An Ode to Telluride

Imagine a place where elk roam free, where majestic mountains and glowing orbs called gondolas hug a quaint town replete with restaurants and friendly “Hello’s.” A place where people choose movies over sleep, and where celebrities and muggles are one and the same. A place where people who like movies transform into cinephiles who love film. (And where nobody will think you’re pretentious for calling yourself a “cinephile,” or for using the word “film” instead of “movie.”)

This, dear reader(s), is Telluride, Colorado. Or more aptly named, Heaven.

I was one of 50 students to take part in the Telluride Film Festival Student Symposium over the past five days. After writing an essay on the movie of our choice, we were invited to the festival as recipients of the royal Kardashian treatment, ushered through 14 movies and 12 intimate Q+As with many of the festival’s esteemed artists.

On the plane back to San Francisco, I tried to think about how to write about my experience, but then I fell asleep. I don’t really like writing reviews because they’re incredibly subjective and, if you don’t know me, you’ll have no basis on which to judge them. This reservation doesn’t really apply here though considering the audience of this blog consists of my family and my best friend Claire.

In any case, I’d like to pass along a summary of my favorite films. They made me feel things, so if they do the same for you, let’s talk. I want to re-live the drama, starting with my two favorites, “Rust & Bone” and “Frances Ha.”

“Rust & Bone” (France, 2012)

  • The Director: Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet”)
  • The People: Marion Cotillard (“La vie en rose,” “Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises”)
  • The Dish: The story of a chiseled street-fighter, his son, and a free-spirited whale trainer. It’ll have you dancing, then crying, then smiling. I saw it three days ago and I’ve been thinking about it every day since.

 Frances Ha” (U.S., 2012)

  • The Trailer: No trailer, but check out the IMDb page for now…
  • The Director: Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”, “Greenberg,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox”)
  • The People: Greta Gerwig (“Greenberg,” “No Strings Attached”), Adam Driver (Adam from HBO’s “Girls”)
  • The Dish: That new black-and-white Noah Baumbach movie set in present-day New York. Feels like the movie version of “Girls.”

“No” (Chile, 2012)

  • The Director: Pablo Larraín
  • The People: Gael García Bernal (“Y Tu Mamá También,” “Motorcycle Diaries,” “The Science of Sleep”)
  • The Dish: Follows successful ad exec René Saavedra during the 1988 campaign in Chile to overthrow Pinochet. Shot on a video camera from the 80s and featuring a jingle that’ll never leave your head.

“Everyday” (U.K., 2012)

  • The Director: Michael Winterbottom (“24 Hour Party People,” “The Killer Inside Me”)
  • The People: Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle in “Harry Potter”)
  • The Dish: Family drama filmed over the course of five years. Features four incredibly talented child actors who are real-life brothers and sisters.

Wadjda” (Saudi Arabia, 2012)

  • The Director: Haifaa Al Mansour
  • The People: You won’t recognize ’em, but you’ll love ’em.
  • The Dish: First film shot entirely on location in Saudi Arabia and the first by a Saudi woman. Saudi women avoid public interactions with men and aren’t allowed to drive, so Mansour had to direct some of the scenes over the phone. In short: an optimistic story through the lens of a spunky, manipulative 11-year-old trying to buy a bike.

“Ginger and Rosa” (England, 2012)

  • The Trailer: No trailer, but there’s a Bookface page!
  • The Director: Sally Potter
  • The People: Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Annette Bening
  • The Dish: It’s 1960s Britain. Ginger’s parents have a really sucky marriage and the world might (read: will) blow up. Oh and her best friend Rosa is sleeping her way into the family.

“The Act of Killing” (Denmark, 2012)

  • The Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
  • The People: Paramilitary leader Anwar Congo and his lackeys
  • The Dish: A documentary unlike anything I’ve ever seen or felt. Josh spent seven years in Indonesia, asking the leaders of the 1960s genocide to make fiction films reenacting their killings.

The Gatekeepers” (Israel, 2012)

  • The Trailer: No trailer. See Facebook.
  • The Director: Dror Moreh
  • The People: The Five former heads of Israel’s Secret Service, Shin Bet
  • The Dish:  These five men talk openly for the first time about maintaining security in the Gaza Strip. Shot like a spy thriller with stock footage that’ll make you cringe.

Others I saw but didn’t feel like writing about: “Something Wild,” “The Sapphires,” “Midnight’s Children,” “The Marvelous Life of Joan of Arc,” and some flick about corn/racing featuring Zac Efron’s eyebrows.

So what’s the purpose of all these moving pictures? Some of the artists at the festival had answers for us during our discussions. Peter Sellars said they’re a record of community and truth in an era of lies, things that creates space for the artist to discover who he/she wants to be while allowing his/her audience to do the same. Or maybe they’re dramas of actuality (Michael Winterbottom), or studies in the relationship between emotional reasoning versus intellectual reasoning (the luminous Sally Potter).

In any case, think about what’s happening when you buy a movie ticket for $13.50+ and take your seat in a movie theater. On film, 24 individual frames are shown per second, placed one after the other to create the illusion of movement. (An explanation of digital projections is a little less romantic.) We sit, wide-eyed, all witnesses to a technological miracle that subsequently has the power to produce a powerful emotional reaction from within—happiness, sadness, confusion, empowerment to create change, helplessness when change in the world may be needed.

It’s this marriage between the world of technology and pathos that I feel so lucky to be a part of, particularly when it produces important films like “The Gatekeepers” and “The Act of Killing” that illuminate the tragedies unfolding beyond the walls of the theater. Film is my passion, my politics, my religion, I guess. I don’t always know what I believe in, but I know I believe in film.

K gotta go. It’s time to look into housing and flights for Telluride 2013. Hope to see you all there! I’ll probably be the one enjoying a burger in front of the New Sheridan, sitting quietly at a table next to Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner while bursting loudly inside that I’m five feet away from the cutest parents ever.

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3 responses to “An Ode to Telluride

  1. Oh Jonathan, You move me to intellectual tears over your writing skills. I’m glad Telluride was such a positive learning ,emotional feed. Love you to pieces. Grandma

  2. hi hi hi hi…I found you because I googled Fundamental Attribution Error Theory…Now I can’t get off of your page to keep studying for my social psych test. I like how true you write. Few like you out there…k bye! I’ll be back after my tessssst tomorrow.

  3. Gotta love the FAET! Sorry I prevented you from studying. Thanks for reading though! Glad to know my audience extends beyond my mother and grandma. 🙂

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