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Aspen Shortsfest an Embarrassment of Riches

As the 17th-century philosopher Francis Bacon argued, "Rather to excite your judgment briefly than to inform it tediously." Aspen Film would appear to agree. Its acclaimed Aspen Shortsfest showcases films from twoTim Dean & Chris Cooper - Aspen Shorts to 27 minutes long.

The 19th round takes place April 6 to 11, 2010, at Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado, and at the Crystal Theatre in nearby Carbondale.
This year Aspen Film cherrypicked 85 competition contenders out of the 2,500 submissions that poured in from some 80 countries. Taken together with its non-competing titles, the Fest is screening about 100 short films from around the world.
Not only is the work exceptionally diverse, according to Aspen Film program director George Eldred, but it's more interesting, of higher quality and more skillfully produced than that of previous troves, he noted in a statement. "Creators worldwide benefit from unprecedented access to new technology and equipment," he added.
Take for example Home Is Where You Find It. The 27-minute documentary by 16-year-old Mozambican Alcides Soares recounts being orphaned by AIDS, and constituting a new family of loved ones. Produced by a group of professional mediamakers including Dick Wolf and Peter Jankowski, the film has swept numerous awards.
Another exemplar of this year's evolved concepts and executions is the British drama, Man and Boy. In their 20-minute put, directors Marcus McSweeny and David Leon explore paternal instincts gone amok in working-class London. Storylines jump up and back, here and there, suggesting several scenarios and letting the viewer decide what actually happened.
No less thought provoking is The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger, by U.S. animator and cartoonist Bill Plympton. His self-described "fairy tale gone bad" takes its palette from Vasily Kandinsky and character cue from Ferdinand the Bull. Look to the four-minute piece for answers about life and advertising. 
Kid-friendly shorts are in ample supply at Shortfest, thanks to "Films for Families," a docket of shorts for tweeners and up. Fest highlights also include "Micro Moviemaking," with director Lewis Teague (Navy Seals, The Jewel of the Nile), exploring his web series Charlotta-TS; and "Tropfest's Best: 7 Minutes or Less," spotlighting picks from Australia's celebrated shorts festival.
Ringed by mountains and affluent skiers, Aspen may better known for its outdoor sports than indoor lounging. Yet Aspen Shortsfest has been turning this perception around with its Oscar-qualifying International Competition, filmmaker appearances, parties and special presentations.
This year, its embarrassment of film riches prompted Eldred to extend the fest by a night.

For more info go to:

Aspen Shortsfest
Apr. 6 - 11
Wheeler Opera House
320 East Hyman Avenue
Aspen, CO
(970) 920 5770
Chrystal Theater
427 Main Street

Carbondale, CO 81623
(970) 963-0633

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Northern Exposures: Social Change & Sexuality in Swedish Cinema, 1913-2010

Northern Exposures: Social Change and Sexuality in Swedish Cinema, 1913-2010 hits screens at The Film Society of Lincoln Center from April 16th-May 4th, 2010. Presented in collaboration with the Swedish Film Institute and the Swedish Institute, the series offers up a comprehensive survey of Swedish film from the early 20th century to the modern day including silent film gems, beloved classics, and exciting current releases.Cover of The Girl Who Played with Fiire

"The selection of films is indeed very interesting and gives an insight and perspective to Swedish film and Swedish society. We are happy to be given this chance to raise awareness of Swedish cinema towards the American audience and hope that the visiting Swedish directors and producers will further strengthen the networks between our filmmaking communities," said Pia Lundberg, Head of International Department, Swedish Film Institute.
This extraordinary survey of a rich, eclectic national cinema spans from witty, thoroughly modern silent comedies (shown with live piano accompaniment) to Ingrid Bergman's breakthrough film, from dark suspense to insightful dramas (and, yes, Wild Strawberries!). It's also a chronicle of a pioneering social democracy-at the vanguard of social change and sexual openness. Showing alongside the survey will be recent films including work by the director of Let the Right One In, Tomas Alfredson,and prizewinning Sundance charmer The King of Ping Pong.
This series offers a chance for audiences to immerse themselves in the vital and engaging cinema of Sweden.

