeous-looking “The Shaman’s Apprentice,” directed by Cannes prize-winner Zacharias Kunuk (for “Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner”).
Finally, The Aspen Times plugged director Walter Thompson-Hernȧndez’s “If I Go Will They Miss Me,” which won the U.S. Fiction short prize at Sundance earlier this year. (Hear hear.)
The adorable-looking “Aeronaut” is a stop-motion animated short about a 10-year-old who wants to become a pilot to save his sister and escape his father; “Chilly & Milly” is another lovingly-animated short about elder-care that debuted at Sundance this year; “Memoir of a Veering Storm” is a jarring coming-of-age study; and “She Dreams at Sunrise” and “Smile” are animated shorts with strong-looking hearts and minds (can you tell I like animation? There is a ton this year).
Outside the usual screenings
There’s a Sunday Family Program at 11 a.m. on April 10 ($12-$15; free for kids 12 and under). Daily, afternoon happy hours are open to filmmakers and festivalgoers at the Sports Bistro. There are also Nightly Après Screenings at 10 p.m., moving from the Wheeler to “a different hotspot around town for “drinks and dialogue with our visiting programming team, filmmakers, and industry guests,” according to organizers.
Pitkin County Library and Aspen’s Isis Theatre will host panels and workshops, including “So You’ve Made a Short Film… No What?,” sponsored by The Aspen Times (April 9) and the April 10 awards dinner. aspenfilm.org/aspen-shortsfest-2022/events-convos
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