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Aspen Film announced its film selections that will be screening at the 31st annual Aspen Filmfest 2009, September 30th through October 4th at the Wheeler Opera House and Isis Theatre in Aspen and at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale. The five-day festival will feature several award winning international narrative and documentary features, as well as previews of eagerly anticipated new films. Tickets for Aspen Filmfest go on sale September 21st and the guide is currently available online at www.aspenfilm.org.
True to its history with a passion for films that inspire, educate and entertain, Aspen Film celebrates 30 years in a very big way this year. Aspen Filmfest 2009 will feature special guests and programs that honor the past and look to the future. Program Director George Eldred said, "International in scope and universally appealing, this year's line-up of comedy, drama and documentary films is one of our most eclectic and satisfying programs yet. From marquee talent to work by new directors, the festival promises to deliver an engaging, thought-provoking, and inspiring five days for film lovers of all sorts."
Receiving the New Directions Award is a longtime friend of Aspen Film, director Jason Reitman (Juno and Thank You For Smoking) who in his brief, young career has skyrocketed to success. Aspen Filmfest will screen Mr. Reitman's latest film UP IN THE AIR starring George Clooney. Looking to the future, Aspen Filmfest honors Paula Patton with the Artist To Watch Award for her vivid performance in PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL 'PUSH' BY SAPPHIRE. Regarding the festival's selection of Ms. Patton, Executive Director Laura Thielen said, "In a film with outstanding performances across the board, we are especially honored to recognize Paula Patton for her beautifully nuanced performance as Ms. Rain, one of the film's pivotal, transforming roles." Finally with a cinematic career as broad and diverse as this year's line-up, Aspen Filmfest will honor Stanley Tucci with the signature Independent by Nature Award.
Aspen Filmfest will present Cherien Dabis' sympathetic immigrant tale AMREEKA; AN EDUCATION, Lone Scherfig's coming of age tale set in swinging 1960s London; Scott Hicks' family drama THE BOYS ARE BACK starring Clive Owen; and Oscar-winning Adam Elliot's bittersweet animated feature debut, MARY AND MAX voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette.
With an eye on the world, Aspen Filmfest will keep the dialogue interesting with CRITICS' CHOICE, a lively conversation on the state and place of contemporary film criticism with John Powers, Vogue magazine's film critic and NPR's "Fresh Air" critic at large; along with Mark Olsen, LA Times "IndieFocus" columnist and critic. Screenings of award winning international titles include Gianni Di Gregorio's Italian comedy MID-AUGUST LUNCH; Aida Begić's lyrical Bosnian-Serbian post-war story SNOW; Dror Zahavi's FOR MY FATHER, an Israeli film about a young Palestinian who travels to Tel Aviv to redeem his fathers honor; SHAMELESS the sexy new comedy from Czech director Jan Hrebejk and a SNEAK PREVIEW, a festival tradition featuring an important new work.
Aspen Filmfest is committed to bringing quality documentaries and their directors to audiences. This year's line up includes such anticipated titles as Michael Moore's CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY, in which Moore explores capitalism and the American dream. MORE THAN A GAME, in which director Kristopher Belman (in attendance) captures the meteoric rise of basketball icon LeBron James and teammates during the run-up to their National High School Championships. A film that hits closer to home is HIGH TURNS, SKIING ASPEN TO EVEREST with Aspenite Mike Marolt whose film captivates audiences with the wild adventures of hiking the world's tallest mountains and then skiing down them. Also attending is correspondent and award winning producer of PBS's Frontline, Greg Barker, whose powerful SERGIO takes a look at the life of U.N. envoy diplomat and humanitarian Sergio Vieria de Mello. Aspen Filmfest's Special Presentation of WILDFLOWER: NATURALIST JOAN ROOT ON THE PAGE AND IN THE BUSH will feature Aspen-based author Mark Seal, Vanity Fair contributing editor, reading from his book "Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa", and a screening of LIGHTS, ACTION, AFRICA, a classic profile about wildlife activist and celebrated filmmaker Joan Root and her former husband Alan.
Rounding out the documentary presentations are: Faiza Ahmad Khan's SUPERMEN OF MALEGAON, the hilarious and compelling film about an Indian community's love affair with Hollywood blockbusters; Hilla Medalia's AFTER THE STORM, the uplifting story about three Broadway veterans who mount a musical with local New Orleans teens; and Gael Métroz's stunning NOMAD'S LAND, recording the filmmaker's travels from Istanbul to Sri Lanka, following the footsteps of legendary Swiss philosopher and adventurer Nicolas Bouvier.
