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Telluride Film Festival 2019 Ramps Up with Guest Director Pico Iyer

Every year Telluride curates the most exciting titles of the fall along with a guest director's more idiosyncratic selections.

Telluride Film Festival

Isabelle Huppert and Pablo Larrain at Telluride.

Anne Thompson

If you were thinking of attending this year’s annual Labor Day weekend cinephile celebration high in the Rocky Mountains, it’s too late. Coveted passes to the 46th Telluride Film Festival (August 30 through September 2, 2019) sold out months ago, and the Los Angeles charter flights to Montrose, Colorado are booked.

Every year the Telluride Film Festival welcomes a new round of filmmakers and cinephiles seeking mutual satisfaction. And it marks the real start of the Oscar conversation. Sure, Sundance launched “The Farewell,” “The Report,” and “Clemency” and a raft of strong documentaries, and Cannes yielded “Rocketman” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and a rich crop of likely foreign-language contenders. But all these films must withstand a powerful riptide of Oscar-bound movies with massive awards campaigns behind them. Distributors don’t head for Telluride if they aren’t confident that their entries will emerge with buzz and momentum heading into Toronto.

Some strong titles will also open in Venice — such as Oscar-nominated Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles’ “The Pope” (fall, Netflix), written by Oscar biopic perennial Anthony McCarten and starring Jonathan Pryce as Pope Francis and Anthony Hopkins as his predecessor Pope Benedict– but the real conversation will be had when a larger number of film critics and awards pundits weigh in up in the mountains of Colorado.

Telluride’s Julie Huntsinger and Sundance Institute’s Keri Putnam.

Each year, Telluride co-directors Tom Luddy and Julie Huntsinger (who both attended Cannes 2019 and host their annual rooftop party on June 19 in Los Angeles) appoint a Guest Director to program a selection of their favorite, often overlooked films. The 2019 Guest Director is author Pico Iyer. In keeping with Telluride Film Festival tradition, Iyer’s film selections, along with the rest of the Telluride lineup, will be kept secret until Opening Day.

Pico Iyer is the author of two novels and 13 works of nonfiction. His books have been translated into 23 languages and both his 2008 meditation on the XIVth Dalai Lama, “The Open Road,” and his TED Book, “The Art of Stillness,” were best sellers across the U.S. They have also made him a Guggenheim Fellow, a Pulitzer Prize nominee and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

An essayist for Time since 1986, the Oxford, England native is a constant contributor to The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, Harper’s and more than 200 other newspapers and magazines worldwide, and he has published introductions to 70 other works.

The Dalai Lama, Pico Iyer The Dalai Lama, left, listens to one of his biographers, Pico Iyer at one of the sessions on the opening day of India's Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur, India, . This year's festival will also feature author Zoe Heller and Booker Prize winner Howard JacobsonIndia Literary Festival, Jaipur, India

The Dalai Lama, left, listens to one of his biographers, Pico Iyer.

Deepak Sharma/AP/Shutterstock

Iyer has also written many liner-notes for Leonard Cohen, essays for several Criterion Collection DVDs and a screenplay for Miramax, has written about Malick, Farhadi, Bertolucci, Scorsese and other filmmakers, and has written on movie studios from North Korea to Hyderabad.  This year he’s been serving as Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton.

“In the times I’ve been to the Festival I’ve seen as many rich and original films in three days as I get to watch in the next twelve months combined,” said Iyer. “So when Tom and Julie asked if I might be willing to serve as Guest Director this year, I felt as stunned and delighted as if I’d been given the keys to the kingdom. Movies have actually been my secret passion for as long as the Telluride Film Festival has been around. But nobody had intuited this until Tom and Julie, a dream team of sorts, sensed my excitement and offered me a chance to share my enthusiasms and passions with others. The invitation to help choose films for the Festival this year was the most exciting one I can remember receiving; I only hope I can pass on a fraction of the delight that I have found at Telluride to others in this inspiring community.”

Past Guest Directors include Jonathan Lethem, Joshua Oppenheimer, Volker Schlöndorff, Rachel Kushner, Guy Maddin, Caetano Veloso, Michael Ondaatje, Alexander Payne, Salman Rushdie, Peter Bogdanovich, B. Ruby Rich, Phillip Lopate, Errol Morris, Bertrand Tavernier, John Boorman, John Simon, Buck Henry, Laurie Anderson, Stephen Sondheim, G. Cabrera Infante, Peter Sellars, Don DeLillo, J.P. Gorin, Edith Kramer and Slavoj Žižek.

The Guest Director program is sponsored by Turner Classic Movies (TCM).

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