The Telluride Film Festival has always been among the toughest for filmmakers to get the opportunity to attend, with its tightly curated slate, prime awards season timing and remote, Rocky Mountain location. But this year, there’s a whole other level of exclusivity — keeping out COVID-19.
After skipping a 2020 festival due to the pandemic, the 48th edition of the Colorado cinema event, which kicks off Thursday and runs through Monday, will require proof of vaccination, a negative COVID test within 72 hours and masks worn indoors. Festival organizers have also added a day to the usual Labor Day weekend schedule and deliberately sold only 80 percent of the usual number of passes, to keep attendees from packing theaters for must-see movies.
“I don’t want to use the word bulletproof, but if everybody’s tested, everybody’s vaccinated, it seems like we’re in a pretty decent position to have a great festival,” says festival director Julie Huntsinger, who programs Telluride together with Tom Luddy. “And we’ve got testing on the ground here too. You can get tested every day if you want to. We just want to have all the science so that people can get in and fall in love with these movies.”
Huntsinger and Luddy have programmed a slate with some of the most anticipated movies of the fall, including Reinaldo Marcus Green’s King Richard, starring Will Smith; Pablo Larrain’s Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart and Mike Mills’s C’mon C’mon, starring Joaquin Phoenix.
Also planned are silver medallion tributes to Jane Campion, who brings The Power of the Dog, starring Benedict Cumberbatch; Peter Dinklage, who stars in Joe Wright’s Cyrano; and Riz Ahmed, who will be on hand with Michael Pearce’s Encounter.
Kenneth Branagh will bring his black-and-white ode to his Northern Ireland childhood, Belfast, and Maggie Gyllenhaal her directorial debut, The Lost Daughter, an adaptation of an Elena Ferrante novel starring Olivia Colman.
The event will reflect a record level of gender parity, with 18 of the 36 films in the main competition boasting at least one female director, including Andrea Arnold, who is bringing Cow; Mia Hansen-Love, who will come with Bergman Island and Celina Sciamma, with Petite Maman. By comparison, at the 2019 festival, 5 of the 30 features had a female director.
There’s an especially large slate of documentaries this year, including Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s Julia, about Julia Child; Liz Garbus’s Becoming Cousteau, about the French explorer; Todd Haynes’s The Velvet Underground, about the New York rock band; and Emelie Mahdavian’s Bitterbrush, about female cattle herders in Idaho.
“There is a bumper crop of movies that people have made,” Huntsinger says. Some producers and distributors have been holding onto content, waiting for the theatrical marketplace to reopen as vaccination becomes more widespread. Some movies Telluride had programmed for its canceled 2020 event held off their releases to attend the festival this year, including Roger Michell’s The Duke, starring Helen Mirren and Lisa Hurwitz’s documentary, The Automat. Other films at the event were completely produced under pandemic restrictions, including Peter Hedges’s The Same Storm, an acquisitions title.
COVID has made bringing talent to the festival trickier, as some, like French director Hansen-Love, are struggling to get into the U.S., and others, who are in production, are unable to travel because their productions consider it too much of a risk with Delta variant cases rising.
Still, some international filmmakers will be making the trip, including Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, with A Hero and Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, with The Hand of God.
Guest director Barry Jenkins has curated a special selection of older films, including the 1988 Claire Denis film Chocolate and 1989 Isaac Julien film Looking for Langston.
Other special screenings at the festival will include a new cut of The Outsiders, with Francis Ford Coppola and Matt Dillon in attendance and Mississippi Masala with Mira Nair.
“I felt a responsibility for us to happen,” Huntsinger says, of holding a festival this year, despite the pandemic continuing. “I have to keep the light of cinema on. The industry may not look exactly the way it always has, but we’re going to be okay. And this year I think there’ll be a kind of magic that we won’t ever see again, of people very much needing to see and be with each other.”
The full list of the new feature films in Telluride’s main program is below.
The Automat (Lisa Hurwitz, U.S., 2021)
Becoming Cousteau (Liz Garbus, U.S., 2021)
Belfast (Kenneth Branagh, U.K., 2021)
Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve, France/Germany/Sweden, 2021)
Bitterbrush (Emelie Mahdavian, U.S., 2021)
C’mon C’mon (Mike Mills, U.S., 2021)
Citizen Ashe (Sam Pollard, Rex Miller, U.S./U.K., 2021)
Cow (Andrea Arnold, U.K., 2021)
Cyrano (Joe Wright, U.K., 2021)
The Duke (Roger Michell, U.K., 2021)
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (Will Sharpe, U.K., 2021)
Encounter (Michael Pearce, U.S., 2021)
Fauci (John Hoffman, Janet Tobias, U.S., 2021)
Flee (Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Denmark, 2021)
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song (Dayna Goldfine, Dan Geller, U.S., 2021)
The Hand of God (Paolo Sorrentino, Italy, 2021)
A Hero (Asghar Farhadi, Iran/France, 2021)
Julia (Julie Cohen, Betsy West, U.S., 2021)
King Richard (Reinaldo Marcus Green, U.S., 2021)
The Lost Daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Greece/U.S./U.K./Israel, 2021)
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (Dean Fleischer-Camp, Jenny Slate, U.S, 2021)
Muhammad Ali (Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon, U.S., 2021)
Nuclear Family (Ry Russo-Young, U.S., 2021)
Petite Maman (Céline Sciamma, France, 2021)
The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, Australia/New Zealand, 2021)
Procession (Robert Greene, U.S., 2021)
The Real Charlie Chaplin (James Spinney, Peter Middleton, U.S., 2021)
Red Rocket (Sean Baker, U.S., 2021)
The Rescue (Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, U.S./U.K., 2021)
River (Jennifer Peedom, Australia, 2021)
The Same Storm (Peter Hedges, U.S., 2021)
Speer Goes to Hollywood (Vanessa Lapa, Israel/Austria/Germany, 2021)
Spencer (Pablo Larraín, U.K./Germany/Chile, 2021)
Torn (Max Lowe, U.S., 2021)
Unclenching the Fists (Kira Kovalenko, Russia, 2021)
The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes, U.S., 2021)