Michael Winterbottom, Noah Baumbach, Sally Potter, Roger Michell, Ken Burns and Sarah Polley are headlining the 39th annual Telluride Film Festival, which kicks off its yearly four-day run Friday, August 31. A cineaste’s paradise, Telluride also has programmed films from international filmmakers Ramin Bahrani, Jacques Audiard, Liz Garbus, Thomas Vinterberg, Pablo Larrain and Michael Haneke.
“Balance is the most important part of our program,” says Julie Huntsinger, festival director along with Tom Luddy and Gary Meyer. “We reflect what’s out there, we reflect what is going on in cinema. It’s always a nice surprise to us when we have a particularly Telluride year, where there are new names. We chose the very best of what is out there, and we have exactly the program we want.”
So the line-up, released by tradition just the day before the festival begins, includes “Everyday,” Winterbottom’s look at a woman struggling to raise four kids with a husband in prison; “Frances Ha,” Baumbach’s black-and-white New York comedy starring Greta Gerwig; “Ginger and Rosa,” Potter’s period drama about two girls growing up in blue-collar 1960’s Britain; “Hyde Park on Hudson,” Michell’s look at a few crucial days in the life of FDR, starring Bill Murray and Telluride favorite Laura Linney; “The Central Park Five,” Burns’ investigation of the infamous 1989 Central Park jogger crime and its fallout; and “Stories We Tell,” Polley’s family quasi-documentary. Many of these films, plus Ariel Vroman’s “The Iceman,” Ziad Doueiri’s “The Attack” and Garbus’s “Love, Marilyn,” will also play Toronto in the following weeks.
“It’s a great place to discover movies,” says Michael Barker of Sony Pictures Classics, which has five films in the Telluride program — Haneke’s “Amour,” Larrain’s “No” and Audiard’s “Rust & Bone,” all Cannes pick-ups, plus Bahrani’s “At Any Price” and the Dror Moreh doc “The Gatekeepers.” “If you have a movie where the subject matter might be a little difficult, or where it doesn’t have a star or name director, but it’s a really great movie, Telluride is a great place to start word of mouth. You have a lot of people from the business there, you have a lot of journalists, film historians, bloggers, exhibitors. People come to Telluride because they love movies and they want to be the first to discover something new.”
Luddy, Meyer and Huntsinger have done their annual dance with their counterparts at Toronto, Venice and New York, and come up with a strong independent film program with depth and breadth. (Huntsinger will only cop to losing out to the NYFF in the tussle for David Chase’s feature directorial debut, “Not Fade Away,” which Paramount Vantage will release in December.)
“Toronto and us really have achieved such a great balance,” she says. “There are times that they put their foot down on a particular film, the same thing goes with Venice, and even New York a little bit — I think because it’s their 50th anniversary, there were a few things that they got territorial over this year. But we are very respectful of New York’s opening night. We’re so close with them, and we talk with them all the time.”
Additional Cannes grabs in the Telluride program include “The Sapphires,” “Paradise: Love,” “Amour,” “No” and Vinterberg’s “The Hunt,” which is tied to a tribute to Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. “I’m so happy that he’s going to get this moment at Telluride, because everybody will see that this guy is someone we all need to pay a lot more attention to in the other language that he works in,” says Huntsinger. “That’s the ‘wow’ moment we will have. And it’s particularly Telluride, because some people may say, ‘I have no idea who that guy is.’ After Telluride they will know exactly who he is.”
Mikkelsen also stars in Telluride programmer “A Royal Affair,” from writer-director Nikolaj Arcel, which first screened at Berlin. His fellow tributees include Marion Cotillard, who is represented in the program by “Rust & Bone,” and Roger Corman, whose films “The Intruder” (1961) and “The Masque of the Red Death” (1964) will screen over the weekend. In a nod to just how prolific Corman has been over half a century, instead of the typical montage reel of the tributee’s works that shows as part of the ceremony festival organizers have decided merely to screen Alex Stapleton’s 2011 documentary “Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel,” since a real display of Corman’s resume would take several days. “We couldn’t do a reel, it was impossible,” says Huntsinger.