ASPEN FILMFEST 2009 SPECIAL GUEST AWARD HONOREES
Independent by Nature Award - This year the Independent by Nature Award will be presented to Stanley Tucci (Julie & Julia, The Devil Wears Prada). The award honors a film artist who has created a significant body of work that resonates with audiences and peers and enriches the contemporary movie experience. The tribute with Mr. Tucci in person will take place on Saturday, October 3rd at 6 PM at the Wheeler Opera House. Past recipients have included Julie Christie, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Angelica Huston, William H. Macy, Sydney Pollack, Bob Rafelson, and Rob Reiner. There will also be a free screening of BIG NIGHT, Mr. Tucci's acclaimed film debut as a writer-director-star on Wednesday, September 30.
The New Directions Award - Aspen Film will honor Academy Award® nominated director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking) with its first ever New Directions Award in recognition of his tremendous creative achievement as a writer and director. The festival will screen his new feature, UP IN THE AIR starring George Clooney and present the New Directions Award followed by an onstage conversation with Mr. Reitman. This special evening will take place Friday, October 2nd, 6:00 PM at the Wheeler Opera House.
Artist to Watch Award - Aspen Film will honor rising star Paula Patton (PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL 'PUSH' BY SAPPHIRE, Swing Vote, Hitch) with the first Artist to Watch Award for her vivid performance as Ms. Rain, the inspiring alternative school teacher who instills her young charges with a glimmer of hope and self-respect. Aspen Film will screen the critically acclaimed PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL 'PUSH' BY SAPPHIRE followed by the award presentation and an onstage conversation Thursday, October 1st, 6:00 PM at the Wheeler Opera House.
ASPEN FILMFEST 2009 ADDITIONAL PRESENTATIONS
CRITICS' CHOICE: Clips and Conversation with Film Critics Mark Olsen and John Powers
Saturday October 3, 10:30 AM - Special Presentation
Wheeler Opera House (program 90 min.)
Four stars. Rotten tomatoes. Thumbs up, thumbs down. Lately there's been a lot of press and industry discussion regarding the current role of film criticism, especially in light of newer media like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. Do traditional reviews still matter? And, if so, why are they important to audiences and American film culture? John Powers film critic for Vogue and critic-at-large for NPR's "Fresh Air with Terry Gross" along with Mark Olsen, weekly critic of "Indie Focus" at the Los Angeles Times will screen clips from movies that have profoundly influenced their approach as critics and also lead a conversation on the evolving role of the film reviewer. Free Coffee & Pastries
WILDFLOWER: Naturalist Joan Root on the Page and in the Bush
Sunday, October 4, 12:00 PM (Noon) - Special Presentation with Author Mark Seal
Wheeler Opera House (program 90 min.)
Join us for an afternoon of readings and film in celebration of Kenyan naturalist and wildlife filmmaker Joan Root. Aspen-based Vanity Fair contributing editor Mark Seal will read from his new book, "Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa", and will screen LIGHTS, ACTION, AFRICA (Filmfest 1986) and other clips. Hosted by Queen Elizabeth and receiving countless awards, the Roots defined wildlife filmmaking in the 1960s and '70s. From introducing Diane Fossey to the gorillas to protecting her beloved Lake Naivasha from ecological ravaging - an ultimately tragic struggle - Ms. Root possessed an uncanny ability to connect with her surroundings. Julia Roberts has optioned the rights to her story.
THE ASPEN FILMFEST 2009 LINE-UP
AFTER THE STORM - Dir: Hilla Medalia
Cast: Rayán Arnold, Annie Britton, Eric T. Calhoun Jr., Griffin Collins III, Deshawn Dabney, Joel C. Dyson, Hannah Guillory, Grant Hunter, James Lecesne, Taylor Marrs, Gerry McIntyre, Randy Redd, Ashley Rose Richard, Jasmin Simmons, Desiree Stevenson, Jon Stevenson, April Stewart
Synopsis: When three New York theater veterans mount a production of the Broadway musical "Once on This Island" to raise funds for the Hurricane Katrina storm-damaged St. Mark's Community Center, the benefits prove to be much more than financial. After the Storm is a non-profit film & theatre project that uses the power of art to rekindle, rejuvenate and renew the hearts and lives of the children of New Orleans. (USA, 2009, 89 min.)