"We're very pleased with the Film Society of Lincoln Center's broad and perceptive presentation which outlines the development of Sweden in the 20th century and with it the country's film industry," says Olle Wästberg, General Director, Swedish Institute. "With focus on modern film and its creators, Northern Exposures is also a unique opportunity to discover the wealth of masters from earlier eras such as Ingmar Bergman, Hasse Ekman, and Vilgot Sjöman."
Northern Exposures creates not only a chronicle of the development of Swedish filmmaking, but of the country itself. At the moment that movies were introduced to Sweden, it was an overwhelmingly rural society, very much wrapped in traditional ways of life and thought. Yet by the 1930s, Sweden had introduced legislation that would create the world's first true social democracy; changes in land ownership, working conditions, the status of women, as well as the growth of industry decisively transformed the society.

Sweden suddenly found itself in the vanguard of social change-as evidenced by the increasing sexual openness of its cinema, from the bathing scenes of Only a Mother and One Summer of Happiness to the taboo-smashing I am Curious (Yellow), a film that helped change US laws regarding moral restrictions in art.
The multi media installation "Ingmar Bergman: The Man Who Asked Hard Questions" will be on view in the Film Society's Furman Gallery from April 16th- 25th. This installation invites visitors to encounter Bergman's fascinating world via projections onto five screens on a man-made tree. The projected materials include scenes from Bergman's films, interview clips, behind-the-scenes footage, and more. "The Man Who Asked Hard Questions" offers a look at new and unexpected facets of the Swedish film legend's life and work, and has been presented in combination with the director's films around the world since 2008.
Filmmakers in attendance include Henrik Hellström, Stig Björkman, Fredrik Edfeldt, and Babak Najafi.

Series highlights include the US premiere of The Girl Who Played with Fire -- the film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's wildly popular novel and sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  Additional US premieres include Hellström and Fredrik Wenzel's lyrical Burrowing, and Najafi's emotionally gripping Sebbe, which was awarded best debut feature at the Berlin International Film Festival, 2010.

 In addition to films, the series offers a filmmakers panel discussion on Swedish Cinema: Then and Now, and a Meet the Programmer event that offers a peak into the planning of the series.
Surveys of national cinemas, in my view, are of considerably less interest than director retrospectives; such series substitute sociology for aesthetics as their guiding principle. However, I always welcome an opportunity to deepen my knowledge of film history; the Film Society of Lincoln Center's three-week Northern Exposures series, starting April 16th, devoted to Swedish cinema provides ample occasion to view rare titles from a not inconsiderable national industry. Below are capsules of a few highlights screened in advance.

A Night (1931)
directed by Gustaf Molander
A very early sound film, A Night's visual approach is memorably rooted in the silent cinema -- indeed this work is remarkable for the degree to which its story is articulated through visual means. The film concerns two brothers on opposites sides of the Russian Revolution in Finland; the political content of this remarkable subject matter is regrettably flattened to serve the purposes of melodrama, reducing the interest of A Night more to the status of a curiosity. The  Girl with Hyaciinths

The film was screened in what looked to be a recently struck archival print and it looked too dark in some scenes, but the pure visual storytelling on display here more than held my interest -- indeed the celebratory editing of the photographed landscape here rises to the level of visual poetry.

The Girl with Hyacinths (1950)
directed by Hasse Ekman
Probably the strongest film of the four classics was the previously shown The Girl with Hyacinths. However, it was the least visually splendorous but by far the mostOne  Summer of Love elegantly constructed. The Girl with Hyacinths takes the form of an investigation into the causes of the suicide of a young woman who dies at the film's outset.

Screened in a what looked to be a newly struck print, The Girl with Hyacinths is a moving experience, featuring memorable performances by Ulf Palme and Anders Ek, among others.

One Summer of Happiness (1951)
directed by Arne Mattson
This film is also graced by excellent nature photography, seen to superb effect in the excellent, newly struck print screened here. The film is a tragic love story set in the Swedish countryside and holds one's interest through the appeal of its two young leads and some fluid deployment of camera-movement.

