The Telluride Film Festival has announced the program for its 42nd edition, which runs September 4 – 7. As usual, the exclusive gathering features a number of high-profile awards season hopefuls, festival favorites, international discoveries and tributes, all packed into a busy weekend high in the Colorado Rockies.
Telluride typically offers a sneak peek at several new films soon to screen for much larger audiences at festivals in Toronto and New York, and this year looks like no exception. (See the full lineup at the bottom of this article.)
“Veterans of the festival who keep coming here know our criteria is that every film has to be extraordinary,” Telluride co-director Julie Huntsinger told Indiewire in an interview this week. “It’s so hard to get here. Shouldn’t you be rewarded with something fantastic?”
For one of the most anticipated titles in this year’s selection, Danny Boyle will make his third trip to Telluride to screen “Steve Jobs” in advance of its official premiere as the centerpiece of the New York Film Festival next month (per tradition, Telluride never refers to its films by their premiere status). Boyle will also be the subject of a tribute at Telluride, as will Rooney Mara, who stars opposite Cate Blanchett in the Cannes-acclaimed “Carol,” another Telluride selection.
Other notable films screening publicly for the first time include “Black Mass,” in which Johnny Depp stars as Boston crime figure James “Whitey” Bulger, “Spotlight,” the ensemble drama featuring Michael Keaton from director Tom McCarthy about a team of trenchant Boston Globe reporters, and “Suffragette,” the starry period drama about London’s women’s rights movement featuring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep. Previous Oscar-winning documentarians Charles Ferguson (“Inside Job”) and Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”) both return to the festival: Ferguson will present his environmental expose “Time to Choose,” while Guggenheim will premiere “He Named Me Malala,” the portrait of a Pakistani girl who survived attacks by the Taliban and became an international icon.
Elsewhere among the documentaries, Netflix will present “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” a look at the country’s recent struggles against its leadership. The company is also attending Telluride with “Beasts of No Nation,” Cary Fukunaga’s West Africa-set drama starring Idris Elba, which recently premiered in Venice.
Chic distributor A24 also hopes to generate buzz in Telluride with “Room,” the anticipated drama from Lenny Abrahamson (“Frank”), which stars Brie Larson as a mother trapped in a shed for several years alongside her five-year-old son. Another curious entry is “Anomalisa,” the stop-motion feature co-directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson.
For those seeking older films, Telluride will screen “Amazing Grace,” the 1972 Aretha Franklin documentary directed by the late Sydney Pollack, which was never released. The festival’s guest director, novelist Rachel Kushner, has prepared a complimentary lineup of classic titles ranging from the Australian thriller “Wake in Fright” to Robert Frank’s little-seen Rolling Stones documentary “Cocksucker Blues.”
According to Huntsinger, the programming team was particularly overwhelmed with documentary options during this year’s selection. “There were some docs that were so hard to say no to,” she said. “But we had to do that to achieve our usual balance.” She singled out “Winter on Fire” and the Everest-set “Sherpa” as two highlights. “They’re just scintillating, meaty, substantial films,” she said.
She also singled out Ferguson’s “Time to Choose,” calling it “one of the most difficult topics to explore, because you tempt an eye roll by making something about climate change. But he’s put everything together in an interesting way so you have enough information to make a choice.” (In a nice moment of serendipity, Huntsinger added, this year’s festival is co-sponsored by Tesla.)
Among the narrative features at the festival, Huntsinger said that while many of the titles deal with real world issues, “Anomalisa” stands apart. “It’s the anomaly of all anomalies,” she said. “It’s just so weird and marvelous. They made the movie they wanted to make.”
With respect to the bigger films, Huntsinger was especially enthusiastic about “Black Mass.” “I am so happy to see Johnny Depp in a film worthy of his considerable talent,” she said, “Whitey Bulger is this horrible human being in the film, but you want to watch this movie.” She was also eager to host the “Jobs” team. “[Producer] Scott Rudin totally gets our environment,” she said. “I feel like I watched this cool thing happen with that part of the Hollywood machine, where they trust that we’re going to help release their baby into the world.”
Of course, not every highly anticipated fall title will premiere at the festival, and Huntsinger noted that she was “very curious” about Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl,” which stars Eddie Redmayne as a transgender woman in the early 20th century. According to Huntsinger, Redmayne’s obligations on the new “Harry Potter” movie shooting overseas meant he was only available for two weekends, so distributor Focus Features opted for Venice and Toronto.
Regarding the latter festival, which infamously took issue with films premiering in Telluride ahead of their Canadian premieres, Huntsinger said those tensions have mostly settled. “I think the quiet message we’ve been trying to maintain is that we’re all in this together doing the same thing,” she said. “We want to have these films seen by the most people as possible. “There should be no friction. Everyone’s realizing that. If people are having a one-sided fight, the fight usually stops.”
Meanwhile, the festival director maintained Telluride’s consistent stance on the awards season movies in the lineup — namely, that the Oscar campaigning is incidental to the selection process. “The awards thing will do what it does. We will never discourage anything around it,” she said. “The best conversations happening in the restaurants will be people talking about movies.”
She cautioned that, despite many of bold-faced names expected to turn out, this year might not leave the same dent in the awards race that it has in years prior. “I don’t think the conversations will be quite as loud this year,” she said. “There is a steadiness to the films and a balance in quality. Sometimes there are things that are so super sparkly and explosive. This year, we have films that require a lot of thought. If that means awards people get bored, so be it.”
The full lineup of the 42nd Telluride Film Festival is listed below.
“Steve Jobs” (Directed by Danny Boyle)
“Ixcanul” (Directed by Jayro Bustamante)
“Bitter Lake” (Directed by Adam Curtis)
“Beasts of No Nation” (Directed by Cary Fukunaga)
“Room” (Directed by Lenny Abrahamsson)
“Black Mass” (Directed by Scott Cooper)
“Spotlight” (Directed by Tom McCarthy)
“Suffragette” (Directed by Sara Gavron)
“Retour de Flame” (Curated by Serge Bromberg)
“Rams” (Directed by Grimur Hakonarson)
“Viva” (Directed by Paddy Breathnach)
“Mom and Me” (Directed by Ken Wardrop)
“Taj Mahal” (Directed by Nicolas Saada)
“Sit + Cinema” (Directed by Eddie Cahyono)
“45 Years” (Directed by Andrew Haigh)
“Heart of a Dog” (Directed by Laurie Anderson)
Restoring “Napoleon” (Presented by Georges Mourier)
“Son of Saul” (Directed by Lazlo Nemes)
“Only the Dead See the End of War” (Directed by Michael Ware and Bill Guttentag)
“L’Inhumaine” (Presented by Serge Bromberg)
“Taxi” (Directed by Jafar Panahi)
“Hitchcock/Truffaut” (Directed by Kent Jones)
“Marguerite” (Directed by Xavier Giannoli)
“Time to Choose” (Directed by Charles Ferguson)
“Tikkun” (Directed by Avishai Sivan)
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” (Directed by Evgeny Afineevsky)
A Tribute to Adam Curtis
A Tribute to Rooney Mara
A Tribute to Danny Boyle