Martin, Cleese pics among laff fest fare

'There' to open event featuring a record 24 features

This article was corrected on Feb. 17, 2003.

Steve Martin, John Cleese and singer Charlotte Church are among those headlining pics at HBO’s U.S. Comedy Arts Film Festival in Aspen, Colo.

Event runs concurrent with the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival Feb. 26-March 2.

Fest’s opening-night selection will be “I’ll Be There.” Pic, about a waning ’80s rock star who discovers he has a teenage daughter, marks the directorial debut of “Saving Grace” scribe Craig Ferguson and stars Ferguson and Church.

Aspen auds also will get a peak at Buena Vista’s spring comedy “Bringing Down the House,” followed by a Q&A session with helmer Adam Shankman and star Martin.

This year’s Aspen fests will feature a synthesis of the event’s legit and film portions. Of particular note is the 5-Minute Pitch competition, whereby comedians pitch projects to a jury of development execs.

In the “Jamie Kennedy Aspen Experiment,” Kennedy will perform standup alongside clips from his film “Malibu’s Most Wanted.” Sketch group Broken Lizard will present new sketches with sneaks from its latest mockumentary, “Club Dread.”

Maintaining its passion for the foreign and offbeat, the film fest will present a series of Middle Eastern comedies, including Elia Suleiman’s Palestinian pic “Divine Intervention,” and Babak Payami’s “Secret Ballot,” from Iran.

Arthouse pics receiving their U.S. bows will include Gavin Grazer’s “Scorched,” starring John Cleese and Alicia Silverstone, and the Oz lawn-bowling comedy “Crackerjack,” featuring comedian Mick Molloy.

Rounding out the sked will be the inaugural USCAF College Comedy Short Film Competition as well as a Harold Lloyd retrospective featuring digitally remastered prints.

Overall, the fest will unspool 21 shorts, the same number as last year, along with a record 24 features.

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