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Telluride Film Festival

Telluride Film Festival
Location Telluride, Colorado, US
Language International

The Telluride Film Festival is a film festival in Telluride, Colorado, US.


It was started in 1974 by Bill and Stella Pence, Tom Luddy, and James Card and the Telluride Council for the Arts and Humanities.[1][2] It is operated by the National Film Preserve.

In 2007 the Pences retired. Julie Huntsinger and Gary Meyer were hired to run the festival with Tom Luddy. Huntsinger is Executive Director.

In 2013 the festival celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a new venue, the Werner Herzog Theatre and an extra day.

The festival is not to be confused with Mountainfilm in Telluride, another film festival held annually in Telluride over Memorial Day weekend.


The bulk of the program is made up of new films, and there is an informal tradition that new films must be shown for the first time in North America to be eligible for the festival. Telluride is well-situated on the international film festival calendar for this: shortly after the Cannes Film Festival, but just before the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. This insistence on premieres has led to Telluride's being associated with the discovery of a number of important new films and filmmakers. This is especially true of Michael Moore (whose first film Roger and Me showed there for the first time in 1989) and Robert Rodriguez (whose first feature El Mariachi got its first festival screening there in 1992). The festival has also had the American premiere of films such as My Dinner With Andre (Louis Malle, 1981), Stranger than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 1984), Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986), The Civil War (Ken Burns, 1990), The Crying Game (Neil Jordan, 1992), Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001), and Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005).

Since 1995 a special medallion has also been presented annually, usually to a non-filmmaker who has had a major impact on American or international film culture. Past recipients include Milos Stehlik (founder of Facets Multi-Media), HBO, the French film magazine Positif, Ted Turner, and Janus Films.


Each festival also features three tributes. Typically one has been devoted to an important figure in contemporary Hollywood, another to a major historical figure, and a third to someone who is either not well known to American audiences or who has been misunderstood by them. This can be seen in the very first set of tributes, in 1974: Francis Ford Coppola, Gloria Swanson and Leni Riefenstahl. Each tributee is awarded the Telluride Film Festival Silver Medallion. Other tributees have included Penélope Cruz, Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Clint Eastwood, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, Ang Lee, David Lynch, Jack Nicholson, Peter O'Toole, Mickey Rooney, John Schlesinger, and Meryl Streep.


Each year, an artist is selected to produce the poster art for the festival. A number of famous artists have accepted the commission, including Chuck Jones, David Salle, Doug and Mike Starn, Dottie Attie, Jim Dine, Ed Ruscha, Francesco Clemente, Dave McKean and Gary Larson. The sole requirement for the poster is that the word SHOW be featured. This is a tribute to a large illuminated sign which says "Show" and sits outside of the Sheridan Opera House, the festival venue where the Silver Medallions are awarded. Among the festival staff, the Opera House is known as the "spiritual home" of the festival, and from 1974 to 1990, all of the posters had, at the bottom, the dates of the festival, along with "Sheridan Opera House" and "Telluride, Colorado."

The festival's perspective has always been defined by an intense cinephilia. This has led many to praise the festival's purity and commitment. After serving guest director in 2001, Salman Rushdie wrote about his experience there in The Guardian, saying that "It is extraordinarily exciting, in this age of the triumph of capitalism, to discover an event dedicated not to commerce but to love".[3] This perspective has rankled others, though. In her famous 1974 essay "Fascinating Fascism", Susan Sontag lamented that "The purification of Leni Riefenstahl's reputation of its Nazi dross has been gathering momentum for some time, but it has reached some kind of climax this year, with Riefenstahl the guest of honor at a new cinéphile-controlled film festival held in the summer in Colorado…."[4] Kenneth Turan, film critic of the Los Angeles Times, sums up the positions in his chapter on the festival in his book From Sundance to Sarajevo by saying that "the hothouse filmocentric universe Telluride creates over a Labor Day weekend has always been more a religion than anything as ordinary as a festival, complete with messianic believers and agnostic scoffers."[5]

Except for these Silver Medallions, the festival gives no prizes or awards. The program is created by executive director Julie Huntsinger, founder and artistic director Tom Luddy, artistic director Gary Meyer, and one of the Telluride Film Festival guest directors, who change each year. Again, the invitation to serve as guest director is very prestigious, evidenced by the renown of those who have accepted the post; these include Errol Morris, Peter Bogdanovich, Bertrand Tavernier, Salman Rushdie, Don DeLillo, Peter Sellars, Stephen Sondheim, Buck Henry, and Michael Ondaatje.


  1. ^ "Tom Luddy: Biography". Academia Rossica. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  2. ^ Celine Wright, Telluride Film Festival is a labor of cinephilia for its SHOWCorps, The Los Angeles Times, August 23, 2013
  3. ^ Rushdie, Salmon (8 September 2001). "No prizes for the best celebration of cinema". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  4. ^ Sontag, Susan (1974). "Fascinating Fascism". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  5. ^ Turan, Kenneth (2002). From Sundance to Sarajevo: Film, Festivals and the World They Made. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 150. 

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