AMREEKA - Dir: Cherien Dabis
Cast: Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass, Alia Shawkat
Synopsis: Drawing on her own immigrant family experiences, Cherien Dabis weaves humor and empathy into her feature debut about a single mother's efforts to forge a better life for her teenage son and herself. With an irresistibly charming performance by Nisreen Faour as Muna, this fish-out-of-water story brings fresh insight, transforming the often-bittersweet immigrant experience into a universal expression of optimism and determination. (USA/Canada/Kuwait, 2009, 96 min.)
AN EDUCATION - Dir: Lone Scherfig, Writer: Nick Hornby
Cast: Emma Thompson, Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams
Synopsis: A seductive coming-of-age story set in the pre-Beatles London of 1961, AN EDUCATION features 16-year-old Jenny (up-and-comer Carey Mulligan), a bright, attractive schoolgirl who can't wait to escape adolescence. As her parents focus on getting their daughter into Oxford, a dream that seems tantalizingly within reach, Jenny's life is upended by the arrival of David (Peter Sarsgaard), a charismatic suitor twice her age. While Jenny's traditional education is superseded by this infinitely more tempting version, her school life falls into chaos. Adapted to the screen by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) and directed by Lone Scherfig (Italian for Beginners), this clever, nuanced film won top awards at Sundance. Alfred Molina and Emma Thompson also star. (UK, 2009, 95 min.)
BIG NIGHT - Dir: Stanley Tucci, Campbell Scott
Cast: Isabella Rossellini, Minnie Driver, Liev Schreiber, Allison Janney, Tony Shalhoub, Marc Anthony, and Sir Ian Holm
Synopsis: To celebrate Stanley Tucci, recipient of this year's Independent by Nature Award, come savor this beloved take on the American dream, which Tucci co-directed, co-wrote, and starred in. When the slick owner of a bustling nearby restaurant offers to invite a well-known bandleader and his entourage to eat at the brothers' restaurant, Secondo grasps this last chance to keep the business afloat. As Primo begins to prepare a culinary masterpiece, all hopes are staked on this big night. Winner of numerous critics' and festival awards, this delightful debut also stars. An Aspen Film & the Wheeler Opera House Free Community Screening. (USA, 1996, 107 min.)
THE BOYS ARE BACK - Dir: Scott Hicks
Cast: Clive Owen, Laura Fraser, George MacKay, Emma Booth, Erik Thomson, Nichola McAnulty
Synopsis: Based on British journalist Simon Carr's wryly-confessional memoir, this latest feature from Scott Hicks (Shine) is a moving, frequently funny valentine to boys being boys and a dad who needs to grow up. Joe Warr (Clive Owen) is plunged into single parenthood with a six-year-old he barely knows. Ill prepared to be a father and loathe to deny his son Artie anything, Joe unwittingly creates a family life without rules - exuberant, chaotic, and constantly on the verge of disaster. When his teenage son from a previous marriage shows up, things only grow more complicated. As their tenuous family equilibrium threatens to unravel, Joe must finally confront his own inadequacies. (Australia/UK, 2009, 104 min.)
CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY - Dir: Michael Moore
Cast: Michael Moore
Synopsis: On the 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking film Roger & Me, Michael Moore returns to an issue he's passionately examined throughout his career: the impact of corporate dominance on everyday Americans. Yet Moore also offers his take on an alternative future, resulting in a film that is both soberingly of the moment yet somehow hopeful. (USA, 2009, 120 min.)
FOR MY FATHER - Dir: Dror Zahavi
Cast: Shredi Jabarin, Hili Yalon, Shlomo Wishinski, Jony Arbid
Synopsis: Tarek, a young Palestinian seeking to redeem his father's honor, reluctantly travels to Tel Aviv on a terrorist mission. While awaiting the repair of a malfunctioned weapon, he is befriended by elderly immigrants Mr. and Mrs. Katz, and Keren, and a beautiful 17-year-old estranged from her ultra-Orthodox family. Gradually, Tarek starts to reconsider his options, knowing that when the weekend ends, he will have to make the decision of his life. By turns suspenseful, comic, romantic, and tragic, Israeli director Dror Zahavi's tale takes an even-handed, humanistic look at the unexpected commonalities among individuals unwillingly caught up in the region's cycle of political violence. Nominated for the Israeli Academy Awards in seven categories and winner of the Audience Award at the Moscow International Film Festival. (Israel, 2008, 100 min.)