Kisses & Hugs (1967)Kisses and Hugs
directed by Jonas Cornell
Kisses & Hugs was the oddest of these four films. A couple takes in an eccentric writer when the girlfriend he lives with ends their relationship; what ensues is a series of quasi-picaresque episodes which unfold with a verite quality. 

If this film too remains a curiosity of its period, it is possibly the most visually remarkable and it is screened in an outstanding print which reveals the subtle tonalities of the lighting to full effect.

SF Int'l Womens Film Festival

The 6th annual San Francisco International Women's Film Festival is running April 7 to 11, 2010 at the Roxie Theater and other venues around the San Francisco Bay Area. This cavalcade of shorts and features, both documentary and otherwise, from a vast array of films by women all over the world make for a lavish feast of cinematic riches

The Opening Night Tribute Award will be presented to Peabody Award winning filmmaker Judith Helfand (Blue Vinyl), whose many contributions to cinema promote community building. She believes in "using films for engagement and social change" and as a filmmaker she participates in the environmental health and justice movement.

This tribute includes the 20th anniversary of A Healthy Baby Girl, Helfand’s debut film about life after DES-related cancer. The film explores how the anti-miscarriage drug DES (administered to her mother during pregnancy) changed Helfand’s life and radically transformed her future.

Also shown is an excerpt from her Sundance Film Fesitval award-winning sequel, Blue Vinyl, and her short film Ek Velt, about the big move from the blue vinyl house. In addition to moderating panels, Helfand is also holding a special master class, as she shares storytelling strategies that lead to effective (even funny and entertaining) filmmaking and ‘call to action’ activism.

Included in this year’s Festival is LUNAFEST: Film Festival by, for, about Women, a selection of 10 short films from a widely diverse group of women, including Monday Before Thanksgiving, a short film made by Courtney Cox.

The Festival tracks include:

The Jane Campion Retrospective, featuring award-winning short films by the internationally acclaimed director who went on to helm The Piano, An Angel at My Table, Sweetie and Bright Star.  The films are:  A Girl's Own Story; Passionless Moments; and Peel, a Palme d'Or winner at Cannes.  

"Girl Shorts", showcasing the best Lesbian Cinema from around the world.

"Making Herstory: Young Women in the Director's Chair", honoring the upcoming generation of women filmmakers

Children's Animation Program

Panels, including:

Local Filmmakers Panel: Documentary and Activism
Grant Guidelines, FAQ’s and best practices before applying
The Heroine's Journey: The Craft of Writing Female Characters with Pamela Gray

Documentaries include:

Orgasm Inc. Liz Canner’s film is a look inside the medical industry and the marketing campaigns that attempt to determine our lives, our health, “and that ultimate moment: orgasm.”

21 Days To Nawroz, directed by Michelle Mama.  This film explores the lives of three very different Kurdish women: a feminist attorney, an eight year-old girl, and a tech-savvy young woman, and the effect that experimental democracy really has on women.

Code Name: Butterflies, directed and written by Chilean filmmaker Cecilia Domeyko, tells the powerful story of the Mirabal sisters of the Dominican Republic who in the 1950s, under the code name 'Butterflies', created a secret resistance movement against dictator Rafael Trujillo, who had the women assassinated.  

Indie Spotlight: Narrative films include:

Everyday Black Man, directed by Carmen Madden.  A thoughtful man running a small neighborhood fruit and vegetable store takes on a young man as a partner, only to realize the younger man is selling more than just baked goods.  The award-winning director is also making history as one of the first African American women to run a feature film studio. 

Between Floors, directed by Jen White, examines the human condition through a uniquely claustrophobic lens, five stuck elevators and the people trapped inside them.


Filmmaker and community educator Scarlett Shepard founded the San Francisco Women’s Film Festival in 2004. Originally held at San Francisco State University, the success of its first run prompted Shepard to expand the festival beyond the SFSU campus and rename the festival. “SFWFF is a necessary step - women directors should no longer be left out or considered a side note in film festivals, film history and the film industry,” says Shepard.

