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Show and Tell-uride: A Film Festival Preview

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This is the first in a series of stories from the 2008 Telluride Film Festival that is held over the Labor Day weekend. Offerings will include "Sneak Reviews," a quick look at a film screened the previous night; "High on Telluride," highlights of some of the group discussions and celebrity appearances; and "Festival Buzzwords," focusing on what's getting the most attention — good or bad — throughout the weekend.

The 35th Telluride Film Festival on Thursday announced its lineup of eclectic movies and events that will run through the Labor Day weekend and noticeably missing was a list of high-profile actors and sure-fire Academy Award-contending films.

Maybe some of the blame for upstaging this little slice of heaven at 8,750 feet tucked into the southwestern corner of Colorado can go to the Democratic National Convention, with Spike Lee, Susan Sarandon, Ashley Judd, and Anne Hathaway supplying plenty of star power, or the Venice Film Festival, where George Clooney and Brad Pitt already have appeared this week to promote the upcoming Coen Brothers farce Burn After Reading.

tffThere are expected to be several “sneak previews” and surprise attendees over the weekend in Telluride, though, and the four-day event never seems to disappoint.

In the past three years alone, the eventual Academy Award winners for best actor have attended. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) and Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood) brought insight to their upcoming projects.

The tributes that honor some of best performers and filmmakers continue this year. Among the honorees are: Denver-born director David Fincher (Zodiac, Fight Club, Se7en), whose highly-anticipated Christmas Day release, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, starring Pitt and Cate Blanchett, will be part of the tribute in the form of a 20-minute snippet; acclaimed actress Jean Simmons (Guys and Dolls, Spartacus, Elmer Gantry), who has been making movies for more than 60 years and was nominated for a best actress Oscar for Hamlet in 1949 and The Happy Ending in 1969; and and Jan Troell, a Swedish filmmaker known for his Oscar-nominated companion pieces, The Emigrants and The New Land.

Richard Schickel, longtime film critic (Time), author, and documentary filmmaker, on Saturday will be presented the festival’s Special Medallion award, which “honors the passionate heroes of cinema.”

More than 25 new features are on the program, with a heavy emphasis on international films, along with numerous documentaries, a new animation section and classics that pay tribute to past filmmakers.

“Despite concerns that this year couldn’t meet the high expectations of world cinema in 2007, it became clear in Berlin and Cannes that filmmakers are determined to keep reaching new heights,” Telluride Film Festival co-director Gary Meyer said in a press release. “The new films submitted to us this summer, unseen anywhere, also continued the trend of quality and unique stories.”

American Violet.church Some of the major releases on the Telluride agenda include: American Violet, left, a film shown in advance to festival staff members Thursday night that examines racial discrimination in Texas over some trumped-up drug charges in 1999 and stars Alfre Woodard (a DNC attendee), Charles Dutton, Tim Blake Nelson and newcomer Nicole Behaire; Happy-Go-Lucky, a comedy directed by Mike Leigh about a schoolteacher who remains optimistic no matter how terrible life gets; Adam Resurrected, Adam Resurrected 01a post-World War II/Holocaust drama directed by Paul Schrader (American Gigolo) and starring Jeff Goldblum, right, and Willem Dafoe; and I’ve Loved You So Long, a family drama about a woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) who returns to live with her estranged sister after 15 years.

Others expected to appear at seminars or conversations include: author Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses) with Senegalese musician and composer Youssou N’Dour, who also will present a free outdoor showing of Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love on Friday night followed by a concert in the park;  documentarian and longtime Telluride supporter Ken Burns interviewing Greenpeace founder Paul Watson, the “Robin Hood of the High Seas” who’s the subject of the biographical film Pirate For the Sea, which will be shown here; Schrader; Behaire; and guest director Slavoj Zizek, described by the festival as a “Slovenian-born irrepressible political philosopher, cultural theorist, academic superstar and impassioned cinephile.”

Festival screenings are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Friday.

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