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Telluride 2011, Day 0: Thin air, introductions, and the Telluride Bubble

Telluride 2011, Day 0

(Anyone hoping for reviews should check back around this time tomorrow in the next entry. The fest proper starts tomorrow.)

Here’s hoping the adventuring is over. The trip up to Telluride included a bonus trip through US customs, a canceled flight, a night spent in Cortez at a deeply Coens-y motel, an airport drive in a van with a cracked windshield, a small-plane landing in a lightning storm, and a total delay of 19 hours from my original arrival time. Actually, many thanks are due to the fine people of Cortez, who were kind and helpful at every turn, and an equal number of curses are to be thrown at various employees of [airline name redacted], who can expect sternly worded letterbombs.

On Telluride itself: the first thing I noticed as my shuttle made its way up to town was my strong urge to let out a string of expletives at the sheer, colossal beauty on display here. It’s been said by everyone who’s been here, and with good reason: it’s fucking beautiful here. (I’m swearing now because I doubt the genteel Texan family I was sharing a shuttle with would have appreciated it then,) The next thing you notice is, of course, the air – clear, dry, and thin. Constant hydration is necessary to stave off any fear of altitude sickness. Future fest-dwellers, you’ve been warned: pack water.

For members of the Student Symposium, things start up a day sooner than for everyone else. Introductions are given, meetings are held, and everyone is made aware of how Telluride differs from other fests in terms of tone and operation. The principal difference is something that might be termed the Telluride Bubble. At most fests, as explained by the Symposium organizers, filmmakers and especially actors are in industry mode, working fast and hard to make sure their films are seen and appreciated. Filmmakers love Telluride, they tell us, because here they can expect to be able to let their guard down, speak candidly, and not have to dread paparazzi. As a result, we can expect the 45-minute Q&As that pepper the Symposium schedule to be frank and enlightening. Considering that schedule includes time spent with folks like Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Tilda Swinton, and Lynne Ramsay, it’s fair to expect some memorable moments.

After being divided up into groups to get better acquainted, we’re ushered into the Palm theater for an annual tradition – festival staff and student-program members get to have a “staff meeting” (AKA informal film screening) on the night before the fest begins, and the film isn’t announced until just before the screening. (They like surprises here, in case you hadn’t noticed.) Unfortunately for me, that film turned out to be Michael Hazanavicius’s The Artist, the only film at the fest I’ve already seen.

It seems as good an opportunity as any to take it easy for the one and only evening of the fest it’ll be possible to do so. The nights here are extremely dark, with the mountainside taking up a huge fraction of the skyline. As a shuttlemate remarked, “you’re not gonna see that in Toronto.” No, you damn well won’t.

Simon Howell

Tomorrow: The first symposium speakers, plus new films from Wim Wenders and the Dardennes.