For further information, visit   

San Francisco International Women's Film Festival
April 7-11, 2010

Roxie Theatre
3117 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 863-1087

SF Women's Building
3543 18th Street #8
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 431-1180

Plus other venues

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Serves Non-fiction Feast

For its 13th installment, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival opens with Kings of Pastry, about a French chef competition. The gastronomic theme pairs well with Full Frame's closing barbecue, a tradition that incarnates the Southern hospitality associated with this Durham, N.C., event, taking place April 8 to 11, 2010.

Yet not so long ago, a film celebrating quiche-eaters might not have enjoyed such a visible U.S. premiere. That this Gallic bakeoff by husband-and-wife filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus whets moviegoers' appetites suggests a cultural shift, since French fries were renamed "freedom fries" in the early days of the Iraq War.

America's battles, however, rage on, and one of the most highly anticipated films to be screened at this Full Frame follows a U.S. platoon in the deadly Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. Titled Restrepo, this collaboration between Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger won the Grand Jury award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, and is touted as a corrective to the liberties taken in The Hurt Locker.

Another combat-themed film at Full Frame is How to Fold a Flag (pictured on our front page). The fourth installment in Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein's Iraq War series tracks the four U.S. soldiers introduced in Gunner Palace (2004) as they readjust to civilian life. An especially poignant scene concerns dishonorable discharge, which a vet suffering from post-traumatic disorders sees as a ruse to manage the demands on VA hospitals.

Compared against the recent past, programming director Sadie Tillery "would not say this year's films were especially bleak." The selection committee "culled together a mix from such a broad spectrum … some celebratory, some grim," she commented.

Of the more than 1,200 submissions that swarmed the Festival inbox, only 57 made it to the 2010 "New Docs" section.

Alex Gibney — whose Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005) and Oscar laureate Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) graced previous Full Frame editions — returns with Casino Jack and the United States of Money. The gripping saga of lobbyist Jack Abramoff spans his early years as Republican cheerleader through his incarceration for fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials, by way of Indian casinos, Russian spies, Chinese sweatshops and Mafia-style murder in Miami, Fla. As depressing as it is enlightening, Gibney's crash course in the commerce of democracy bares the nightmarish potential of the American Dream.

Yoruba Richen's Promised Land also vies in the "New Docs" competition. This study of land claims cases in South Africa follows two black communities struggling to reclaim their inheritance from white citizens who gained ownership under apartheid.

Screening alongside the competition will be a program of films about labor, identity and globalization. The series, which was curated by the directing team of Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, includes China Blue. Micha X. Peled's clandestine exposé of blue-jeans manufacture in China squints the human aspects of globalization, and makes you rethink what really comes between you and your denims.

Bognar and Reichert's latest film, The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, will be screened in the "Invited" category alongside such works as Michel Gondry's family album, The Thorn in the Heart, and Steven Soderbergh’s look back on monologist Spaulding Grey, And Everything is Going Fine.

This year's Career Award honors Liz Garbus and Rory Kennedy, makers of films on the legal system, AIDS, human rights and other social issues involving everyday heroes.

The four-day Festival, which is jointly presented with Duke University, offers conversations with filmmakers, workshops, parties and a handful of free community screenings.

For now, it has no plans to follow a small but growing roster of film festivals entering the distribution business. This could change under new executive director Dierdre Haj, though Tillery doesn't consider herself "a distributor or someone who can negotiate that deal."

"We made a conscious decision not to be a market," she adds. Nor does the Festival require premieres. "It's important for filmmakers to show as at many platforms as possible," explains Tillery.

The current thrust of Full Frame's industry ambitions is to allow "filmmakers to see one another's work and…have time to sit down with and enjoy coffee and discuss what they just saw." Set within a single downtown block, the Festival nurtures an atmosphere of sanity by the mere fact that "you're not running to the next shuttle or screening," says Tillery.

For further details, consult

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
324 Blackwell Street, Suite 500

Washington Building, Bay 5
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 687-4100
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

And for FFTraveler's coverage of Durham proper go to:


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