ASPEN, COLORADO – Aspen Film’s 31st edition of Aspen Filmfest, which ran September 30th – October 4th, presented a much-anticipated array of award-winning features and documentaries to capacity crowds from around the country. Coinciding with Aspen’s spectacular Rocky Mountain fall foliage, Filmfest is the region’s most anticipated annual cinematic event. Filmgoers and filmmakers attended five days of screenings at the historic Wheeler Opera House and Isis Theatre in Aspen as well as the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale. The enthusiastic momentum of this year’s Filmfest was apparent as guests of all age’s filled theaters and restaurants for sold-out screenings and events. Several films evoked impassioned responses and standing ovations, and an unprecedented number of audience members voted for their favorite film in the Filmfest balloting process.
Aspen Filmfest 2009 Audience Winners
Audience Favorite Feature: PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE (USA, Lionsgate), directed by Lee Daniels
Audience Favorite Documentary: SERGIO (USA, Chasing The Flame Prod.), directed by Greg Barker
Aspen Filmfest Highlights & Guests
Actress Paula Patton, accompanied by her husband Robin Thicke, attended the festival to receive the Artist To Watch Award and speak with the audience about her performance in PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE, which won the Audience Favorite Feature. Paula who was so moved said “I cannot believe how far this film has come and I am so deeply honored by this award”
Writer-director Jason Reitman returned to Aspen to screen his latest film UP IN THE AIR. Receiving the festival’s New Directions Award presented by Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, Mr. Reitman introduced a special guest, his father, director-producer Ivan Reitman. Los Angeles Times critic Mark Olsen hosted the on-stage conversation in which Jason Reitman talked about his father’s influence, the impact of casting the unemployed, and his filmmaking journey: “I am very proud to say that it is here in Aspen on this very stage that I first felt like a real director.. that I had arrived.” – Jason Reitman
Actor-director-writer Stanley Tucci was the spotlight on Saturday night when he received the Independent by Nature Award, presented by Aspen Film Board member Helen Kalin Klanderud. In a conversation with John Powers, Vogue Magazine film critic and NPR’s “Fresh Air” Critic-at-Large, Mr. Tucci delighted audiences with personal anecdotes about growing up in New York, developing his career, and shared insights on his profession. where he confessed that “performing with Meryl Streep is easy, you just show up, put on the clothes and adore her…its the same way I feel about coming to Aspen.” A special surprise was video congratulations from producer/director Peter Jackson, who directed Mr. Tucci in THE LOVELY BONES to be released this December.
Documentary films made a strong showing including sold-out performances of Michael Moore’s CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY. Directors Greg Barker and Kristopher Belman were on hand to receive enthusiast audience feedback at screenings of their respective films, Audience Favorite Documentary, SERGIO and the Lebron James documentary MORE THAN A GAME.
Aspen Filmfest’s carefully guarded tradition, the sold out SNEAK PREVIEW, was Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or winner, THE WHITE RIBBON.
Two programs which had special interest for local audiences were Aspenite Mike Marolt’s HIGH TURNS, ASPEN TO EVEREST and Aspen resident and Vanity Fair contributing editor Mark Seal’s program profiling award-winning wildlife filmmaker and conservationist Joan Root, subject of his new book, WILDFLOWER: AN EXTRAORDINARY LIFE AND UNTIMELY DEATH IN AFRICA. (Julia Roberts has optioned the rights to Ms. Roots’ story and is currently developing it with Working Title.)
source – communications dept, aspen filmfest; Photo credit – Steve Mundinger, Selby Shots