The tradition of Aspen Film began 42 years ago in 1979 when our founder, Ellen Kohner Hunt, passed a note to a friend in an Aspen Arts Council meeting that read, “How about having a film festival”? Her management style never got more formal than that. Ellen ran Filmfest for seven years with one paid staff member, and that person wasn’t Ellen. She has been called one of Aspen’s most remarkable volunteers, who, as someone observed, “cajoled, bribed, and blackmailed a group of cinema junkies to sit through reels of film and shelves of video, and then debate the merits of each.”
Throughout its entire history, Ellen made sure that three principal traits always characterized Filmfest and the organization as a whole: a spirit of independence, a sense of community, and a foundation of inclusiveness. How fitting then that our tagline: “Independent by Nature” both describes Ellen’s M.O. and the kinds of films shown at our festival. Independently produced features and documentaries, even if not technically perfect, have a real sense of truth – “the viewer sees into someone’s life,” she once said. Such was her vision that four decades later, we continue to showcase work from world-class independent filmmakers.