By Eric Kohn | Indiewire August 28, 2013 at 9:59AM
The Telluride Film Festival announced the program for its 40th edition today, ahead of its start date tomorrow. As it announced last year, Telluride will run one day longer this year to commemorate its anniversary and will conclude on Monday, September 2.
Over the course of four days, the festival will screen over 100 features, shorts and revivals from 25 countries, including sneak peeks at several titles set to officially premiere later this month at bigger festivals in Toronto, Venice and New York. Among the high profile selections from the 27 features in Telluride's main program are Alfonso Cuarón's science fiction two-hander "Gravity," starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, Ralph Fiennes' sophomore directing effort "The Invisible Woman," the story of a woman who has an affair with Charles Dickens starring Felicity Jones and Kristen Scott Thomas, Jason Reitman's adaptation of Joyce Maynard's novel "Labor Day," and Errol Morris' Donald Rumsfeld portrait "The Unknown Known."
Other intriguing selections in the main program that haven't yet screened at other festivals include "Tracks," the story of a woman who crossed the Australian desert on camelback starring Mia Wasikowska, and the bizarre-sounding Scarlett Johansson vehicle "Under the Skin," in which the actress plays an alien seeking human male prey, adapted from Michael Faber's novel and directed by Jonathan Glazer ("Sexy Beast"). On the documentary front, Sony Pictures Classics will unveil "Tim's Vermeer," an exploration of camera optics in classical paintings directed by Teller of the famed magic duo Penn & Teller.
Other selections have already gained acclaim at earlier festivals, including the Palme d'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color" and Alexander Payne's "Nebraska." Per tradition, Telluride will also feature at least three secret screenings of yet-to-be-announced fall titles in its Sneak Previews section. Films that have filled those slots in recent years include future Oscar winners "Argo" and "Black Swan."
In a conversation with Indiewire earlier this week, festival co-director Gary Meyer refused to provide many hints as to the nature of these elusive titles. "There are a number of discoveries in the program," he said. "But the sneak previews are films that tend to become high profile, although a third one -- who knows what will happen with it? It's from a filmmaker with an international fan base. I'll leave you with that."
Meyer pointed to "Gravity" as a film that might not initially look like a typical Telluride film. "When we went to a screening of it, we didn't expect it would be a Telluride selection," he said. "But we were knocked out by it. It's 93 minutes of two people lost in space, and you really feel it."
Among the smaller films with potential to gather momentum at the festival, Meyer singled out the directorial debut of 26-year-old Gia Coppola, an adaptation of James Franco's short stories entitled "Palo Alto" with a cast that includes Emma Roberts, Jack Kilmer and his father, Val Kilmer. Coppola, the granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola, has chosen for her first feature a teen angst story that Meyer compared to Catherine Hardwicke's "Thirteen." ""It's totally different from anything that anyone else in her family has done," he said. "It's gritty."
Meyer also sang the praises of the documentary "The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden," directed by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine ("Ballet Russels"), which follows the strange antics of a German doctor who brought his wife into a semi-isolated life on the Galapagos Islands in the early 1930s. "It's really entertaining," he said, noting that most of the film unfolds through archival footage.
In place of the usual role of a guest festival director, Telluride has invited six previous festival directors, including Don DeLillo, Buck Henry and Salman Rushdie, to screen films of their choice. The festival will also feature tribute programs to Robert Redford and screen his latest starring vehicle, "All Is Lost," the collaboration between musician T-Bone Burnett and the Coen Brothers, in addition to the the brothers' Cannes-acclaimed "Inside Llewyn Davis" and Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof's "Manuscripts Don't Burn."
Additionally, to celebrate its 40th year, the festival will unveil a new venue, the Werner Herzog Theatre, and invite the Bavarian filmmaker to screen two new installments of his "Death Row" television series. Telluride will also screen Herzog's frightening Klaus Kinski vehicle "Aguirre: Wrath of God." The film joins "Tracks," "Gravity" and "All is Lost" as one of several survival films at the festival this year, a theme that Telluride will acknowledge with one of several panel discussions.
Meyer said he expected around 6,000 people to attend the festival this year, including 2,000 pass holders. While the weekend is packed with new films certain to develop hype at the festival, Meyer asserted the unique nature of Telluride's selections, which remain a secret until just before the festival begins and often don't impact their status as world premieres at other later festivals. "We never use the word 'premiere'," he said. "Nothing we show is a premiere."
The full list of Telluride's main program as well as its outdoor Backlot section can be found on the next page.