The 47th edition of the Telluride Film Festival, scheduled for September 3-7, 2020, is not going forward due to safety concerns. The annual festival attracts some 5,000 attendees from all over the country, as well as media and critics from New York and Los Angeles. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to spike in many states, including California, the prospect of a deluge of outsiders was concerning to Colorado locals.
“Think about it logically,” said Seth Cagin, a Telluride candidate for the State House who regularly attends the festival. “I can’t think about a more COVID-friendly event than a three-day festival with six venues mixing it up. It was not going happen.”
The Telluride school district had already informed the festival that they couldn’t use their usual two school facilities, which house a total of three screens, the Galaxy, Palm and Pierre. Telluride is located in San Miguel County, Colo., which has up to 50 confirmed cases.
“After months of intense due diligence around physically holding an event, we’ve come to the heartbreaking but unanimous conclusion to cancel this year’s Labor Day celebration of film in Telluride,” the festival said in a statement. “But with a seemingly unending number of new cases of Covid-19 and the national chaos around it, even the best strategy is threatened by this out of control environment.”
The Festival will soon release its official selection, as Cannes did, in order to recommend “the best in film this year,” and hopes its audience will check out the films at other major fall festivals in New York, Toronto and Venice.
Last week, the four top festivals — Venice, Telluride, TIFF and NYFF — announced a cooperative agreement to share best practices and film selections without fighting for world premieres. However, Telluride directors Julie Huntsinger and Tom Luddy were unwilling to consider a virtual festival option, as the others are prepared to do if necessary.
Speculation is now running high that the other festivals will also close, as SXSW did early in the pandemic. Unlike Telluride, however, Venice, Toronto and New York all have vibrant local film communities to support their efforts, and are willing to bring in others online. While the film ecosystem is currently disrupted, with no certainty as to when cinemas will reopen (especially in the United States), festivals are an essential component for film discovery and branding that cannot be replaced.
The full statement is below.
July 14, 2014
After months of intense due diligence around physically holding an event, we’ve come to the heartbreaking but unanimous conclusion to cancel this year’s Labor Day celebration of film in Telluride.
While there will be those who might say they’re not surprised by it, that this was inevitable, we beg to differ. It didn’t have to be this way. Until the past week or so, we had a very good plan to put on the SHOW safely. But with a seemingly unending number of new cases of Covid-19 and the national chaos around it, even the best strategy is threatened by this out of control environment. No matter how much many of us wear our masks and observe social distancing protocols, the pandemic has worsened rather than improved and the health and safety of you – our passholders, filmmakers, the people of Telluride and its surrounding areas – cannot be compromised.
As you may know, we have been working cooperatively with our fellow fall film festival partners to champion global cinema and its artists. We hope that many of you will seek out and discover the titles we’ve selected for this year’s program at the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, or Venice Film Festival, or when they’re made available on a wider basis. We will announce soon what we have carefully programmed in the hopes that you will experience as we did, the best in film this year. There are some incredible, powerful, and beautiful gems and we’re excited to extol their virtues when the time is right. Follow these titles, support them. We intend to champion them outside of the festival as best we can.
For those who have supported us and believe in what we are trying to do, our gratitude is enormous. Thank you. We will need you in the coming months in many ways. Let’s light candles now to conjure a better 2021 and Labor Day weekend in Telluride, together, under the stars in the mountains doing what many of us love the most. The way we prefer to experience cinema will return. Let’s make it so.
We wish you good health, peace and may we collectively move forward to a better world.
We understand that film festivals and their long-term health are not top of mind today. A safe vaccine, vital medical interventions for those sick and properly enforced health regulations are. However, we do ask that you take this moment to consider a world where gathering around a shared love of culture is no longer possible and what that means for the psychological condition of the world. If the prospect prompts a sense of despair, please advocate and champion the return of our gatherings that provide vital nourishment and oxygen to humanity’s soul.