Aspen Film’s 43rd annual Filmfest is around the corner. Commencing Tuesday through Sunday with a stacked lineup of engaging new cinema, the festival cultivates educational opportunities for the valley’s youth.
Through its Film Educates department, Aspen Film offers year-round educational programming for students and teachers from Rifle to Aspen. And these far-reaching, free programs are especially activated around the organization’s major festivals, such as Shortsfest in the spring and the upcoming fall Filmfest.
Headed into this year’s Filmfest, in addition to bringing back its long-standing programs to the classroom and beyond, Film Educates also looks to launch a couple of new education initiatives.
Regna Jones, head of education development and programs at Aspen Film, said that the organization is moving toward an exciting new direction when it comes to education programming.
Through community partnerships and Aspen Film’s robust archive of resources, Jones’ department has been working to pilot curriculum programs and an interview instruction series — all of which will begin to take shape around this week’s Filmfest event.
Aspen Film has partnered with educator Adam Carballeira from Bridges High School in Carbondale to create a six-week Film Survey course, Jones said, which starts on Wednesday and coincides with the festival. She mentioned that through this in-school film seminar offered at Bridges, participating students are able to earn credits toward graduation.
“In general, with arts education being cut from schools, these innovative partnerships are powerful and dynamic ways for students to learn about the world,” Jones said. “And by offering these opportunities, film is an engaging way to involve the youth of our valley.”
This first-time Film Survey course will incorporate resources from Filmfest, as well as Shortsfest archive materials. Jones explained how Carballeira had reached out to the community in search of partnerships to help build curriculum for the six-week seminar and Aspen Film jumped on the opportunity. Jones and her Film Educates team then collaborated with Carballeira to develop the curriculum for an educational unit, which she said is focused on geography, culture and sense of place.
“Essential to all of our education programs is really trying to meet students and teachers where they’re at and design what would be the most meaningful for them around the films we’re offering,” Jones said. “We’re here in service for the community.”
Prior to their first day of class, Film Survey students are to attend the festival’s opening night screening of “Good Night Oppy” on Tuesday. The screening, along with other select educational films being shown throughout the week, is free of charge for all students and teachers in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Aspen Film’s Students to the Festival program has, for years, enabled school communities to receive free admission to public screenings during both Filmfest and Shortsfest. Throughout the week, students must present their school ID at the Wheeler Opera House box office to access a Filmfest screening for free.
Jones explained that the Film Survey pilot course is part of a broader Film Educates initiative in developing curated modules with film resources and curriculum materials to be shared with local schools valley-wide. She described the developing program as “curriculum enrichment” and said the modules are aimed to be scalable and used at a teacher’s discretion.
Also launching this week via Film Educates is the first Youth on Camera student-interviewing session with filmmaker Julia Mintz — who wrote and directed the documentary, “Four Winters,” screening on Saturday of Filmfest at the Isis Theatre.
On Friday afternoon at the Aspen High School Library, Mintz will be joined by a group of local students as they conduct a conversational interview with the visiting filmmaker. The inaugural session will feature a student interviewer, who is part of KDNK’s Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment Program, three students from the AHS broadcasting class and a local adult filmmaker, providing instruction and mentorship throughout the filmed discussion.
Following the first go-around, Aspen Film plans to continue growing this youth-produced interview program, Jones said, offering students the opportunity to work directly with established filmmakers and industry guests during festivals.
“This new initiative is about connecting young people behind the camera to talk to filmmakers and also learn the art of the interview,” Jones said. “It’s an opportunity for mentorship and knowledge sharing.”
Throughout the Filmfest week, Aspen Film will also host an educational screening of “Good Night Oppy” on Thursday afternoon at the Aspen District Theatre, followed by a live Zoom Q&A with director of the film Ryan White. The entire Aspen Middle School and select classes from Aspen High School will be in attendance for the screening and post-Q&A discussion.
From engaging local students in insightful film screenings to instigating the newer, hands-on instruction and curriculum programs, Jones expressed her aspirations to empower youth through film, as well as to provide them with opportunities to share their own experiences and what they think through this storytelling medium.
“Education is a two-way street — it’s not just us educating them, we need to learn from young people and also curate experiences that open up their world-views,” Jones said. “When we empower our youth, we change the world. … And I think the film medium is so accessible and impactful, it’s easy to get there.”
For more information about this year’s Filmfest and the Film Educates programming, visit aspenfilm.org.