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PRESS >> Aspen FilmFest Announces Program for Silver Anniversary Edition

September 17, 2003

CONTACT: Bridget Hart, 970/925-6882,


ASPEN, Colo. - Highlights of the 25th Aspen Filmfest taking place September 30 - October 5, 2003 will include the latest works from some master directors, first features heralding new voices, true stories documenting poignant memories and adventures, a strong contingent of women filmmakers, festival circuit favorites, and a salute to American filmmaking of the 70's.

With the celebration of Aspen Filmfest's 25th year, organizers saw it most fitting that this year's program honor the decade that birthed not only Aspen's first formal celebration of film, but also the independent film movement that changed the face of American cinema. Films like American Graffiti, Easy Rider, The Exorcist, The French Connection, Paper Moon, Shampoo, The Last Picture Show, Three Days of the Condor, and many more were part of a revolution that transformed the way movies were made. Filmfest will offer audiences an opportunity to see some of these classics on the big screen, and host a special panel presentation Discussion of a Decade, featuring the mavericks-turned-masters who were instrumental in creating these films. Following a brief clips program, director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) will moderate a conversation with actor Richard Dreyfuss (American Graffiti, Jaws), cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs (Easy Rider, Shampoo), production designer Polly Platt (Paper Moon, Pretty Baby), and director-producer Sydney Pollock (Jeremiah Johnson, The Way We Were).

The newest features from directors John Sayles (City of Hope) and Robert Altman (Gosford Park, M*A*S*H) join award-winning works by Denys Arcand (Jesus of Montreal) and Gabriele Salvatores (Mediterraneo) to round out a program that does justice to the festival's motto -- Independent by Nature.

Sayles' Casa de Los Babys wrestles with the topic of foreign adoption, and features a strong ensemble female cast that includes Mary Steenburgen, Marcia Gay Harden, Rita Moreno, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Lili Taylor. The Company, esteemed director Altman's latest, stars Neve Campbell, Malcom McDowell, and Chicago's Joffrey Ballet in a behind-the-scenes look at life within a ballet company. In The Barbarian Invasions, Canadian writer-director Denys Arcand reunites the characters (and original cast) from his popular film The Decline of the American Empire in an engaging group portrait that won for Best Screenplay and Best Actress at Cannes Film Festival. The latest film from Oscar-winning Italian director Gabriele Salvatores, I'm Not Scared, creates a visually stunning and richly complex tale of innocence confronting evil that is deeply involving, a little hair-raising, and immensely satisfying.

Under the banner New Voices, Aspen Filmfest honors the work of new film talent, and this year's lineup includes a first feature animation, an emerging artist, and a sneak preview with a face familiar to Filmfest fans.

The Triplets of Belleville, French writer-director-animation director Sylvain Chomet's debut, is a slyly humorous visual feast of anarchist animation that created a sensation at Cannes Film Festival this year. Winner of accolades including Audience Award and Best Screenplay at Sundance Film Festival, director-writer Tom McCarthy's humorous and moving character study The Station Agent combines an excellent script with a marvelous cast, notably Peter Dinklage as Finbar McBride, to create an impressive first feature. This year Filmfest is honored to present actor Peter Dinklage with the first ever Emerging Artist Award for a remarkable breakout performance that hails an actor to watch. Filmfest audiences will be treated to a special sneak preview that also happens to be a directorial debut. While few details can be released at this time, it can be announced that this adult drama stars a past Filmfest Independent by Nature honoree.

Documentaries have long been a staple of the Aspen Filmfest program, and this year's True Stories bring surprising adventures, discoveries, and memories to the big screen.

Be Good, Smile Pretty
is director-writer Tracy Droz Tragos' very personal journey to know the father she never met. Beginning with a simple web search, Droz Tragos' quest takes her across the country chronicling the memories of others to reconstruct the life of a man who, thirty years later, continues to affect those who shared it. Twenty-five years ago, Robb Moss captured one last long trip down the Colorado River with his fellow whitewater rafting guides in a film called Riverdogs. In his newest work, rafter-turned-Harvard professor Moss re-examines the lives of five friends on that trip, and their subsequent journeys through life in The Same River Twice. In Pipe Dreams director Enzo Mileti follows Ricky Bower of the U.S. National Snowboard Team and Joe Pack of the U.S. National Aerial Team, in their pursuit of a lifetime dream - going for Olympic gold in their own hometown of Salt Lake City in 2002. Over the course of 18 years, friend, neighbor and filmmaker Wayne Ewing chronicled the trials and triumphs of icon Hunter S. Thompson into an undiluted and reverent verité portrait of one of America's most important observers in Breakfast with Hunter.

In addition to the aforementioned documentary Be Good, Smile Pretty by Tracy Droz Tragos, this year's Filmfest lineup features a slew of talented and award winning women filmmakers.

Czech director Alice Nellis has won multiple international awards for her latest feature Some Secrets. Nellis works with an outstanding ensemble cast to bring authenticity and gentle comedy to this film about a family road trip that's become a favorite on the festival circuit. Stander is Bronwen Hughes' gripping and unbelievably true story taken from the life of South African police Captain Andre Stander. Director Hughes, her cast and crew manage to capture the high-energy pace of Stander's unlikely private rebellion, while sensitively rooting the film in its historical realities by capturing the anguish of lives struggling in Apartheid's grasp. Aspen audiences will be amongst the first in the U.S. to see this film that recently had its world premier at the Toronto Film Festival. In My Life Without Me, Spanish director-writer Isabel Coixet turns a subject that might easily become mired in predictable sentimentality into a life-affirming story rich in emotional texture and honesty. Coixet deftly directs the cast, which includes Sarah Polley, Deborah Harry, and Mark Ruffalo, in uniformly solid performances to chronicle a life that, not unlike a fragile flower, blooms most fully just before fading.

Festival circuit favorites filling out the Filmfest schedule include two heartwarming tales of small children who struggle to make big changes in their lives and worlds.

, from Argentine director-writer Alejandro Agresti, has been a favorite with audiences at festivals here and abroad. This touching story revolves around a young boy and his two biggest dreams: becoming an astronaut and a chance to see his estranged mother again.

ScreenPlay! program features films for families, and this year's feature is an award winning movie about a strong young Swedish girl who stands up for her culture and what she believes in. Elina, directed by Klaus Haro, is a ravishingly beautiful and moving film that has won eight Best Feature and Young Jury Awards at international children's film festivals.

With an emphasis on casual intimacy, Aspen Filmfest is expected to draw 8,000 attendees over the course of a five-day program to take place at the historic Wheeler Opera House and other venues in Aspen, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs. Aspen Filmfest is considered the fall party of this renowned silver mining town, attracting an enthusiastic crowd of residents, second-homeowners, and visitors enjoying the autumn splendor of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Tickets go on sale to the general public beginning Tuesday, September 23 at the Wheeler Box Office in Aspen and other locations valley-wide. For a complete schedule of events visit or call (970) 925-6882.

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