Toronto-bound pix, foreign standouts fill 4-day sked

Several films heading to Toronto will be making a pitstop in the Colorado Rockies as the Telluride Film Fest kicks off today.

Glenn Close’s “Albert Nobbs,” Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist,” Chilean Cristian Jimenez’s romancer “Bonsai,” David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” George Clooney’s “The Descendants,” Maldives Islands documentary “The Island President,” Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Cannes Grand Jury winner “The Kid With a Bike,” Wim Wenders’ 3D “Pina” and Steve McQueen’s “Shame” will continue on to the Toronto Film Fest after Labor Day weekend.

Mixing offbeat with prestige titles, the 38th Telluride Film Festival has programmed an eclectic array of potential awards contenders.

The program contains 32 features along with six pics selected by guest director Caetano Veloso, 12 shorts and 13 behind-the-scenes docs screening in the fest’s Backlot

program. Sight and Sound magazine has been tapped to receive a special medallion.

Fest begins a four-day run Friday. Tributes are set for Clooney, Tilda Swinton along with a screening of her “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” and French director Pierre Etaix with screenings of his “Yo Yo” and “Happy Anniversary.”

The initial Telluride lineup didn’t include a pair of titles rumored to be headed for the fest — Clooney’s “Ides of March,” which opened the Venice Film Festival and is screening at Toronto, and helmer Jim Field Smith’s comedy “Butter” starring Jennifer Garner.

Other high-profile titles in Telluride include Martin Scorsese’s marathon George Harrison doc “Living in the Material World”; Joshua Marston’s “The Forgiveness of Blood”; a restored version of Georges Melies’ 1902 pic, “A Trip to the Moon,” presented by archivist Serge Bromberg; Werner Herzog’s “Gazing Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life,” centered on a triple murder in Texas; Micha Peled’s doc “Bitter Seeds,” about environmental concerns surrounding genetically modified seeds; and a pair of Berlin winners — Bela Tarr’s “The Turin Horse,” which won for director, and Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation,” which won the Golden Bear for film.

As usual, programmers drew heavily on international titles, including Eryk Rocha’s “Passerby” from Brazil; Aki Kaurismaki’s “Le Havre”; Karl-Heinz Martin’s 1920 silent “From Morning to Midnight”; Indian drama “The Way Home,” from Bijukumar Damodaran (aka Dr. Biju); Viviana Garcia-Besne’s “Perdida,” a story of the Calderon family film dynasty in Mexico; Agnieszka Holland’s “In Darkness”; Alexander Zeldovich’s “Target,” set on the Mongolian-Russian border; Vasili Shukshin’s 1972 Russian drama “Happy-Go-Lucky”; Mia Hansen-Love’s French drama “Goodbye First Love”; and Joseph Cedar’s Israeli drama “Footnote,” which won for screenplay at Cannes.

“We have taken a huge amount of delight from the Berlin and Cannes films that were particularly strong this year,” said co-director Julie Huntsinger. “We want to encourage our audiences to take chances.”

Telluride has drawn an impressive list of awards contenders in recent years, serving as the launching pad for “The King’s Speech,” “Black Swan,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Juno,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Capote,” “Walk the Line,” “Little Children” and “The Last King of Scotland.”

The event has remained singular among the major festivals by keeping its titles a secret until the day before it opens. The program went to the printer Aug. 26 amid worries that Hurricane Irene might prevent the arrival of several films from the East Coast, but all turned up on time.

“We have a pretty good idea of what the final line-up will be like by the first week in August although there are a few that we wait on until the end,” Huntsinger said. “We’re looking for everything to be extraordinary.”

Huntsinger notes that the festival remains open to anyone who shows up and, though most attendees purchase passes, individual tickets remain available to many of the screenings. “We try to keep this egalitarian,” she added.

Huntsinger’s particularly enthused about a showing of Bert Stern’s “Jazz on a Summer’s Day,” shot at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, and the only film Stern ever made, along with Wenders’ “Pina,” screening at the high school gym.

Veloso will present half a dozen films, sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences — Glauber Rocha’s “Black God, White Devil,” Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment,” Jean-Luc Godard’s “Vivre sa vie,” Rene Clair’s “Les grandes manoevres,” Tania Quaresma’s “Nordeste: Corde, repente e canccao” and Leonardo Favio’s “Aniceto.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more