Martha Polk is an intern in the Walker’s Film/Video department. Recently graduated from Carleton College with a degree in Modern Middle East History and Cinema and Media Studies, she plans to write and talk about movies for the rest of her life.
Maybe it’s all the dogs moseying in and out of restaurants absorbing affection from strangers, or maybe it’s the crates of fresh Colorado peaches sold at every corner, or maybe it’s just these humbling pine-covered mountains, but I think I’m finally understanding why everybody kept telling me Telluride Colorado is a special place. I come to the Telluride Film Festival 2008 as part of the Student Symposium, a program that invites a lucky group of 50 undergraduate and graduate students from around the country to watch and discuss the festival’s films. I arrived yesterday afternoon and though the official screenings have not yet begun (the schedule kicks off in all its intensity this afternoon), the festival is alive and breathing. Everybody smiles here… all of the time. Seriously. The sun is fierce, the tap beer is $2.50 a glass (take that Sundance!), and the usual boring banter between strangers has been replaced by non-stop-movie-talk.
Last night I did manage to get into a special staff screening of American Violet, a new film by director Tim Disney and writer/producer Bill Haney. The film tells the story of an African American family struggling against the corruption and racism of the police and court systems in small town Texas. Disney and Hall give us a straight forward narrative replete with all the heart-string tugging clichés of classic good guys vs. bad guys drama, all of which had something like a 50% success rate; the unfolding action earned applause and sharp intakes of breath from about half the Telluride staff crowd. I must say, newcomer Nicole Behaire throws down a remarkable performance and manages to look stunning the whole time…even when desperate and in jail. Lastly, the film followed Obama’s acceptance of the nomination by a mere hour, pushing the film’s political pertinence to extremes. Not only did Disney and Haney mention the connections between their work and Obama’s ideals in their introduction, but the film takes place during the epic battle of 2000 between Bush, Gore, and hanging chads. Bush’s rhetoric and Gore’s unrealized promises fill tv screens and political posters, composing a powerful backdrop to American Violet at this significant moment in American history.
So, let the Telluride games begin. I’ll keep bashfully coating myself in sunscreen and shamelessly combing the streets for Werner Herzog and hopefully you’ll check back soon for updates. Exciting things to come include: Ari Folman’s Waltz With Bashir, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love, October Regis Dialogue guest Mike Leigh and his new film Happy-Go-Lucky, among so much more.