April 11, 2016


Aspen, Colo. (April 11, 2016) — Aspen Film, a year-round film arts and education organization, announced today its award winners for the 25th Aspen Shortsfest, which ran from April 5-10, 2016 at Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House and Carbondale’s Crystal Theatre. The festivities commenced on Sunday evening at the Awards Dinner hosted by Aspen Film at the Cooking School of Aspen.

Aspen Shortsfest is widely recognized as a premier North American showcase for short comedy, drama, documentary and animation, as well as a destination for discovering breakthrough talent. Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) and Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell) are among notable alumni whose earliest work — short films — first screened at Aspen Shortsfest.

“In my many years of programming, I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of a complete festival program. The filmmakers whose work we showcased exemplify the myriad voices telling cinematic stories today, and their short films display an incredible array of narrative and visual approaches,” says Aspen Film Artistic Director Maggie Mackay. “That we were able to host so many filmmakers, and help to foster a growing, connected community of artists, is the cherry on top.”

The 2016 slate of films featured 11 world premieres, 3 North American Premieres, 4 U.S. premieres and 3 international premieres from filmmakers representing Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Central African Republic, China, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Palestinian Authority, Scotland, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. The 2016 Shortsfest Programming team, led by Artistic Director Maggie Mackay, included James Jefferies, Programmer/Programming Coordinator at Aspen Film, and Associate Programmers Angie Driscoll (Programmer HotDocs; TIFF) Brandon Harris (Filmmaker/Critic/Professor), Jenn Murphy, (Programmer AFI FEST; LAFF), Cedar Sherbert (Filmmaker/Programmer) and Craig Turpin (Producer/Editor/Aspenite).

For the complete Aspen Shortsfest program visit

Following in the tradition of Shortsfest official selections going on to Oscar® success, this year Bear Story (Shortsfest, 2015) won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, and We Can’t Live Without Cosmos (Shortsfest 2015) and Shok (Shortsfest 2015) were nominated. Aspen Shortsfest is a juried festival with almost all films, many of them premieres, competing for awards in multiple categories. A prestigious jury of film professionals awards cash prizes to the winners, who may then qualify for Oscar® eligibility. As defined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a short film is “an original motion picture that has a running time of 40 minutes or less, including all credits.”

The Aspen Shortsfest Jury is comprised of critic/programmer David Ansen, critic/writer Lisa Kennedy, and producer Danielle Renfrew Behrens.

The Youth Jury is comprised of students from Aspen High School and Aspen Middle School and is given to the one film they determine as the best in the program.

The inaugural Seed&Spark Award is presented to one film that crowdfunded a portion of their budget by Aspen FilmShortsfest partner Seed&Spark — the film industry’s groundbreaking crowdfunding platform. The winner receives $250 toward their next Seed&Spark crowdfunding campaign (on campaigns of $7,500 or more), individual consultation with Seed&Spark experts, and distribution on Seed&Spark’s streaming web-based platform.


The Jury recognized films with the following Oscar®-qualifying awards:

Best Animated Film ($2,500)
Deer Flower, directed by Kangmin Kim (USA/South Korea)
The Jury stated: “For its striking and original use of stop-motion, 3D animation to chronicle a boy’s unnerving coming-of-age ritual.”

Best Comedy ($2,500)
Hounds, directed by Omer Tobi (Israel)
The Jury stated: “For its bitingly funny send-up of bureaucratic infighting, its bold visual style, and its original and unexpected storytelling.”

Best Drama ($2,500)
Thanks for Dancing, directed by Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken (Norway)
The Jury stated: “For its heartbreaking, unsentimental — and sometimes humorous — depiction of the last days of a loving, life-long relationship.”

Best Documentary ($2,500)
Irregulars, directed by Fabio Palmieri (Italy)
The Jury stated: “The marriage of a brilliant visual metaphor to a harrowing personal story illuminates the plight of refugees with devastating artistry and force.”

Best Short Short ($1,000)
Mining Poems or Odes, directed by Callum Rice (Scotland/UK)
The Jury stated: “For the film’s striking imagery and unique insight into the creative process, and for its director, who crafted a film as poetic as his subject.”

The Jury also awarded films in the following categories:

Best Student Short ($1,000)
Sea Breeze, directed by Chun-Yi Li (Taiwan/UK)
The Jury stated: “Loneliness and the possibility of connection are at the heart of this nuanced tale of a Taiwanese shopkeeper and a Filipino migrant worker, which unfolds against the backdrop of larger immigration issues. A fresh and poignant drama.”

