Ones to Watch at Aspen Filmfest
From some of the most anticipated American films of the year to discoveries from around the globe, in documentaries on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, and the rugged backcountry of Mongolia, the 20 films and six days of the 2017 Aspen Filmfest cover a lot of ground.
The lineup boasts buzzy awards season pictures from the festival circuit, such as “The Up Side” with Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart and Nicole Kidman and hot auteur titles like “Lady Bird” and “The Florida Project.” But it also includes high-culture entries that are right up Aspen’s alley, including documentaries about a Holocaust survivor-turned world-class harpsichordist (“Zuzana: Music is Life”) and a revelatory look at starlet Hedy Lamarr’s secret life as an inventor (“Bombshell”) and a profile of the artist Julian Schnabel.
It’s programmer Jane Schoettle’s second time picking movies for an Aspen festival – she helmed last year’s Academy Screenings.
“I tried to find the best, newest films in many genres that would suit the tastes of Aspen, so I’m looking for international films, I’m looking for films for a sophisticated audience that are somewhat challenging,” she explains. “But also, for the documentaries, I’m looking for areas of interest in the community like art, horses, food, biography.”
These are some screenings to mark on your calendar:
ALL THE WILD HORSES
Tuesday, Oct. 3, 8:15 p.m.
Wheeler Opera House
The Mongol Derby is the longest and most brutal horse race in the world, challenging riders to brave the elements across 1,000 kilometers through unforgiving terrain on the Mongolian Steppe. Filmmaker Ivo Marloh went along for the ride to tell the story of this suffer-fest on horseback. It gets its North American premiere on Aspen Filmfest’s opening night.
“It’s a really beautiful film and deserves a lot of attention,” Schoettle says.
THE KEEPING HOURS
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 8:15 p.m.
Wheeler Opera House
This ghost story starring the incredible Carrie Coon (of “The Leftovers”) is what Schoettle dubs the “hidden gem” of festival season. It won the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
“I think it’s one of the most moving narrative films of the year and I’m thrilled they’re going to let us play it in Aspen,” Schoettle says.
Director Karen Moncrief will be in hand for a post-screening Q&A.
Isis Theatre, Aspen: Thursday, Oct. 5, 2:30 p.m.
Crystal Theatre, Carbondale: Friday, Oct. 6, 5:30 p.m.
Colorado native John Carroll Lynch makes his directorial debut and gives the legendary Harry Dean Stanton a fittingly strange send-off in Stanton’s final big screen performance as a 90-year-old loner in the desert on a spiritual journey.
“It’s not so much a performance as a meditation on a certain way of life,” Schoettle says of Stanton’s final turn.
This one for the art-house crowd also features David Lynch, Ed Begley, Jr. and Tom Skerrit.
Isis Theatre, Aspen: Thursday, Oct. 5, 8:15 p.m.
THE FLORIDA PROJECT
Isis Theatre: Friday, Oct. 6, 8:15 p.m.
Crystal Theatre: Saturday, Oct. 7, 7:30 p.m.
Greta Gerwig has become one of her generation’s most respected writers and actors since 2012’s “Frances Ha.” And director Sean Baker made cinematic history with his 2015 iPhone-shot masterpiece “Tangerine.” The filmmakers’ big 2017 movies are some of the most anticipated titles of the year – “Lady Bird” premiered to raves at the Telluride Film Festival and “The Florida Project” wowed at Cannes.
These are going to be some of the most talked-about films of the next several months, so get an early look at the festival.
Friday, Oct. 6, 2:30 p.m.
This smart, funny and deep tale of three young Palestinian women navigating life in Tel Aviv has won awards from the Israeli Film Academy and at festivals from Cinetopia to Hafta and Toronto and leads a strong lineup of foreign titles in Aspen.
“You don’t see these characters represented on film very often,” Schoettle says.
A PRIVATE PORTRAIT
Saturday, Oct. 7, 2:30 p.m.
Consider this a bookend to Schnabel’s monumental exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum last winter, which collected 13 of his iconic “plate paintings” for their first museum show. In Papi Corsicato’s documentary, we follow the artist from childhood in Texas to his bad-boy art-world superstar rise in New York in the 1980s to his working life as an artist and icon today. The Aspen Art Museum’s Michelle Dezember will be on hand for a post-screening discussion.
Sunday, Oct. 8, 5:30 p.m.
Wheeler Opera House
An incisive look at Maori culture in New Zealand, this groundbreaking film is actually a compendium of eight 10-minute films by female Maori directors. Each story revolves around a single tragic event. It previously screened at the New Zealand and Toronto Film Festivals, where it’s blown away audiences.
“I knew the film was really big and had a huge emotional impact, but the responses from the audience were more than that,” Schoettle says.
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