The Telluride Film Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, recognizing this achievement by expanding to five days, beginning today, Thursday, August 29 and concluding this coming Monday, September 2. For many, the event marks not only the end of Summer, but the beginning of Awards season. Annually cultivating an impressive lineup of standouts from Cannes, and some of the most eagerly anticipated films of the latter half of the year, Telluride offers attendees an opportunity to enjoy a more intimate sneak peek at many titles that will screen the following week at Toronto to much larger, and often more business-minded, crowds. Though I’ve never been to the festival, many friends who have regularly attended have sworn by it, likening the small Coloradan resort town to a film lover’s paradise, a serene setting in contrast to the stress that often accompanies larger events. Organizers have cultivated this sense of wonder and excitement, withholding the public announcement of their lineup until the day before the festival begins, in contrast to standard operating procedure of virtually every other fest. It’s a testament to their power as curators and to the trust they’ve engendered over the decades that attendees are willing to make the trek out on blind faith, but they’re rarely disappointed with the range of offerings. These consist of more than three dozen new feature-length films, in addition to various retrospective programs, shorts, conversations, and unannounced sneak previews. Of the features, more than 20 are documentaries. The following runs down many of the more intriguing selections, with full descriptions available by downloading Telluride’s program guide.
Some of the nonfiction offerings in the festival’s main section, Show, include: Dan Gellar and Dayna Goldfine’s THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR: SATAN CAME TO EDEN (pictured), about an ill-fated attempt to escape modern society; Errol Morris’ THE UNKNOWN KNOWN, a portrait of Donald Rumsfeld; Teller’s TIM’S VERMEER, following an inventor’s attempts to approximate Vermeer’s art using contemporaneous photographic techniques; Rithy Panh’s Cannes-award winning THE MISSING PICTURE, a personal, if distancing, memoir about growing up under the Khmer Rouge; Nicolas Philibert’s LA MASION DE LA RADIO, a look behind-the-scenes of a French radio station; and two new episodes of Werner Herzog’s DEATH ROW series.
The smaller Backlot section is focused on docs, primarily shining the spotlight on films about films, filmmakers, and talent. Among others, the presentations here are: Alberto Fuguet’s LOCATIONS: LOOKING FOR RUSTY JAMES, an ode to Francis Ford Coppola’s RUMBLE FISH; Frédéric Tcheng’s DIOR AND I, following Dior’s new designer as he races against the clock to present his first collection; David Cairns and Paula Duane’s NATAN, an investigation into the history and disgraced legacy of early film pioneer Bernard Natan; Frank Pavich’s JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (pictured), about the never-realized adaptation of Frank Herbert’s scifi classic by the acclaimed Chilean-French auteur; and Patrick Cazals’ MUSIDORA, THE TENTH MUSE, an ode to the French silent screen actress, famous for starring as Irma Vep in LES VAMPIRES.
Finally, the Filmmakers of Tomorrow section primarily focuses on short work, but also includes one program highlighting two essay films: Battiste Fenwick’s UNA CHANZA MÁS (pictured), following an ex-con as he trains to become a firefighter; and his bride-to-be Esther Julie-Anne’s OUT OF LOVE, a meditation on love and relationships focused on the director’s oft-divorced father.