Special Recognitions:
I, Destini, directed by Nicholas Pilarski and Destini Riley (USA)
The Jury stated: “For its evocative use of personal experience to animate a vast and urgent social issue.”

La Laguna, directed by Aaron Schock (USA)
The Jury stated: “For its lyrical and intimate cinematography.”

Julia Pointner in Everything Will Okay, directed by Patrick Vollrathfor (Germany/Austria)
The Jury stated: “For her devastating and uncanny performance as a child abducted by her father.”

World Wide Woven Bodies, directed by Truls Krane Meby (Norway)
The Jury stated: “For its clever and sensitive depiction of the comedy of puberty.”


Audience Award ($500)
Thanks for Dancing, directed by Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken (Norway)

Audience Special Recognition
Pickle, directed by Amy Nicholson (USA)


The Ellen Award ($2,500)
Irregulars, directed by Fabio Palmieri (Italy)
Named for Aspen Film’s Founder and former Executive Director, Ellen Kohner Hunt and originated from an endowment raised by the community to annually award a film that embodies the spirit of Aspen Film’s programming from 1976 to 1995. The 2016 Ellen Award Jury was comprised of Steve Alldredge, Linda Girvin, Gail Holstein, Ellen Kohner Hunt, and Lynda Palevsky.

SEED&SPARK Best Crowdfunded Film Award ($250)
Sea Breeze, directed by Chun-Yi Li (Taiwan/UK)
The Jury stated: “For his personal sacrifice and investment, and for the formal ambition and human scope of his work, Seed&Spark presents the inaugural Seed&Spark Award for Best Crowdfunded Film to Chun-Yi Li’s Sea Breeze.”

The Youth Jury Award ($500)
La Laguna, directed by Aaron Schock (USA)
The Jury stated: “For its stunning cinematography and beautiful message that family comes first. This film shed light on human dilemmas the jurors have never seen portrayed in main stream media, and made the Jury think about global issues they had not considered before.”


David Ansen was a movie critic for Newsweek from 1977 to 2008. He was the Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Film Festival from 2010 through 2014. He is currently the Lead Programmer of the Palm Springs International Film Festival. He has written documentaries for TNT, HBO and PBS on Greta Garbo, Groucho Marx, Bette Davis, and Elizabeth Taylor and has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, Interview, Cosmopolitan, and other publications. In the 1990s he served for eight years on the selection committee of the New York Film Festival.

Danielle Renfrew Behrens is an award-winning independent producer. She has premiered seven films at the Sundance Film Festival including Grandma, which earned Lily Tomlin rave reviews and a Golden Globe nomination, and the Emmy nominated Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. Other celebrated credits include the Sundance Jury Prize-winner The Queen of Versailles, and Waitress, which was just adapted into a Broadway musical. Renfrew Behrens recently launched Superlative Films, an equity fund and strategic partner for independent features and documentaries with headquarters in Boulder, CO.

Lisa Kennedy writes about popular culture, race, and gender – and has for more than two decades. From 2003 to 2015 she was film critic for The Denver Post. In 2012, she added theater critic to her title. A member of The National Society of Film Critics, she has been a juror for the American Film Institute’s Top Movies, Film Independent’s Spirit Awards, and the Gotham Awards. She has also been a judge for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism. Jurying for Aspen Shortsfest remains one of her favorite gigs. As she works on book and freelance projects, she continues to review films as host of “Reaction Shot,” a weekly movie review show on


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The 25th Aspen Shortsfest is generously supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, AspenOUT, City of Aspen, Colorado Creative Industries, Colorado Office of Film, Television & Media, Les Dames d’Aspen, Thrift Shop of Aspen and the Towns of Basalt and Carbondale. Aspen Shortsfest is presented by The Aspen Times and sponsored by Alpine Bank, Aspen Club & Spa, Aspen Public Radio, BRIGHT IDEAS, KQED’s Film School Shorts, KSPN and Seed&Spark.

Established in 1979, Aspen Film is one of Colorado’s most active film arts organizations, presenting dynamic programs and featured guest artists throughout the year. Internationally recognized, Aspen Film organizes a major film event in every season, along with an extensive education program: Aspen Filmfest, Academy Screenings, Aspen Shortsfest and Film Educates. With a mission to enlighten, enrich, educate and entertain through film, Aspen Film stimulates thought, encourages dialogue and broadens understanding of our world and selves through the diverse spectrum of ideas presented by filmmakers worldwide. To learn more, visit and socially on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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