Morning, day 2, at Aspen Shortsfest. As I glance around a room filled with about 15 filmmakers, I can honestly say I respect every one of them. As I run through the events of last night - the two screening programs and the “Late Night Hot Spot” at the Historic Jerome Hotel – I recognize two filmmakers who screened their films and did Q&A immediately after. As the assembled collective of artists dine on their gourmet breakfast at the scenic Mountain Chalet, a circle forms Alcoholics Anonymous style. Instead of confessing addictions to various substances, they expound on their relationships: with their pasts, their favorite films and characters, and what ultimately affects them. Witnessing the smiles and laughter as everyone imagines themselves as an abstract character from a story they love is as substantial an icebreaker as I’ve ever seen.
The two previously mentioned filmmakers are Bernardo Nascimento and Zachary Treitz, both of whom beautifully crafted films that possess unique individual inspiration. Nascimento’s film “North Atlantic,” is about a young air traffic controller in the Azores coming into contact with a lone pilot stranded in the air above the north Atlantic with a waning fuel supply. The isolation of the two characters, separated by hundreds of miles of sea, uniquely changes their lives forever. Nascimento takes from true events of stranded pilots at sea and orchestrates a story that will redefine the viewer’s perspective of the time they have left on earth. Being a Portugal native, the story is derived from the personal experience of isolation in a small town and reflects the filmmaker’s compassion and emotion.
Treitz’s film “We’re Leaving” captures the unique lives of Louisville, Kentucky’s Rusty and Veronica Blanton and their teenage alligator as they are faced with the misfortune of having to find a new place to live. While the story focuses on the woes of the Blantons, the individuality and obscurity of each character is what truly shines in this piece. With an almost Harmony Korine-esque (Gummo, Julian Donkey Boy) absurd collection of characters, Treitz cleverly and distinctly individualizes his work from that of other filmmakers.
Even though I attempted to take a more observational stance during the evening’s “Meet & Greet,” things took a turn for the better when I was noticed and asked to introduce myself to the artists in the room. Initially reserved about openly speaking to such a collection of personal idols, having my social barriers and reservations completely shattered turned the evening into one of the most enjoyable so far. As I strolled onto the fifth floor observation deck after the meeting I was once again greeted by the visually stunning surroundings and was once again taken aback by the sheer magnitude of what transpired today. I don’t know precisely what’s going to happen tomorrow, but I have a feeling it’s going to be awesome…