You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Telluride Film Festival Director on Hidden Gems and a Banner Year for Women

Asked for something that sticks out from this year’s Telluride Film Festival lineup, TFF executive director Julie Huntsinger springs not for one of the glossier titles on offer, but rather a “short-ish” documentary.

“One thing that’s a real treat is a Netflix doc called ‘Long Shot,'” she says. “It blew me away. It has Larry David, some stunning twists of fate, and it’s told in the warmest, most humanistic way. That’s a movie that I will probably watch a good couple of times before the end of my life.”

She also lights up when discussing a new director’s cut of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1984 film “The Cotton Club,” which will finally present the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s intended vision more than 30 years later under the new title “The Cotton Club Encore.”

“I don’t know if there was ever more a case for a director’s cut to be created,” Huntsinger says. “The way it was originally presented, in sticking to the mobster storyline, the important black cultural part of the film was eviscerated. Francis knew that was not the story he was trying to tell. This is his version, and it’s so much more meaningful. You’ll want to hear ‘Stormy Weather’ over and over and over again.”

Such is the cinephile heart of Telluride, revving its engines for a 44th engagement this holiday weekend. There will be splashy awards season prospects to gobble up and analyze, from Gary Oldman in full prestige, makeup-slathered mode as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” to Guillermo del Toro’s heavily buzzed fantasy offering “The Shape of Water.” Annette Bening’s latest run at the Oscars (“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”) will help fire the best actress starting gun, while tributes to actor Christian Bale (“Hostiles”) and cinematographer Ed Lachman (“Wonderstruck”) will firmly position them in the running.

But there is much more to Telluride than its place as a recent all-but-mandated Oscar circuit stop.

One considerable note of interest this year is the prevalence of female filmmakers on the main program slate. Of the 30 titles, nine were directed by women.

“There’s not some agenda that we ever set out with,” Huntsinger cautions. “[Festival co-founder] Tom [Luddy] and I sit down and watch movies, and the ones we respond to the most are the ones that we select. I think [this prevalence] speaks to female directors working and wanting to tell important, interesting, exceptional stories.”

She also points to the bevy of female-driven narratives on screen at the fest, from Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” (starring Saorise Ronan in a Sacramento-set coming-of-age tale), to Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s “Battle of the Sexes” (with Oscar winner Emma Stone as tennis legend Billie Jean King). There is also Sebastian Lelio’s “A Fantastic Woman,” starring trans actress Daniela Vega.

“Angelina Jolie knocks it out of the park,” Huntsinger says of “First They Killed My Father,” the actress-director’s fourth directorial effort. “She tells this story with stunning sensitivity and beauty. … And Billie Jean King will be here as well. I think people will take another look at her story, not just as a woman’s story, but being a person with a complicated and challenging life, her bravery and subsequent leadership has been outstanding.”

Additionally, regular attendee Ken Burns will break off an episode of his latest 18-hour opus, “The Vietnam War,” which Huntsinger found to be an engrossing new chapter in a storied career.

“I’ve watched [the whole thing] multiple times,” she says. “It’s so dense, but it’s a pleasure. It’s not like I’m going, ‘Oh, I didn’t really get that. I should watch it again.’ It’s that I’ll say, ‘I love that character. I want to listen to what he has to say again.’ Ken finds a way of telling America’s story better than anyone in the world. I love that man.”

Huntsinger is also particularly excited about hosting Al Gore, who will be on hand for a special screening of the documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.” She recalls being at the Staples Center in Los Angeles when Gore accepted the presidential nomination in 2000, and how much of an inspiration he was as a live speaker.

“This is something we want to amplify,” Huntsinger says. “I’m sure it will be a giant audience. And the message he wants people to pay attention to just gets a giant red underline this week when you look at Hurricane Harvey.”

But first Huntsinger is eager to give filmmaker Barry Jenkins a big hug as soon as he makes it into town. The director of this year’s best picture winner “Moonlight,” which began its journey in Telluride a year ago, regularly serves as a curator of the festival’s short films program. Naturally, he has a lot on his plate in the wake of that success, so Huntsinger actually wondered if he would still be able to serve the cause.

“He said, ‘Heck yeah! You better believe it,'” she recalls. “I have never been prouder or happier for someone in my life, ever. Our staff is probably going to mob him!”

The 44th Telluride Film Festival begins Friday and runs through Monday.

More Film

  • Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer

    Film News Roundup: 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Trailer Sets Sony Pictures Record

    In today’s film news roundup, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” sets a studio record, Chris Meledandri and Glenn Close are honored, an art-house streaming service is unveiled, and “Cliffs of Freedom” gets a release. TRAILER STATS The first “Spider-Man: Far From Home” trailer has set a record as the biggest digital launch in Sony Pictures history [...]

  • Frank Grillo Hell on the Border

    Frank Grillo to Star in the Thriller 'Hell on the Border'

    Frank Grillo is set to star in the action-thriller “Hell on the Border” with Wes Miller directing. Miller also penned the script with Curtis Nichouls, Henry Penzi, and Sasha Yelaun producing. Ron Perlman is also on board to co-star. Plot details are unknown at this time. Production is currently underway in Birmingham, Ala. Grillo has [...]

  • Lee Unkrich Variety Oscars Nominees Lunch

    'Toy Story 3,' 'Coco' Director Lee Unkrich to Exit Pixar After 25 Years

    Lee Unkrich, who won Academy Awards for “Toy Story 3” and “Coco,” is departing Pixar Animation Studios after 25 years to spend more time with his family. Unkrich joined Pixar in 1994 after working as an assistant editor in television on “Silk Stalkings” and “Renegade.” He served as editor on Pixar’s first feature, 1995’s “Toy [...]

  • Velvet Buzzsaw trailer

    Netflix Original Movies: What to Look Forward To in 2019

    Following the biggest fourth-quarter worldwide subscriber gain ever and some controversy around increased prices in the U.S., Netflix looks to keep its momentum going into 2019. From Jan. 18 through March, the streaming site will release 10 original films, including action-packed thrillers, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi, quirky comedies, inspirational dramas, an artistic horror movie and a viral [...]

  • Third 'Fantastic Beasts' Production Start Pushed

    Third 'Fantastic Beasts' Production Start Pushed Back Several Months

    Warner Bros. is pushing back the production start date of its third “Fantastic Beasts” movie several months from July to the late fall, a spokesperson said Friday. Actors have been notified about the change in dates. The untitled third “Fantastic Beasts” movie has not yet set a release date. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find [...]

  • The Beatles Eight Days a Week

    Imagine's Documentary Arm Sets First-Look Pact With Apple (EXCLUSIVE)

    Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries has set a first-look pact with Apple to develop non-fiction features and series. The deal comes as Imagine is investing heavily in the premium non-fiction arena. The company in June recruited RadicalMedia veteran Justin Wilkes to head Imagine Documentaries as president. The deal suggests that Apple sees docu [...]

  • Walt Disney HQ LA

    Disney Unveils Financial Data for DTC Unit, Sets April 11 for Investor Presentation

    Disney has rejiggered its business segments for earnings reporting to make room for the new unit housing its global streaming operations. Disney on Friday released restated earnings for fiscal 2018, 2017 and 2016 to give investors and financial analysts better visibility into its spending on the launch of the Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and other [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content