Aspen Film Shortsfest showcases global talent and youth engagement

March 27, 2024

Aspen Film Shortsfest showcases global talent and youth engagement

Aspen Film will host the 33rd Annual Shortsfest at the Wheeler Opera House and Isis Theatre from April 1 through 7. The Oscar-qualifying festival will feature works by emerging filmmakers from 24 countries, with 58% of the films directed or co-directed by women.

The Sopris Sun spoke with Shortsfest’s programming director, Jason Anderson, by phone last week while he was in Scotland, serving as a juror at the Glasgow Short Film Festival.

Anderson observed “a big surge in filmmakers making a big effort to connect with people through film,” as evidenced by this year’s 3,100 short film submissions, making it the largest number of entries in Shortsfest history.

Through a process of screeners reviewing submissions, that pool was eventually whittled down to the 70 short films screening at this year’s Shortsfest, where three juries will award nine cash prizes and an Audience Award will be selected by festival goers.

To pique filmgoers’ interest, Anderson gave The Sopris Sun a sneak peek at a handful of films screening at the Wheeler Opera House next week.

Screening on April 2, at 8pm, “Holiday House,” written and directed by American filmmaker Alex Heller, stars Colorado-born and raised actor AnnaSophia Robb, playing a YouTube-like social media influencer who creates how-to videos on building miniature holiday villages and dollhouses.

An examination of the times we’re living in, “Heller asks, ‘What does it mean to build a business online, from the perspective of someone who’s a social media influencer, and having to surrender part of your life to the Internet in hopes of making a living?’” Anderson said.

“Nola,” directed by Canadian filmmakers Aisha Evelyna and Natalie Remplakowski, will screen on April 3 at 8pm. Evelyna, a Toronto-based actress, takes on the role of a cook working in the fast-paced environment of a restaurant kitchen. Anderson said “Nola” may resonate with filmgoers familiar with the FX series “The Bear,” which follows the journey of a young chef as he returns home to manage his late brother’s restaurant.

“The one thing we always look for is charismatic performances, and this film certainly has that. Our experiences in workplaces have definitely become more topical, and this film depicts that daily psychological and emotional impact of being in that intense kind of space,” Anderson explained.

“Existimos en la Memoria [We Exist in Memory]” screens on April 4 at 5pm. American director Darian Woehr, a National Geographic Explorer and award-winning documentary filmmaker, gives us an intimate glimpse into the lives of Maria and her grandchild, Marucha, both displaced Indigenous refugees. For Maria, the Venezuelan delta represents home, while for Marucha, the refugee camps are the only home she has known. The film delves into the complexities of nurturing a new generation amidst displacement and highlights the profound connection between land, memory and identity.

“You realize how much the family bond is paramount, and how those core relationships sustain people experiencing hardship in the places where they’ve been displaced and while trying to find a new life elsewhere,” Anderson said.

Festival passes and general admission tickets can be purchased online at

Youth Forum
The Voices in Film Youth Forum offers free youth-focused events, beginning with the Student Film Program and Youth Forum Kickoff Event taking place on April 1 at Glenwood Springs High School from 1 to 2:25pm. This in-school event showcases festival films, a documentary by a young Colorado filmmaker and a film from Aspen Film’s Summer Film Camp. The interactive session, led by students, includes a filmmaker Q&A. GrassRoots Community TV will broadcast the event.

Regna Jones, the head of education for Aspen FilmEducates, shared, “Broadly speaking, our education outreach is year-round, so we have projects that happen throughout the year, with one of our biggest activations happening during Shortsfest.”

Shortsfest’s films offer teachers an opportunity to enhance their curriculum by inviting filmmakers to classrooms to discuss their creative process and inspiration. Additionally, Aspen FilmEducates’ online platform enables classrooms from Aspen to Parachute to access films for viewing throughout April.

“The goal is to expose young people to great storytelling and the understanding that film is one of the most democratizing mediums,” Jones explained. “We can break through the noise of all the other things that they are able to watch online to show them films from around the world and open the window to different cultures and the shared and common themes of what it is to be human.”

A new event this year is the FilmEducates Gay-Straight Alliance Screening, taking place on April 7, from 2 to 3:30pm at the Isis Theatre. The event is open to the public with a suggested $20 donation to Aspen FilmEducates. Aspen Film and AspenOut have joined forces to raise awareness about local high school gay-straight alliance chapters with the screening of five Shortsfest films, followed by a Q&A session with filmmakers Harris Doran and Hao Zhou, emceed by Bryan Alvarez-Terrazas. To reserve a seat for this event, visit

Tickets are free for teachers and students.

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