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International Filmmakers Shine at 2017 Aspen ShortsFest Awards

New European and Asian filmmakers continue to make their mark on Oscar-qualifying short film festivals this year, with 4 out of the 5 main awards at Aspen Shortsfest going to non-Americans.

From a young Indian director who was able to masterfully cast non-actors in a remote setting, to an experimental short about vapid consumerism by a German animator, the 2017 Aspen shorts winners demonstrate that emerging talent comes from far and wide.

Run by the prestigious Aspen Film organization, the festival, which this year ran April 4-9,  is recognized as one of the most significant shorts festivals for new filmmakers, especially on the American calendar. Several films have gone on to major recognition, including most recently Gabriel Osorio Vargas’s Bear Story, which won the best animation Oscar in 2016.

New Machine’s editor dug a little deeper to uncover some facts about this new group who are making a mark on the 2017 Aspen ShortsFest jury.

The 2017 Aspen Shortsfest winners Fabio Friedli, Carlo Francisco Manatad, Brenda Lien, Amar Kaushik

Best Animation – In a Nutshell, Fabio Friedli (Switzerland)

  • Swiss filmmaker Fabio Friedli won the best animation prize for In a Nutshell.
  • Born in 1986 in Bern, Switzerland, Fabio attended the Lucerne School of Art and Design and now works as freelance animator.
  • His 2012 short Bon Voyage won the Amnesty International Award at IndieLisboa International Independent Film Festival and was nominated for the Swiss Film Prize Best Animation award.
  • Synopsis reads: “from a seed to war, from meat to love, from indifference to apocalypse. An attempt to capture the world in a nutshell.”
  • His previous shorts include Her Absence Filled the World (2009) and Hold-Up! (2013).
  • The jury stated: “This stream of consciousness collage is masterfully observational, rhythmic and unique in its use of sound and visuals. The filmmaker uses his rapid-fire medium to remind us that life is always at once both universal and individual.”

Follow Fabio on Twitter.

Best Comedy – Fatima Maria Torres and the Invasion of Space Shuttle Pinas 25, Carlo Francisco Manatad (Philippines)

  • Filipino editor and director Carlo Francisco Manatad won Best Comedy for Fatima Maria Torres and the Invasion of Space Shuttle Pinas 25.
  • He has earned numerous awards and accolades in Asia and around the world for his work.
  • The nearly 18-minute short film is set during the launch of the first space shuttle by the Philippines, an ordinary old couple living in the suburbs attempts to go about their life during this strange day.
  • Manatad graduated from the University of the Philippines Film Institute, where his short film Hollow (Hungkag) was awarded Best Thesis Film.
  • He has participated in the Asian Film Academy, the Berlinale Talent Campus, and the Docnet Campus Project.
  • The jury stated: “This down-to-earth science fiction love story mixed the charms of many genres to create something wholly original. We see the handwriting of a unique emerging cinematic voice in this surprising film about people who are not surprised by anything.”

See Carlo’s Vimeo page

Best Drama – Aaba (Grandfather), Amar Kaushik (India)

  • Amar Kaushik scored the Best Drama award for Aaba, a short film that used mostly non actors to tell the story of a grandfather in a remote village of Arunachal Pradesh in North East India.
  • This is his debut film as director, however Amar has worked as a second unit director or assistant director in over 10 features, including No One Killed Jessica (2011).
  • The main lead of the film is played by an octogenarian Apatani village elder named Dani Randa.
  • Amar had to live in the small remote community for weeks in order to gain the trust of the locals.
  • Aaba screened in the Generation Kplus competition section at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival and was the only Indian film to screen at the competition.
  • The jury stated: “A strikingly touching film, this self-assured, authentic work reflects a strong aesthetic from a filmmaker whose egoless approach to his story, and performances by his non-actors, allowed for an unparalleled intimacy for the audience.”

Follow Amar on Twitter.

Best Short Short – Call of Cuteness, Brenda Lien (Germany)

  • German filmmaker Brenda Lien won the Best Short Short Award for Call of Cuteness.
  • She is works as an independent filmmaker and film music composer and currently studies at the University of Art and Design in Offenbach.
  • Her previous shorts include Der gekerbte Raum aus Stein gegen ein Ideal aus Glas (Striated Stone Meets Fragile Ideals) and Call of Beauty.
  • Call of Cuteness uses experimental animation to demonstrate “a consumerist nightmare gone viral devoured, exploited, fetishized, and revered, on this global playground The Cat reveals the causes and effects of power and pleasure.”
  • The jury stated: “A skillfully rotoscoped deconstruction of the cat meme, this abstract and often horrific film vivisects our obsession with popular culture.”

Follow Brenda on Facebook.

Best Documentary – Three Red Sweaters, Martha Gregory (USA)

  • American filmmaker Martha Gregory scored the Best Documentary prize for Three Red Sweaters.
  • Martha works as a freelance filmmaker and video editor in Brooklyn.
  • She received her MFA in Film at the Vermont College of the Arts.
  • The film screen as part of Digital Lives at Toronto. Official Selection of the 2017 Athens International Film and Video Festival.
  • Synopsis: “A filmmaker explores memory and the way that we use technology to record our lives — sometimes at the expense of being present for them — through her grandfather’s Colville-esque 16mm home videos.”
  • The jury stated: “This journey into family archives uses a very personal story to examine how memory is captured as a moment in time.  Through the use of photographs and conversations, this inquisitive director gives new life to what was once thought lost forever.”