TELLURIDE FILM FEST
Telluride 2015: Why I Keep Coming Back to This Wonderful Festival
by Alex Billington
September 9, 2015
There's nothing like the Telluride Film Festival. This year, with our expenses severely cut, I could only choose one fall film festival to attend (besides the New York Film Festival where I live) between Telluride, Toronto and Fantastic Fest. It's all I could afford. So, I chose the Telluride Film Festival. Why? Because I love this festival. It's only 3 days, and I can only fit in about 10 films, but I had to go back this year. Not only do they usually bring great films (and for the past few years the Best Picture winner has always premiered there) but there is also a certain atmosphere, a vibe, that no other festival has. I suppose it's the magic of the mountains, and the fact that it is a tiny town deep in the Rockies that you must drive into. But it's worth it.
This was my 8th year back to Telluride. My first year was in 2008, which was the beginning of Telluride's current era of awards buzz. That was the year Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire premiered to immediate acclaim, later going on to win Best Picture. Ever since, nothing has been the same. There's always awards talk because year-after-year the Best Picture winner somehow always shows up at Telluride. But that's not the reason I go. I'm there to see amazing films, I'm there to catch up with friends, I'm there to stare up at the stars, I'm there to meet incredible filmmakers, I'm there to get lost in the love for cinema. I'm there to forget about anything besides what I'm seeing next. And with mountains all around, I'm as happy as can be.
This year at Telluride turned out to be a special year. I finally met Brad Bird, who attends the festival for the same reasons, as he has been following me on Twitter for a while. I became very good friends with another filmmaker by very eerily coincidental meetings, crossing paths multiple times throughout the fest. After the world premiere of Steve Jobs, I got to chat with the real Steve Wozniak at a private dinner party. He told me he loved the movie, even though none of what we see in it happened (or is accurate - he never yelled at Steve Jobs). I went for a hike up to a waterfall. I saw three films (Sherpa, Steve Jobs, Beasts of No Nation) that I felt were worthy of a 10/10 rating. What more can you ask for spending a weekend in the mountains at one of the best film festivals in the world? I wish it wasn't over yet, I wish it was longer, I wish I was still there…
I also got to spend time catching up with some of my friends and colleagues: Sasha Stone, Tomris Laffly, Kenny Miles, Mark Johnson, David Ehrlich, Aseem Chabra, Michael Patterson, Chet Mehta, Jeff Hill, Bebe Lerner, Nicolette Aizenberg and Sonia Freeman. Over the course of the weekend, I ended up riding in a gondola with Charlie Kaufman. I shook the hands of Seth Rogen, Aaron Sorkin and Cary Fukunaga. I was too nervous to say anything to Kate Winslet, even though I could've said hi. I had an intense late night chat with producer Christian Colson about all kinds of things I can't talk about.
For me, the Telluride Film Festival has become more than a film festival. It's not just about seeing films, it's about the time I get to spend with friends and filmmakers and film lovers in this tiny mountain town. Dogs are everywhere, often roaming without leashes, making me smile every time. Some people ask me why I would spend so much money to come to Telluride and only see three days of films, when I could spend the same amount to go to TIFF and see twice or three times as many. I can provide an answer, but not many are going to truly understand it until they come to this festival for themselves. And that's the whole point. From the outside, maybe it looks like just another festival, but once you're there you know how unique it really is.
Below is my list of the 10 films I saw with quick ratings. I love this festival because it's really all about the films. There are no red carpets, there are no paparazzi, there are no photo shoots or autograph sessions. It's not about the celebrities at all. It's about the talented people who make the movies that inspire and engage and move us, teaching us about humanity, reminding us that great art is to be celebrated. In one day, you can see Serge Bromberg's latest Retour de Flamme, catch a new film that might just win Best Picture, and see a documentary that will change the way you treat others. No matter what it is, you'll find something that will be a potent emotional reminder that this is why you love movies. Telluride (along with Cannes) is the film festival for genuine movie lovers, and I'm so happy to spend Labor Day weekend with them every year.
Here's my final list of all the films I saw at the 2015 festival with quick reaction. Links go to reviews/tweets.
Alex's Telluride 2015 Films:
1. He Named Me Malala (dir. Davis Guggenheim) - Liked It
2. Room (dir. Lenny Abrahamson) - Just Okay
3. Anomalisa (dirs. Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman) - Liked It
4. Spotlight (dir. Tom McCarthy) - Loved It
5. Rams (dir. Grímur Hákonarson) - Liked It
6. Sherpa (dir. Jennifer Peedom) - LOVED It
7. Steve Jobs (dir. Danny Boyle) - LOVED It
8. Black Mass (dir. Scott Cooper) - Loved It
9. Time to Choose (dir. Charles Ferguson) - Liked It
10. Beasts of No Nation (dir. Cary Fukunaga) - LOVED It