Academy Award is just the beginning for CU Denver alumnus

Meet Aaron Kopp Wednesday at “Films at Four”

November 6, 2012

By Marcia Neville | University Communications

DENVER – It’s not often that a recent college graduate serves as a co-producer, videographer, and assistant editor on an Academy Award winning film, which makes Aaron Kopp’s story so intriguing.

Soon after graduating from CU Denver in 2009 with a major in Theatre, Film, and Television, Kopp was hard at work on “Saving Face”, a documentary about acid attacks on women in Pakistan and the London-based plastic surgeon who returns to his homeland determined to restore their disfigured faces.

Aaron KoppEarlier this year, not quite three years after Kopp graduated, the film received the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary. “We did start to feel early on that this was going to be a pretty remarkable film,” Kopp remembers. “The characters were incredible, filled with energy. In a sense it felt like the film was leading us.”

Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 7, the film will be shown at 4 p.m. in downtown Denver at the Denver Pavilions theaters on the 16th Street Mall. “Saving Face” is one of five films being shown, free of charge, as part of the CU Denver Live! “Films at Four” series. The series runs through Thursday in conjunction with the 2012 Denver Starz Film Festival. Kopp, and the film’s Denver-based co-director Daniel Junge, will be in attendance to answer questions after Wednesday’s screening.

Kopp describes Pakistan as an incredible place and remembers two days spent holding back the tears. “We sat down with the doctor while he talked to a series of women, children and men whose faces had been burned by acid. The litany of their suffering was unbearable. But, that is the empowering side of the film. These are powerful women who are determined to change the world around them. They are prepared to fight.”

Kopp admits that being part of an Academy Award winning film crew at the age of 28 is unusual, but he plans to use it as motivation. “More than being intimidating,” he says, “it gave me a glimpse of success and helps me believe that anything is possible. This was a great experience, I felt honored to work with such talented directors. I’ve learned so much from them.”  

Asked about the actual Oscar statue from “Saving Face”, Kopp explains that only the directors receive them, “But, since co-director Daniel Junge lives in town, he lets me hang out with the statue whenever I want to!”

In addition to working on several other film crews, Kopp is currently directing his first feature-length film titled “Liyana”. He describes the film as half documentary, half animation.

The documentary portion of the film was shot at his parents self-sustainable orphan care program in Swaziland, a country in southern Africa where Kopp grew up. The animation portion of the film is the fictional adventure story the orphans create after being introduced to a traditional South African storyteller who encourages the children’s creative process. Kopp describes the result as “a documentary portrait woven together with a hero’s journey in a hopeful story of triumph.”

By combining the two diverse storytelling styles, Kopp says he is trying to blur some lines in filmmaking and push the envelope. Kopp started to conceptualize the project while he was still a student at CU Denver. He is currently raising funds for the animation portion of his film.