Aspen Film’s 43rd annual Filmfest returns
September 12, 2022
Aspen Film’s 43rd annual Filmfest returns Sept. 27 through Oct. 2. This year’s festival will present 16 feature-length films, comprising a diverse selection of cinematic storytelling from across the globe.
Susan Wrubel, executive and artistic director of Aspen Film, has spent months scouting some of the biggest film festivals in the world — such as South by Southwest, Cannes, Toronto, Venice and Telluride — to “cherry pick” the highlights of what’s to come this fall and winter season in the film industry, she said.
“Because this is an invitational festival, we look for things that resonate,” Wrubel said. “And if you look at the lineup, these films have a lot to say.”
Many of this year’s films bring pathos and empathy to the screen, Wrubel explained, and notable themes surface. Some of the common motifs include family, friendship and loyalty, defending equality and justice and the essence of mental health.
“A lot of the themes are really important to this community, things that people here can relate to,” Wrubel said. “I try to focus on films that have messages I think this community will respond to — some of those messages are feel-good, others are a little uncomfortable.”
Filmfest will kick off with one of the more “feel-good” stories for the opening night screening on Sept. 27 at the Wheeler Opera House. The first film being showcased, titled “Good Night Oppy,” tells the true story of a rover by the name of “Opportunity” that was sent to Mars for a 90-day mission and ended up surviving for 15 years. The family-friendly documentary follows Opportunity’s journey on Mars and the rover’s remarkable relationship with its human space team back on Earth.
Wrubel noted “Good Night Oppy” as a highlight in this year’s festival and said the film is inspirational for people of all ages. Following its opening-night debut, Aspen Film is working to do an educational screening of “Good Night Oppy” at Aspen Middle School sometime during the week of Filmfest.
Other festival highlights include a special-tribute screening of the film “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” a 1981 remake of the 1946 film noir classic. The newer version was directed by the late Bob Rafelson, a longtime Aspenite who passed away in July.
Rafelson received the first-ever Aspen Film “Independent by Nature” award in 1999, and 20 years later, he was presented with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” at Aspen Film’s 40th Anniversary in 2019.
“We’re doing this as a celebration of Bob and homage to him as a filmmaker,” Wrubel said. “He exemplifies our ‘Independent by Nature’ spirit.”
“The Postman Always Rings Twice” is in addition to the 16 select films and will be screened on Sept. 29 at the Wheeler Opera House as a free community event. Advanced registration is required to attend.
Filmfest will also feature a surprise screening, which is taking place on Sunday, Oct. 2 at the Wheeler. While there hasn’t been one in the past few years, Aspen Film used to always present a surprise screening as part of its Filmfest programming, Wrubel said. She explained how the festival is bringing it back this year for a highly anticipated film that just came off of its world premiere and is not allowed to be announced prior to its showtime.
“This is a very powerful film,” Wrubel said. “I encourage all viewers and everyone to roll the dice and get a ticket for it.”
The surprise film is among many of the other Filmfest selects that will soon have their theatrical releases, Wrubel continued, noting that the films being shown are regional premieres coming off of high-profile festivals — a handful of which are award winners.
“The fact that we’re able to bring these films to Aspen before their theatrical releases is a big deal,” Wrubel said. “This is a very timely festival … and distributors love to see their films in a market like Aspen because of its cultural prestige.”
The timeliness of Filmfest coincides with the early buzz for the industry’s awards season, and it falls within the same few weeks as other major festivals. Aspen Film’s festival launches right before and overlaps with the New York Film Festival — which makes it difficult to get filmmakers and directors to Aspen, as many are in New York for the prestigious program, Wrubel allowed.
Aspen Film was able to bring in one of the filmmakers this year. Julia Mintz, writer and director of the documentary “Four Winters,” will be present for the screening of her film on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the Isis Theatre, and she’ll participate in a post-screening Q&A. “Four Winters” tells the resilient stories of the last surviving Jewish partisans who fought back against the Nazis from the forests of Eastern Europe during World War II.
From human grit to friendships, the 43rd annual Filmfest will offer viewers plenty of opportunity for meaningful takeaways. And the selected films will give viewers access to stories across the globe and beyond — from cities like South Korea and Paris to more remote locales like the Amazon rainforest and Mars.
“There’s duality in a lot of the films,” Wrubel said. “And whether comedies or heartbreaking dramas, there is lots to learn from and lots to walk away with.”
Filmfest will take place Sept. 27 to Oct. 2. Throughout the week, screenings will be held at Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House and Isis Theatre and the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale. An all-access Filmfest pass is $350 and currently available to purchase through the Aspen Film website. Single tickets to screenings (priced at $25) will become available to the public starting Wednesday.
For more information on this year’s festival schedule and films, visit aspenfilm.org.