Aspen FilmFest to Open With 'Sapphires,' Close With 'Argo'

Warner Bros.

The annual fest will feature some fall previews, documentaries and a new focus on French movies.

The 34th Aspen FilmFest will open with Wayne Blair's The Sapphires, which played at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals.

A Motown hit-filled musical comedy that The Hollywood Reporter awards blogger Scott Feinberg called "a big Globes contender [that] puts Dreamgirls to shame," the film stars Chris O'Dowd (Bridesmaids) as a previously luckless Irish talent scout who discovers Australia's answer to the Supremes in 1968 and puts them on the road entertaining the troops in Vietnam. The Oct. 2 opening night reception, presented by art film-friendly Stella Artois, is hosted by the Colorado Office of Film, Television & Media, which is touting its innovative, newly doubled to 20 percent film production incentive.

Dustin Hoffman's directing debut Quartet (Oct. 6), which some viewers at Toronto likened to the unexpected hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, stars Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay and Billy Connolly as quarrelsome musicians reunited at a retirement home. The Aspen FilmFest concludes Oct. 7 with the big Oscar buzz magnet from Telluride, which also played Toronto, Ben Affleck's Argo. Affleck directs and stars in the fanciful yet fact-based thriller as a CIA man who saves six Americans during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, by means of a fake movie, which gives Argo a satirical subplot not found in many thrillers.

Besides fall previews like these, said Aspen FilmFest artistic director Laura Thielen in a statement, "We're delighted to present a strong slate of compelling documentaries and an eclectic array of features, including a wonderful French focus." The World Before Her (Oct. 4-5), which won best documentary at Tribeca, contrasts the Miss India competition and a Hindu fundamentalist training camp. Forest Whitaker narratees Rising from Ashes (Oct. 7), about Rwanda's post-genocide cycling team. 2012 SXSW documentary spotlight audience award winner Brooklyn Castle (Oct. 5-6) concerns an inner-city school where most students live below the poverty line, but they can beat you at chess. Besa: The Promise (Oct. 7) is about Albanian Muslims who saved nearly 2,000 Jews in World War II.

The year's French titles include the Marseilles midlife tale The Snows of Kilimanjaro (Oct. 5 and 7); My Worst Nightmare (Oct. 3 and 6), a comedy by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel); and The Day I Saw Your Heart (Oct. 4-5), starring Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds).

Founding The Simpsons staff writer and eventual showrunner Mike Reiss, the quadruple Emmy winner who was a juror of the April Aspen Shortsfest, returns to screen rare clips and give the inside skinny on the show in The Secrets of The Simpsons (Oct. 5). He will also screen his cartoons The Critic and Queer Duck.