38th Annual Telluride Film Festival: Co-director Meyer Features The Features

[ click “Play”, Gary Meyer discusses TFF 2011 features with Susan Viebrock]


Co-director Gary Meyer

The people who make the popcorn seem to know what they are doing. Let’s give them a hand. Apparently so do the people who put together the Telluride Film Festival. Let’s find out more.

The Telluride Film Festival built its acclaim as buzzmeister extraordinaire over 38 years by celebrating the art, not the business, of filmmaking. From the get-go, Festival founders and directors emeriti Bill and Stella Pence and current director Tom Luddy, also co-founder, plus Gary Meyer and Julie Huntsinger became renowned for turning their backs on The Industry, Hollywood shorthand for special effects, mind-numbing plots, testosterone-fueled blood and gore fests, blockbusters, crowd-pleasing franchises, bad guesses, and good luck. Telluride, on the other hand, puts the spotlight on intelligent storytelling and superior filmmaking to create a rich stew that is a seductive mix of past and present, foreign and domestic, obscure and accessible, dark and light, long and short, features and documentaries.

The Kid with a Bike
“The Kid with a Bike”

Let the record speak for itself. Here’s a short list of Oscar winners launched in Telluride: from 2010 alone, “The King’s Speech,” “Black Swan” and “Inside Job.” In prior years: “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Last King of Scotland,” “Capote,” “Walk the Line,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “The Crying Game.”

The 2011 Telluride Film Festival should be no different from the 37 film celebrations that came before, which is to say very different from all other film events (except perhaps Pordenonne). Thirty-eight years ago, there was no Montreal or Sundance. And today, Telluride remains the sole festival in the world to acknowledge the past as the basic grammar upon which the language of present and future movie expression is based: This year’s program includes a tribute to Pierre Etaix and silent films such as “From Morning to Midnight” (set to the music of the much-missed, ever popular Alloy Orchestra) and “A Trip to the Moon and Beyond,” two must-sees, the latter thanks to the Merlin of the Archives, Serge Bromberg.

Only Telluride goes to the great expense of importing film and talent from places near and far because the Festival directors believe an artistic as well as a screen presence is an important point of differentiation.

Among the world’s film festivals – and there are about 1,700 similar events – “The Show” is in a league of its own: bulletproof. 

And notoriously close-mouthed.

In Telluride, the full list of films, filmmakers and tributes are not released until the first day of the long Labor Day weekend gathering. Except, well, in these days of social media, rumors happen in real time and go viral. On August 26, when I launched my Tweetdeck for the day, I found numerous tweets about Telluride, many declaring Steve McQueen’s “Shame” in which Carey Mulligan, also a Telluride discovery, sings “New York, New York,”  a slam dunk.  That was followed by a GoogleAlert from Indiewire.com “confirming” Toronto, London – and Telluride. And “Shame” is indeed in the game.

Internet chatter also included speculation about Almodovar’s “The Skin Is In,” which does not show up in the program, but a sneak peak is always possible. What about the three-part German film, “Dreileben.” Would that be screened in the same fashion as “Red Riding” (2009) and “Carlos (2010)? Not so far.

On August 31 a headline in The Denver Post screamed “George Clooney to attend Telluride Film Festival.” The talk about Clooney and the film in which he stars, the latest from writer-director Alexander Payne, “The Descendents,” also scheduled for Toronto and New York, pans out. In fact, George Clooney is a 2011 tributee.

What about new projects by Telluride regulars Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese the Dardenne brothers, Wim Wender and David Cronenburg? Affirmative.

Gary Meyer attended his first Telluride Film Festival in 1975. (He and his partners founded Landmark Theatres during the event.) After serving as programming consultant and then resident curator for the  Festival from 1998 – 2006, Gary became co-director with co-founding director Tom Luddy five years ago, following #33.

Click the “play” button to listen to Gary’s interview on the features, including some favorite documentaries. (And look for related interviews on more documentaries, tributees, who’s coming to town and, well, everything you need to know about TFF #38, including how to maximize your pass, on Telluride Inside… and Out.)

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