HIGH TURNS, SKIING ASPEN TO EVEREST - Dir: Mike Marolt (attending)
Cast: Mike Marolt, Steve Marolt, Roger Marolt
Synopsis: Filmmaker Mike Marolt, his brothers Steve and Roger, and their intrepid friends passionately push the limits of skiing to its highest frontier. Fourth-generation Aspenites whose father was on the 1960 Olympic ski team, the Marolts take us for thrilling rides on Mustagh Ata, on the China-Pakistan border; Ojos del Salado, the world's highest volcano, in Chile; and a Himalayan trio of renowned peaks, including Mount Everest. (USA, 2009, 70 min.)
MARY AND MAX - Dir: Adam Elliot
Voices: Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana, Barry Humphries
Synopsis: Fresh from its honors at the world's leading animation festivals, this disarmingly idiosyncratic debut feature from director Adam Elliot (Oscar-winning Harvie Krumpet) explores an unusual friendship between two unlikely pen pals: Mary (Toni Collette), a lonely eight-year-old Australian and Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a middle-aged, reclusive New Yorker with Asperger's syndrome. Over 20 years, as Mary grows up and Max grows older, this mismatched pair's amusing yet poignant correspondence gives news of their daily lives and expresses their views on friendship, aging, taxidermy, and more. Inspired by his own pen-pal experience, Elliot has created an imaginative, bittersweet examination of the human heart's irrepressible desire for love and acceptance. (Australia, 2008, 92 min.)
MID-AUGUST LUNCH - Dir: Gianni Di Gregorio
Cast: Valeria De Franciscis, Marina Cacciotti, Maria Calì, Grazia Cesarini Sforza, Alfonso Santagata
Synopsis: While most Italians are enjoying their summer holiday, Gianni has decided to stay home and have a quite, lovely holiday with his mother. When Gianni finds himself entertaining his mothers elderly friends as well, he will need a good dose of patience and perhaps another bottle of vino bianco. Gianni Di Gregorio, the versatile writer, director, and star of this fine comedy, which won honors at the Venice Film Festival is a light and playful film with spirited performances by an ensemble of mostly nonprofessionals. (Italy, 2008, 75 min.)
MORE THAN A GAME - Dir: Kristopher Belman (attending)
Cast: LeBron James, Dru Joyce III, Romeo Travis, Sian Cotton, Willie McGee
Synopsis: In this true-life story, five talented young basketball players in Akron, Ohio, including future NBA superstar LeBron James, undertake an improbable nine-year journey to a national high school championship. Along the way, they are repeatedly tested, on and off the court, as James' exploding celebrity - he's dubbed the "Chosen One" on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" - threatens to overshadow what they've set out to achieve together. First-time filmmaker Kristopher Belman had the foresight to document the team's rise, which he augments with interviews, rare news footage, and home videos. Much more than just a sports film, this adrenaline-fueled documentary captures the exceptional pressures, hardships, and triumphs these lifelong friends experience on their passage from inner-city gym to national spotlight. (USA, 2008, 102 min.)
NOMAD'S LAND - Dir: Gael Métroz
Cast: Eliane Petit Pierre
Synopsis: Swiss adventurer, philosopher, and travel writer Nicolas Bouvier set out on an epic journey in 1952, driving from Geneva to Sri Lanka. Inspired by Bouvier's account, young Swiss filmmaker Gael Métroz intends, alone and camera in hand, to retrace his hero's route. Trading his car for jeeps and camels, Métroz abandons his original plan and forges his own path, making a profound connection to nomadic peoples and the physical and spiritual beauty of their environment. Through stunning photography and an immersion in worlds most of us will never experience, Métroz delivers unassailable proof of the transformative power of travel. (Switzerland/Turkey/Iran/Pakistan/Afghanistan/China/India/Sri Lanka, 2008, 90 min.)
PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL 'PUSH' BY SAPPHIRE - Dir: Lee Daniels
Cast: Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton (attending), Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, and Sherri Shepherd
Synopsis: One of the most audacious, raw, and impressive films of the year, this second feature from Lee Daniels (producer of Monster's Ball) is the story of Claireece "Precious" Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), a Harlem teenager caught in a seemingly insurmountable chain of harrowing circumstances. Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL 'PUSH' BY SAPPHIRE, is an unsparing and ultimately elevating account of the inner strength to be found in the unlikeliest of places. (USA, 2008, 109 min.)
SERGIO - Dir: Greg Barker (attending)
Synopsis: Based on Samantha Power's book "Chasing the Flame", this riveting film follows Sergio Vieira de Mello and his seemingly charmed career to its tragic conclusion in the ruins of the U.N. Embassy in post-invasion Iraq. Filmmaker Greg Barker, a former war correspondent and award winning producer of PBS's "Frontline", intercuts Sergio's compelling life story with the intensely emotional narrative of his final day, delivering an inspiring tribute to a man who put humanitarianism above all else. Winner of the U.S. Documentary Editing Award at Sundance. (USA, 2008, 94 min.)
