Behind the scenes at Telluride: Bay Area residents Steve Marsh (winery owner), Serena Warner (editor) and Paul Burt (projectionist) are the Telluride Film Festival's Shipping and Inspection Bureau. (Photo by Hilary Hart)

Inside the Telluride Film Festival

Hilary Hart August 29, 2008

The Telluride Film Festival thrives on trust: Film lovers and filmmakers travel to this remote corner of Colorado from great distances and at considerable expense on blind faith—because the TFF program is a closely guarded secret until the day that the festival opens. For 35 years, the extended festival family of pass holders, filmmakers, staffers, and supporters has convened on Labor Day weekend knowing that their expectations of seeing a well-curated selection of world cinema, past and present, from Hollywood to Romania to Senegal to South Korea, will be exceeded. (Surely no one arrived in town dreaming that this year’s tributees would be actress Jean Simmons and directors David Fincher and Jan Troell.)

This is my 20th TFF; I was here three times as a pass holder, and, for the past 17 years, I’ve come here as a volunteer staffer. I’m one of many: The festival staff of nearly 750 includes 54 Bay Areas residents, amongst them filmmaker Barry Jenkins, whose first feature, Medicine for Melancholy, won the Audience Award at the 51st San Francisco International Film Festival last spring. For six years, Jenkins has worked in the trenches at TFF as a "schlepper," most recently overseeing the set up and operations of the concessions. This week, he’s stocking popcorn, hot dogs, and soda, and next week his film plays at the Toronto International Film Festival, one of the top ten film festivals in the world. In the last year he’s acquired an agent, received numerous awards, and signed a distribution agreement with IFC Films, who will release Medicine for Melancholy nationwide in February. But as he said in the Telluride Daily Planet, "There was no way I wasn’t gong to Telluride. I love working (here)."

If you’re reading this while in Telluride remember to drink plenty of water and avoid the dark alleys on your way home after the last screening of the night, lest you encounter a bear. If you’re reading this elsewhere, there’s always next year.

[Editor’s note: What follows is the TFF lineup, which was announced yesterday and posted in "News" on]

The Telluride Film Festival, which takes place this Labor Day Weekend, in Telluride, Colorado, announced its lineup for its 35th Festival today. The Festival—co-directed from its Berkeley headquarters by one of its founders, Tom Luddy, and veteran Bay Area programmer Gary Meyer—is offering a program that includes 25 new feature films, Slavoj Zizek as guest director, a new section featuring animation as well as classics and restorations, shorts, student prints, seminars, and conversations. The full program will be published on the Telluride Film Festival web site Friday, August 29, at 11 a.m.

Silver Medallion presentations
: David Fincher, Jean Simmons and Jan Troell. (Tributees will be presented the Silver Medallion award preceded by a selection of film clips. Screenings of their works also play as part of the Festival program including a director’s cut of Fincher’s Zodiac, Simmons’s So Long at the Fair  and Elmer Gantry, and Troell’s A Frozen Dream, Here is your Life, The Emigrants, The New Land and Maria Larsson’s Everlasting Moment.

New features: Adam Resurrected (Paul Schrader, Germany-Israel), American Violet (Tim Disney, U.S.), Everlasting Moments (Jan Troell, Sweden), Firaaq (Nandita Das, India); Flame & Citron (Ole Christian Madsen, Denmark), Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy), Happy-Go-Luky (Mike Leigh, U.K.); Helen (Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor, U.K.); Hunger (Steve McQueen, U.K.), I’ve Loved you so Long (Philippe Claudel, France), Kisses (Lance Daly, Ireland), Learning Gravity(Cathal Black, U.S.), O’Horten (Bent Hamer, Norway), Pirate for the Sea (Ron Colby, U.K.), Private Century (Jan Sikl, Czech Republic), Revanche (Gotz Spielman, Austria); The Good, the Bad and the Weird (Kim Ji-Woon, South Korea), The Rest Is Silence (Nae Caranfil, Romania), Tulpan (Sergei Dvortsevoy, Kazakhstan), Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, Israel), With a Little Help from Myself (Francois Duperon, France) and Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Senegal-France), with special post-screening performances by Senegalese musician and composer, Youssou N’Dour and his band, including a free showing and concert at the Abel Gance Outdoor Cinema.

Guest Director Slavoj Zizek (philosopher and theorist) presents
: Nightmare Alley (Edmund Golding, U.S., 1947), On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray, U.S., 1952), Seconds (John Frankenheimer, U.S., 1966), The Great Sacrifice (Veit Harlan, Germany, 1944), The Fall of Berlin (Mikhail Chiaureli, Soviet Union, 1949), and (Dusan Makavejev, Yugoslavia, 1968).Innocence Unprotected

on: Romanian writer, director, and composer, Nae Caranfil, who will be on hand to introduce his 2001 film, Philanthropy (Romania), as well as his new film, The Rest is Silence (Romania, 2007).

: Lola Montés (Max Ophüls, France, 1955), Pirosmani (Giorgi Shengelaya, Georgia, 1972), The Last Command (Josef von Sternberg, U.S., 1928— featuring the world premiere of a new score written and performed by the Alloy Orchestra), The Italian Straw Hat (René Clair, France, 1928—with Maud Nelissen’s newly composed score), "Laughing ‘Til It Hurts", featuring four slapstick comedy shorts including The Cook (Roscoe Arbuckle, U.S., 1918), Should Men Walk Home? (Leo McCarey, U.S., 1927), There It Is (U.S., 1928), and Pass the Gravy (Fred L. Guiol, U.S., 1928).

Special Medallion Award
: Richard Schickel, film critic, author and documentary filmmaker. The first part of Schickel’s five-hour You Must Remember This (U.S., 2008), his latest film, shows as part of the Medallion presentation.

(an intimate screening room introduced in 2007, shows seven programs providing back stories on films and filmmakers, including several featured in this year’s program) includes: The second and third segments from Richard Schickel’s You Must Remember This (U.S.), Dvortsevoy’s Nomadic Journeys (featuring four documentaries by Sergei Dvortsevoy, director of Tulpan), the full series of eight 52-minute films in Jan Sikl’s Private Century, A Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (Sophie Fiennes, U.K.) featuring Guest Director Slavoj Zizek, Mary Pickford (Nicholas Eliopoulos, U.S.), Prodigal Sons (Kimberly Reed, U.S.), and 12 Canoes (Rolf de Heer, Australia).

The Festival’s Adventures in Animation features Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood (Peggy Stern). Its Showcase for Shorts features nine short films chosen to precede selected feature films. Filmmakers of Tomorrow includes three shorts programs by 20 emerging filmmakers.

The Talking Heads section features six conversations between Festival guests and three outdoors seminars. These programs are free and open to the public.

Surprise "sneak previews" will also be shown throughout the four-day festival.