Ones to Watch at Aspen Filmfest 2018

September 20, 2018

Ones to Watch at Aspen Filmfest 2018

Andrew Travers
Sep 20, 2018

The Aspen Filmfest audience will be among the first anywhere to see some of the most anticipated and most Oscar-touted titles of the fall.

Highly praised Filmfest titles coming off of recent festival premieres include Steve McQueen’s star-studded Viola Davis-led heist thriller “Widows,”the addiction drama “Beautiful Boy” with Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carrell, the Jacques Audiard-directed comedic western “The Sisters Brothers” with John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix and Jake Gyllenhaal, and the historical drama “Colette” with Keira Knightley as the influential French author.

“It’s an embarrassment of riches,” said Aspen Film executive director Susan Wrubel. “I wanted Filmfest to be the highest caliber of prestige films.”

The festival also marks the return of Aspen Film’s Independent By Nature Award, last bestowed in 2009. “Beautiful Boy” director Felix Van Groeningen will accept the prize and discuss his career on the festival’s closing night, following the screening of “Beautiful Boy.”

The 39th annual festival runs Sept. 25-30 at the Wheeler Opera House and Isis Theater in Aspen, and at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale.

Wrubel, in her second year at the helm of Filmfest selected films for the festival herself — a break from the process of recent years that brought in outside programmers for the festival.

“The thing I love about this program is that everything has an uplifting message or there is some kind of call to action,” said Wrubel, pointing to documentaries like “On Her Shoulders” and “The Price of Free” and the surprising Alzheimer’s family drama “What They Had.” “And the themes came together naturally. There is a lot about family — whether it’s the family that you were born into or the family that you choose — and overcoming adversity.”

While the buzziest and starriest movies are of course on top of the bill, this year’s 21-movie FIlmfest lineup is also deep.

Beyond the awards bait and big names, the lineup includes several documentaries that are ready-made for an Aspen audience: “Pick of the Litter,” following puppies through two years of training to become guide dogs for the blind (Wednesday, Sept. 26); “Momentum Generation,” the Zimablist brothers’ in-depth portrait of the lifelong friendships forged in Kelly Slater’s boyhood surfing crew (Friday, Sept. 28, in Aspen, Sunday in Carbondale), “This Mountain Life,” about adventurers and mountaineers of British Columbia (Friday in Aspen and Carbondale) and “3 Days 2 Nights” about the survivors of a 1970s plane crash near Aspen (more on that below).

The foreign titles at the festival showcase films that picked up the biggest awards at the Cannes Film Festival: the Japanese drama “Shoplifters,” which won the Palme d’Or; and Pawl Pawikowski’s “Cold War,” which won the Best Director prize. Other foreign titles include the documentary/drama hybrid of Holocaust survival “The Invisibles” and Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows,” starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.

As you’re planning your screenings for the festival, don’t forget these screenings and special events:


‘3 Days 2 Nights’
Wheeler Opera House, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 5:30 p.m.
Crystal Theatre, Saturday, Sept. 29, 5:30 p.m.

This is the movie everyone in Aspen will be talking about after the festival. The film is an intensely personal portrait of Mark and Andy Godfrey, who survived a plane crash on the way to a family ski vacation in 1974 when they were young boys. The crash killed their parents, brother and sister. They’ve rarely spoken publicly, but they bare all in this film as they attempt to heal the emotional wounds and mend their relationship 40 years after the tragedy. The film is still in the editing process. Director John Breen is bringing an early cut of this remarkable doc to the Godfreys’ hometown audience.

The Godfreys and Breen will be at the Wheeler for a post-screening Q&A.

‘Studio 54’
Wheeler Opera House, Sept. 29, 7:15 p.m.

Expect sex, drugs and disco. And maybe something more profound. The journalist and documentarian Matt Tyrnauer has gotten Studio 54 co-founder Ian Schrager to talk on the record, for the first time, about the iconic and debauched disco-era nightclub in this film. With a track record of incisive, glamorous docs like “Valentino” and “Scotty,” expect something both fascinating and fun in Tyrnauer’s “54.” He will be on-hand for a post-screening Q&A.


‘Behind the Magic with Don Hahn’
Wheeler Opera House, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 10:30 a.m.

The producer of Disney classics like “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” takes Filmfest behind the scenes in a multimedia presentation. Hahn also directed “Howard,” a documentary about the late lyricist Howard Ashman, which opens the festival (Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2:30 p.m.).

From Book to Screen: ‘Leave No Trace’
Wheeler Opera House, Thursday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m. (following 5 p.m. film screening)

Peter Rock wrote the novel on which this father-daughter drama is based, Adrienne Brodeur — director of Aspen Words — acquired it as an editor at Houghton Mifflin and producer Linda Reisman helped bring it to the big screen with a nearly all-female team of creative visionaries. All three will be onstage to tell the tale of the book’s long journey to the screen and how “Leave No Trace” became one of the most acclaimed films of the year.

Documentary: Taking It to the Extreme
Wheeler Opera House, Saturday, Sept. 29, 10:30 a.m.

The filmmakers behind two highly touted new adventure documentaries take a deep dive on their projects and the extraordinary big wave surfers and mountaineers who inspired them. The conversation brings together Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, directors of the surfing doc “Momentum Generation” (Aspen: Friday Sept. 28, 8:15 p.m.; Carbondale: Sunday, Sept. 30, 7:30 p.m.) and Grant Baldwin, director of the group portrait of adventurers in the Canadian Rockies “This Mountain Life” (Aspen: Friday, Sept. 28, 2:30 p.m.; Carbondale: Friday, Sept. 28, 5:30 p.m.).


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