SHAMELESS - Dir: Jan Hrebejk
Cast: Simona Babcáková, Petr Ctvrtnícek, Nina Divísková, Karel Gott, Ady Hajdu
Synopsis: This lively farce from director Jan Hrebejk (Beauty in Trouble, Teddy Bear) follows Oskar (Jiri Machacek), a popular TV weatherman Oskar who embarks on a midlife flight from self-awareness, meeting up with a series of women from young, shallow beauties to the aging but enchanting singer Nora (popular Slovak vocalist Emilia Vasaryova). Hrebejk draws on a talented ensemble cast to effortlessly weave together multiple storylines. Loosely based on best-selling Czech writer Michal Viewegh's "Short Stories of Marriage and Sex", this cleverly detailed, ironic comedy offers droll yet recognizable insights on losing and finding love. (Czech Republic, 2008, 88 min.)
SNOW - Dir/Writer: Aida Begić
Cast: Zana Marjanović, Jasna Bery, Sadzida Setić, Vesna Masić, Emir Hadzihafizbegović, Irena Mulamuhić, Jelena Kordić
Synopsis: Following the Bosnian-Serbian war, as the strong-willed widows and orphans banter, remember, and wonder about their future, two Serbs arrive with an offer that could save the villagers, yet undo the village. With deft touches of wry humor and magical realism, first-time director and co-writer Aida Begić weaves a visually poetic tale of one community's journey toward reconciliation, self-determination, and the sweet pleasures of everyday life. Winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival's Critic's Week. (Bosnia and Herzegovina/Germany/ France/Iran, 2008, 99 min.)
SUPERMEN OF MALEGAON - Dir: Faiza Ahmad Khan
Cast: Shakeel Bharati, Farogh Jafri, Akram Khan, Shafique, Sheikh Nasir
Synopsis: Watching movies has long offered a diversion from the daily grind of exhausting, low-wage work at the Malegaon looms. The only thing better for Self-taught filmmaker Sheikh Nasir is making them. Director Faiza Ahmad Khan follows Nasir and his ragtag cohorts as they undertake their most ambitious project yet, a remake of Superman. Hilarious and compelling, Khan's documentary captures the joys and tribulations of a very particular love affair with movies and the indomitable spirit of those who find solace through their temporary fantasy. (Singapore/Japan/South Korea, 2008, 79 min.)
UP IN THE AIR - Dir: Jason Reitman (attending)
Cast: George Clooney, Jason Bateman, Melanie Lynskey, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Danny McBride, and Chris Lowell
Synopsis: Smart, funny, and unexpectedly affecting, this new feature from writer-director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You for Smoking) stars George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a corporate suit whose job is to fire people. While Ryan coolly executes his charge, his one real emotional investment is in racking up an unfathomable number of frequent flier miles - until his own job security is threatened and he simultaneously gets involved with a fellow business traveler. Clooney gives a comically spot-on performance that also reveals the angst of a man searching for a soul he hopes is still there. (USA, 2009, 108 min.)
Aspen Filmfest is made possible in part by The City of Aspen, The Aspen Times, Aspen Peak, Aspen Public Radio, the Hotel Jerome, the Sky Hotel, and REEL PEOPLE, Aspen Film's membership program.
Official Program Guide is currently available online at www.aspenfilm.org. The paper version is available at the Aspen Film office, in the Aspen Times Weekly on September 18 and 27, and at various locations throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. Visit www.aspenfilm.org for schedule information and up-to-the-minute additions.
Tickets go on sale to the public on Monday, September 21 at Aspen Show Tickets at the Wheeler 970.920.5770 or www.aspenshowtickets.com), and Main Street Gallery (970.963.3775) in Carbondale. Tickets are also available at the door, pending availability.
About Aspen Film
Established in 1979, Aspen Film is one of Colorado's most active film arts organizations, presenting more than 200 programs and featuring dozens of guest speakers throughout the year. Internationally recognized, Aspen Film organizes a major film event in every season, along with an extensive education program.
To enlighten, enrich, educate, and entertain through film. Aspen Film stimulates thought, encourages dialogue, and broadens understanding of our world and ourselves through the diverse spectrum of ideas presented by filmmakers worldwide.
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