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What to expect from the 2015 Telluride Film Festival

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The Colorado town of Telluride usually has a population of about 2,300, but it grows considerably for its annual film festival.
David McNew/Getty Images
The Colorado town of Telluride usually has a population of about 2,300, but it grows considerably for its annual film festival.

The Frame's host John Horn is in Colorado for the influential Telluride Film Festival and provides a preview of what to expect for 2015.

The Telluride Film Festival kicks off Friday and runs through Labor Day. But don’t let the festival’s location in a small Colorado town fool you: Telluride is a big deal when it comes to screening the most talked-about new films.

This year’s lineup includes Scott Cooper’s film about Whitey Bulger, “Black Mass,” -- which stars Johnny Depp -- and director Danny Boyle’s new biopic of Steve Jobs.

We sent half of The Frame team to Colorado — including host John Horn, who spoke with Oscar Garza about the Telluride lineup.

Interview Highlights

This morning was the official announcement for the lineup of the Telluride Film Festival. First of all, what’s the significance of this festival?

It really kicks off the fall film season. There are a couple film festivals bundled around it: Venice [Film Festival] is starting right around the same time and it’s followed by the Toronto International Film Festival. So Telluride, among the American festivals outside of Sundance, is probably the most important in the nation, and it really is a showcase for movies that are going to come out late in the year and typically are going to do very well around Oscar time.

What are some of the highlights of this year’s schedule?

I’ll start by talking about a film called “Carol,” which played at the Cannes Film Festival. This is a film directed by Todd Haynes, it stars Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. It based on a Patricia Highsmith novel about two women who fall in love in the 1950s when it was very much a forbidden topic. So that’s high on the list.

There’s a documentary called “Amazing Grace” that was shot in 1972 and has never been released. Sydney Pollack, the great filmmaker, directed it. They had some sound issues and apparently they fixed some of them so they’re going to show that for the very first time.

This is the famous gospel concert that was recorded here in Los Angeles, a performance by Aretha Franklin. Why has that not seen the light of day?

I think some of it was just technical. According to the press kit for the film, the filmmakers didn’t use a clapper or a slate, so none of the sound was synchronized to the film. The tape recorder they were using was running at a slower speed than the film camera, so it was an analog film that had a lot of digitally solvable problems. So now that technology has come along, they’ve been able to clear the rights and fix the sound. And apparently it turned out great because the Telluride programmers think it’s good enough to show.  

Let’s go back to talk about “Carol." You said it did play at the Cannes Film Festival, which means a lot of critics have already seen it and it’s got a lot of buzz for these two actresses right?

Yes, Rooney Mara won the best actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s a movie that’s going to do very well with critics. It’s going to play some other festivals and it’s the kind of movie that should ride its critical wave all the way through the Oscars. I think a lot of people think it’s a favorite, not just for best picture, but for some acting nominations for Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett.

Tell me about “Beasts Of No Nation,” which is also at Telluride.

“Beasts Of No Nation” is a very interesting movie because it’s the first feature film made by Netflix, which is generally in the streaming service or running other people’s movies. Cary Fukunaga is the filmmaker. He is probably best known for directing the first season of “True Detective.” It’s a movie that is a fictionalized version of an African war in which a warlord enlists young boys to fight in a civil war. It’s obviously historically very reminiscent of some battles that are going on right now in Africa. It’s a very dark, depressing, violent film. It’s an important movie. Again, I think it’s going to get a lot of critical attention. But for Netflix, for their first feature film to play at the Telluride Film Festival, that’s quite a coup.

You talked a little bit about the Aretha Franklin documentary, “Amazing Grace,” but there are other documentaries on the schedule at Telluride.

Yeah and I think one of the highest profile documentaries is a film called “He Named Me Malala.” If people have paid attention to civil rights in Pakistan, Malala was an 11-year-old girl that the Taliban targeted for encouraging girls to go to school. She was shot and almost killed, but survived. She’s gone on to be not only a human rights advocate, but somebody who was encouraging girls to get an education. It’s having its world premiere at the film festival. It is being distributed by Fox Searchlight. It’s a very important movie and Fox Searchlight has been here before. They brought “12 Years A Slave” here, they brought “Slumdog Millionaire” here. So Telluride has been very important for the studio and I think it’s going to be a great launching pad for this new documentary.

Stay tuned to The Frame for more coverage of the 2015 Telluride Film Festival. 

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