Back Into the Mountains - Headed to the 38th Telluride Film Festival
by Alex Billington
September 1, 2011
Back up into the mountains we go. I'm once again headed out to Colorado, the state where I grew up, to attend one of my favorite annual fests - the 38th Telluride Film Festival. Four years ago, my good friend Peter Sciretta from SlashFilm and I started attending a non-stop series of three film fests throughout September every year. While the Venice Film Festival is underway at this moment, we head deep into the mountains to the quaint, charming town of Telluride, CO, where the line-up is kept a secret from everyone until the day before it starts (it was just revealed today). But that's what makes this film fest so unique.
I always want there to be a line-up at Telluride that contains everything I've been anxiously waiting to see, from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to Coriolanus to Moneyball to The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher came the first year we attended, in 2008, to present 20 minutes of footage from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). It doesn't always work out that way, but I still admire the incredibly diversified and unique selection of films that they do program, which usually include some of the best Cannes holdovers, fascinating international selections, restored classics, and more. I don't make it into everything, but the four days we spend up there watching movies are always some of the most memorable of my year.
Last year was quite unforgettable, as Peter and I not only got to interview Mark Romanek and chat with Andrew Garfield after seeing Never Let Me Go, but we were the first to catch Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan and Danny Boyle's 127 Hours, and got to meet both Aronofsky and Boyle, and interview the real Aron Ralston. There aren't many festivals where something like that can actually happen, but it's that intimate small-town feel that I love so much about Telluride. I know I say that pretty much every year and if you're a regular reader, you've heard it before, but it's one of those aspects that keeps me coming back every September, even if it takes two regional plane flights and a two-hour drive to get there.
A few highlights expected to show this year include Alexander Payne's The Descendants and British filmmaker Steve McQueen's Shame, his follow-up to Hunger, which I saw in Telluride a few years back. The line-up is now officially out on their website, so you can check it out there for everything in 2011. There's always a few secret screenings and surprises, which is where Slumdog Millionaire came from and Black Swan, too. This time I'm not really sure what to expect for the secret screenings, but as always I'm excited to find out and will be in theaters to watch anyway.
Telluride only lasts a brief four days, but from there I head to the Toronto Film Festival for two weeks. After that I'm headed to the land of the Alamo Drafthouse, Austin, TX, for the premium genre film fest - Fantastic Fest - near the end of the month. This is always the most exciting time of the year because it's when most of the Oscar contenders finally come out of hiding and every other fall awards contender gets unveiled. It's in these next few weeks that we usually get a better ides of what the Oscars might be like; some films will drift out into oblivion, others will become surefire hits. Telluride has a reputation of finding Best Picture winners, having premiered The King's Speech and Slumdog Millionaire the past few years.
For now I'm just looking to make it up to our hotel safely, so I can be prepared for a weekend full of great cinema, amazing filmmakers, and plenty of fresh mountain air. I plan to return to Telluride every year (as long as I can continue to afford it) and hope that the 2011 festival season offers up many wonderful films to enjoy. I'll keep you updated not only here on FS, but on Twitter @firstshowing as well (and follow my travel colleague @slashfilm), so stay tuned for my Telluride coverage and beyond throughout this month.