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September 1st, 2021

A Guide to the 48th Telluride Film Festival

Content provided by the Telluride Daily Planet

Drum roll, please. The official program selections for the 48th annual Telluride Film Festival (TFF) were released Wednesday morning. Beginning Thursday and running through Labor Day, TFF will screen more than 80 feature films, short films and revival programs representing 29 countries. Since TFF features either world or North American premiers, the 36 films in the main program are brand new. With COVID-19 protocols in place — including a mask requirement, proof of vaccination and negative test results for all passholders and volunteers — there’s also an extra day of screenings this year, as well as a new outdoor venue at Town Park stage.

While there’s never an official theme to the annual festival, TFF Executive Director Julie Huntsinger identifies a thread of joy, love and beauty expressed across this year’s carefully curated films.

“We always say that themes reveal themselves after we put the program together, and when I look at this program, there’s no cynicism or ugliness,” Huntsinger reflected. “There’s a desire to depict or elicit joy, and while there are plenty of movies that will make you cry, people have wanted to make films that describe or depict beauty.

Huntsinger said the film “The Hand of God” from director Paolo Sorrentino is so stunning, she made sure to play it on big screens and hopes people will “take a chance on it.”

Huntsinger insisted Kristen Stewart’s acting in the film “Spencer” from director Pablo Larraín — about Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales — is the best work she’s ever done. The same goes for Will Smith’s acting in the movie “King Richard” director Reinaldo Marcus Green.

“There’s a moment in that film where he’s describing the pain that Richard Williams felt so that you believe Will Smith more than you’ve ever believed him in any role,” she said. “I think that movie is going to be very successful; one that reaches every age, tells a story about a known American family while touching on other important issues in the world.”

Huntsinger explained the short film “Marcel the Shell with Shoes on” from director Dean Fleischer-Camp was launched as an online viral hit in 2011.

There are several films from last year’s program that were delayed so that they could premiere in Telluride this year, including “The Automat” (Lisa Hurwitz), “Torn” (Max Lowe), “Speer Goes to Hollywood” (Vanessa Lapa) and “The Duke” (Roger Michell), starring Helen Mirren.

Huntsinger said this year’s festival features more documentary films, which is a reflection of their growing popularity.

“I think we have some of the most impressive docs I’ve ever seen,” she said, pointing to the film “Julia” (Julie Cohen) by the same women who created “RBG,” the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary.

Huntsinger claimed the documentary “The Rescue” (Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin) is even better than the popular climbing documentary “Free Solo.”

“It’s so good, it’s riveting. I really want to make sure people see it,” she said. “The subjects drive on adrenaline, and we as the audience thrive on adrenaline. It has so much heart, so much emotion. Even as you know the outcome, you’re rooting for these people.”

Both “The Rescue” and Oscar-winning director Jane Campion’s new film “The Power of the Dog,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst, will be screened outdoors.

Town Park Stage will serve as a new, albeit temporary, outdoor venue when Telluride MountainFilm and TFF co-present the opening night Thursday film “Torn.” In spite of its having been shuttered during COVID, the Nugget Theater will be back in operation for this year’s festival, given that TFF recently acquired the Nugget Building, which now serves as its local headquarters.

Academy Award-winning director Barry Jenkins will serve as this year’s Guest Director, a key collaborator in the festival’s programming decisions. 

For more information, visit Telluride Film Festival.

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