Editor's Note: Aspen Film's 29th Annual Aspen Shortsfest will go on as scheduled—online. The Oscar®-qualifying festival will be a limited-time event, just like the traditional festival, and viewers will be able to purchase special access codes to screen programs of the selected films. For more info, visit aspenfilm.org. March 31-April 5, individual programs $10 ($7.50 for Aspen Film members) each, full festival of nine programs $75 ($60 for Aspen Film members), aspenshowtix.com
Aspen Film’s Oscar-qualifying Shortsfest continues to be all the rage.
Sister, 2019 Aspen Shortsfest Best Animated Short winner
Ellen Hunt introduced short films to Aspen in 1976, three years prior to her founding of Aspen Film. “They were wildly successful right from the beginning,” says Hunt. So by the time Aspen Film became an official nonprofit organization in 1979, the staff continued screening shorts by popular demand. But they were limited on the number they could show and the programs were always sold out.
In 1990, the organization established Shortsfest, which at the time took rank as one of the few Oscar-qualifying festivals for short films in the country. “There are many more [festivals] now because short films are more popular. ... I like to think that we had something to do with that,” says Hunt.
For filmmakers, a short is usually the first type of film they make. It acts as a calling card or an elevator pitch that allows them to show their skill sets, demonstrate their ideas or work out a concept they’ve been mulling over—all at little cost. For viewers, shorts are like bite-sized visual stories they can devour and digest without a ton of commitment, says Susan Wrubel, executive and artistic director of Aspen Film. And because the commitment is less for the filmmaker, too, they can experiment, take risks and have fun, which can lead to an exciting and intriguing outcome for both creator and viewer.
This year, Aspen Film celebrates 40 years of educating and entertaining, and Shortsfest has been part of 29 of those years. Annually, the organization shows 200-plus films over its events and festivals, and most are regional debuts that bring stories from around the world—many of which might not otherwise be available to local audiences—to Aspen. Shorts in general tend to reflect the times, explains Hunt. Each one is of the era in which it was made. “They’re like sociological documents,” she says. As time passes, they remain relevant. March 31-April 5, aspenfilm.org
Photography by: Hal Williams