Saturday, August 30, 2008

Aspen Filmfest reels 'em in - Aspen Times Staff Report

ASPEN — Aspen Film has announced the partial program for next month’s Filmfest. The 30th annual festival, with American features, documentaries, international movies and special events, is set for Sept. 24-28, with events in Aspen and Carbondale.
The opening night film is “Flash of Genius,” the first feature by director Marc Abraham. Based on a true story, the film stars Greg Kinnear as an inventor trying to win back the rights to his invention, for the intermittent windshield wiper, from a car manufacturer.
Aspenite Lita Heller will be honored with a new Aspen Film award for community service to the arts. The award ceremony will be held in conjunction with a screening of the documentary “The Brothers Warner,” a look at the four siblings who founded the Warner Bros. studio. Director Cass Warner, granddaughter of movie mogul Harry Warner, is scheduled to attend.
Commemorating the 45th anniversary of “Peter Pan,” Filmfest will show the classic in its family-oriented segment. The screening will be an exclusive Colorado engagement, and will feature a new print.
Also in the features category is “Ballast,” a comic-drama about a broken family in the Mississippi Delta that earned Lance Hammer the best director award at Sundance. Foreign titles include “Teddy Bear,” by Czech director Jan Hrebejk; “Lemon Tree, an Israeli film that earned the Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival; another Israeli film, “Waltz with Bashir,” a documentary of soldiers recalling the 1982 war in Lebanon; and the French drama “I’ve Loved You So Long,” starring Kristin Scott Thomas as a woman reunited with her family.
Documentaries include “Crimes Against Nature,” based on Robert Kennedy Jr.’s book about the Bush administration’s record on the environment; “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” about the women’s movement in Liberia; and “Stranded,” with survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes recalling their experience.
Filmfest tickets go on sale Sept. 15. For further information, go to

Aspen Filmfest reels ‘em in - Vail Daily News - Vail,CO

ASPEN — After yet another summer of superheroes, super-villains and characters plucked from television’s past, Aspen Filmfest arrives — at the speed of light, in the nick of time, to save the day!

Aspen Film’s annual fall festival, set for Sept. 24-28, scales things back to human size. “It sounds like a cliché — but it’s ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” said Laura Thielen, executive director of Aspen Film. “Whether they’re documentaries or features, it’s normal people doing things that are kind of extraordinary.”

The festival takes no time getting to that theme. The opening night film is “Flash of Genius,” a feature based on the true story of Bob Kearns, an inventor whose signature creation, the intermittant windshield wiper, has been swiped by a Detroit automaker. In a performance that Thielen says has lready generated Oscar buzz, Greg Kinnear stars as the little guy who takes on the U.S. auto industry in an effort to get his due. The film, by first-time feature director Marc Abraham, co-stars Alan Alda and Dermot Mulroney.

On the documentary side are several films that have regular people making tremendous achievments, or facing extraordinary circumstances.

In the former category is “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” director Virginia Reticker’s look at how an improbable women’s movement brought enormous political changes to Liberia; and “Pressure Cooker,” the story of a culinary program in a run-down Philadelphia high school that has yielded impressive results for its participants. (The film’s co-directors, Mark Becker and Jennifer Grausman, are both expected to be in attendance.)

In the category of people dropped into extraordinary circumstances is “Stranded,” a documentary about the Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the Andes in 1972. The film features survivors recounting for the first time in public about their experience.

Additional documentaries include the U.S. premiere of director Angus Yates’ “Crimes Against Nature,” based on Robert Kennedy, Jr.’s book about the Bush administration’s dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency; and “The Brothers Warner,” the story of the four siblings who founded the Warner Bros. movie studio, as told by Cass Warner, granddaughter of mogul Harry Warner.

Among the features that tell human-scale tales is “Ballast,” a drama set in the Mississippi Delta about how a suicide ultimately brings a broken family back together. The film earned a best director award at the Sundance Festival for Lance Hammer in his first feature-length effort.

A handful of foreign language films also focus on real-life issues and stories. The French drama “I’ve Loved You So Long” stars Kristin Scott Thomas as a woman trying to reconnect with her family, and herself, after a long prison term. “Waltz with Bashir” and “Lemon Tree” are Israeli films that put the country’s political issues — the 1982 occupation of Lebanon in the former, and the conflict with the Palestinians in the latter — into human perspective. “Lemon Tree” earned the Audience Award at the Berlin Film Festival; “Waltz with Bashir” was well-received after premiering at the Cannes Film Festival. “Teddy Bear” is a comedy/drama about three couples in their 30s; the film is by Czech director Jan Hrebejk, whose last film, “Beauty in Trouble,” showed at last year’s Filmfest.

Amidst all the real-life tales is one very big fantasy: “Peter Pan.” Filmfest will have an exclusive Colorado screening, from a new print, in honor of the film’s 45th anniversary. The 1953 classic hasn’t been featured on the big screen in over 20 years.

Stewart Oksenhorn

Vail CO, Colorado

“I was riveted by this story..."

“I was riveted by this story,” said Susan Lacy, creator and executive producer of AMERICAN MASTERS. “It’s a wonderful, intimate, deeply interesting film about the actual Warner brothers, illuminating the personal history behind the studio."

A Promise Kept – Granddaughter Carries on the Warner Brothers Legacy

“It was an especially hot day at my summer camp. As I stood listening to my father on the phone tell me Grandpa Harry "passed on", a thud happened in my universe. I could feel myself grabbing for fond memories that were turning from color to black and white without the presence of my grandfather in them.

The last time I saw him flashed into my mind: He lay on a perfectly starched bed in an anti-septic smelling bedroom. A mysterious force drew me to him as if he were a candle in the dark. It was a gentle force. His eyes were opened and moved to take me in. A slight smile came across his lips. I watched his hand start to slowly move across the sheet toward mine. My hand immediately wrapped around his. The enormously kind look in his eyes embraced me as it always did. I felt his grip strengthen transmitting and sealing an important request—something of great importance was being entrusted to me. I squeezed back. A promise was made!” -Cass Warner Sperling

THE BROTHERS WARNER a feature-length documentary written and directed by Harry Warner’s granddaughter, Cass Warner Sperling, and produced by her production company, Warner Sisters is a completion of a promise to herself and her grandfather. It's an intimate portrait of the four brothers who pioneered the film industry--an ultimate rags-to-riches story of a family run business and the challenges they overcame to create a major studio with a social conscience.

Barry Meyer, Chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. recently screened THE BROTHERS WARNER. In his own words, “THE BROTHERS WARNER is a well-made, fascinating documentary. Cass has not only honored her grandfather’s legacy with this work, she’s also paid homage to one of the guiding principles of the four Warner brothers who founded the studio by producing a film that will educate, entertain and enlighten audiences.”

The film is based on the family biography, THE BROTHERS WARNER, a book written by Ms. Warner. A special 85th anniversary edition is now available on with twice as many photos and a new introduction, and a pre-released copy of the film is available on DVD on Warner Sisters' website.