[note]Eric Bialas is covering the Telluride Film Festival for AwardsDaily![/note]
Venice. Toronto. Telluride. All three cities have their film festivals within two weeks of each other, and the result leads to an unofficial start to Oscar season. Great buzz out of these three festivals can immediately bring an unknown movie to the front of the pack. Nobody heard of Slumdog Millionaire before “The Show” (Telluride’s title of its festival). After Toronto, it became the instant favorite and steamrolled its way through the Oscars.
All three film festivals fight to have the “exclusive premiere” of certain films. Last year Venice showed off A Single Man, The Road, and The Informant. Telluride was the first to show off George Clooney in Up in the Air, and also premiered The Last Station, which featured Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer in Oscar-nominated performances. Toronto is notorious for starting Oscar buzz. Last year it voted Precious as its People’s Choice Award.
It’s hard to believe that a small city like Telluride can even become a showcase for films The city sits in a box canyon with the forested San Juan Mountains around it. For the other 361 days of the year, it’s very much an outdoor city. Amazing ski runs, a 365-foot waterfall can be hiked from the city, and a free 10-minute gondola ride will take you to the top of the mountain in which you can take on even more hikes. Then Labor Day Weekend comes and “The Show” starts. For one weekend, the city becomes a film mecca, and each theater is a “temple” as Ken Burns has frequently described. Camp sites are filled with cinephiles. Instead of taking you to bike paths, the gondola escorts you to one of the festivals’ largest venues, a 500-person theater dedicated to Chuck Jones.
The Telluride Film Festival may be the most “pure” out of the three festivals. There is no business to be done in Telluride. There are no red carpet arrivals or galas. Films are not competing against each other. The press has to get in line like everyone else. Actors and directors are able to walk the streets of the city without having to worry about paparazzi taking their pictures, in fact, it’s not uncommon to be standing behind Laura Linney on the Main Street coffee shop. Since nearly everyone is in the city solely for the film festival, it’s very easy to discuss movies with everyone. You’ll try your best to figure out an ideal viewing schedule, only to rip it apart all over again when a list of “surprise” films are announced later on in the festival, or that unknown gem gets found.
The charm about the Telluride Film Festival is that it keeps its lineup a secret until the day the festival begins. Passholders put a lot of trust into Co-Directors Gary Meyer and Tom Luddy’s program. Moviegoers purchase passes that range from $390-$3900, take a six-hour drive from Denver, and will brave an altitude of 8700 feet for the weekend. Expectations are understandably high, and for most people, they are usually met. Festivalgoers usually have a wishlist of movies and guests as they head into town. Rumored films for 2010 are Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, Aronofsky’s ballet thriller (seriously) Black Swan, and some are hopeful for at least a sneak peek at Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life. If Tree of Life does make any type of appearance, it will surely be one of the biggest things that happened in Telluride. Cannes standouts Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Biutiful, Another Year, and The Illusionist also seem likely to make U.S. premieres in Telluride.
Despite the price and the time of getting to Telluride, it’s a festival that certainly seems to keep people coming back for more. For the rest of the weekend, I’ll be covering the Telluride Film Festival, as well as talking to other moviegoers and seeing what they think.
Best of wishes from Telluride!
NOTE: For someone that wants to go to the Telluride Film Festival on the cheap, it can certainly be done. One could potentially see seven premieres for $40, and still get more in. Visit this website: http://telluridefilmfestival.com/show/on_a_budget