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Aspen Shortsfest returns with an in-person audience after two years of distance

Jason Anderson and Susan Wrubel introduce the opening-night program for Aspen Shortsfest 2022.
Dominic Anthony Walsh
Aspen Public Radio
Jason Anderson and Susan Wrubel introduce the opening-night program for Aspen Shortsfest 2022.

After two years without an in-person audience, Aspen Shortsfest kicked off Tuesday evening with a packed crowd at Wheeler Opera House.

“It was really hard being virtual for the last few years,” Susan Wrubel, executive and artist director of Aspen Film, told the audience. “I do think there's a real difference with everybody being here together in the dark sharing these stories from around the world.”

About one-third of the 77 films are new for the majority of the audience in Aspen. Twelve have never been seen in the United States, five are debuting for North America and another nine are making their world premieres.

By the end of the festival, five of the films will qualify for next year's Oscars.

As late-arriving attendees picked up their Audience Choice ballots at the door, Shortsfest programming director Jason Anderson introduced the opening-night menu of movies.

“You got some 180 degree turns between films … a selection of comedies and dramas, an amazing animation and documentary,” he said. “You'll be seeing this kind of diversity of work with all of our 11 programs this week.”

The first program opened with the world premiere of "My Mom’s Eggplant Sauce," a quirky, self-aware production that told two different stories: on camera, the filmmaker’s mother runs through the process of making an eggplant sauce; on mic, she tells the story of an abusive relationship with the filmmaker's grandmother.

It’s a strange and compelling juxtaposition — often lighthearted and funny, occasionally serious and sad.

Also on the lineup: "If I Go, Will They Miss Me," winner of the 2022 Sundance Fiction Jury Prize. It’s a visually stunning short about a child obsessed with the mythical Pegasus.

The first evening also featured "Nuisance Bear," a non-narrative documentary about an unwanted polar bear; "Warsha," a quasi-thriller about a Beirut crane operator with a secret desire; "Sierra," a bizarre animated work about a surreal drag race; "We Should Get Dinner!", a loud comedy about the reunion of two stepsiblings; and "Erratum," a funny, philosophical French short about an archaeologist obsessed with a vulgar mystery.

The programs at the Wheeler continue through Sunday. Additional programs start Friday at the Crystal Theater in Carbondale, and a handful of industry events are sprinkled throughout the week.

Dominic joined the Edlis Neeson arts and culture desk at Aspen Public Radio in Jan. 2022.
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