I almost feel bad sleeping in, but it’s been a long few days and this bed is comfortable. I find out that my hotel has $16 pocket-sized o2 tanks for sale, so I buy one and take a few deep breathes. I wish I had my $16 back. I’ve been traveling with my father, who’s been tagging along to all of the screenings and Q&A’s. He retires before the late night gatherings, but it’s nice to have him around to escape the everyday nonsense and stress of home – even though we wish the rest of our family was here.
We talk about how great Aspen is over an order of lamb brochettes and russet nachos (heavy on the bacon) with the looming end of our trip locked quietly away in our thoughts. I would like to make this my home, but reality returns quickly. New York will always be where my heart is, so I decide to keep to my roots. We finish our meal with a hug and part ways. I’m off to filmmaker happy hour, and he’s off to do the requisite shopping for the family members at home – yeah, it’s heartwarming.
I meet up with Kristian Ussing Andersen and a few other filmmakers at the Mountain Chalet (this is becoming a bit of a pattern for us) for a round (coffee) table discussion of what’s to come tonight. Armed with either a 16oz or cocktail (in some cases, both) we tell jokes and come up with a series of ideas for 5 second shorts. These shorts center around an alternate reality Gael Garcia Bernal (the one I look like) sitting in front of a majestic fire place; glass of cognac in one hand, ivory pipe in the other. As alternate reality Bernal delivers one-liners, the hilarity of the entire situation (especially after a beer or three) sets in. Kristian’s enthusiasm and humor aren’t limited to five seconds though because the world premier of his short “The First Anders” was met with raucous applause from the audience.
“The First Anders” is a simple, but inventively told story about a father who teaches his son life lessons using the tales of his ancestors. The young boy – ready to take a hammer to a few faces – is quelled by his father with a family history lesson that starts with “The First Anders.” We are taken back to the very beginnings of their family with a story about a young man being bullied and persecuted by his own villagers. No matter what, he refuses to fight, and goes so far as to greet each of his enemies with open arms. The father teaches his son that violence isn’t the answer and in the process hilarity ensues. The short film definitely pleases, but it hit particularly close to home for me.
As funny as the short was, I couldn’t help but see the underlying message of family. Being appreciative for family – my family – has always been important, and being with my father made it all the more stronger. I grew up with his own tales and stories masking life lessons and truths – many of which I still go by today. “The First Anders” gives you more than a smile; it gives you a newfound appreciation for family, life, and virility. For that, I thank you Kristian.
The day held a lot of personal favorites:
The film resonated with me because it touched on topics of brotherly love, depression and suicide. Through personal experiences, I was able to step further into the already involving tale of one brother’s non-direct way of dealing with his sibling’s incurable handicap and life-threatening depression. I had the privilege to sit down with René to discuss the film further.
René talked about how he felt privileged to be able to screen his film with young students prior to his scheduled showing at the Wheeler. The experience was wonderful and eye-opening for René, but he also learned, to his surprise, that his film was understood and received well by audience members of all ages. Producer and assistant director Lasse Lorenzen later explained that the subject matter of brotherhood is a universal one. The two, hailing from Denmark, found that their language barrier was irrelevant when it came to delivering their message of love and perseverance. As René told me, it’s a positive message which the Aspen Hope Center, a mental health center that aims to help people who suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts, is going to help promote.
The night ended with wine and fake New York style pizza at The Silver Queen. The festival may be drawing to a close, but I’m keeping my head up and anxiously awaiting the last day of films. Even if it’s technically “over,” Aspen Shortsfest has been a fantastic experience for me and many others because of the people involved with it. The programs connect filmmakers to young people earlier than other festivals and gives them a chance to really touch the next generation all the way to their roots. The outreach not only gives them the opportunity to be exposed to these films, but to start opening their eyes, hearts, and minds.