The Telluride Film Festival, held in an old mining town high up in a picturesque alpine valley in the Rockies, marks its 50th anniversary this week,
and Oscar-winning Moonlight filmmaker Barry Jenkins undoubtedly is one of its favorite sons.
He’ll be making the trek to the mountains as he did for the first time in 2002 as a student from Florida State film school.
The festival has a student symposium where novice filmmakers can meet and engage with professionals over the Labor Day weekend.
“There is no red carpet, there are no frills,” the director told me. “If you see a filmmaker in line for a cup of coffee, speak to them. They actually want to be engaged.
That’s why filmmakers come over and over again, year after year.”
Jenkins obviously wasn’t around Telluride in the ’70s, but he acknowledges that he has heard that “socioeconomically, it was a bit different than it is now.
It was still probably a very difficult place to get to, but there was a democratization of life once you got there.” That vibe continues, he said.
The festival tries to strip away barriers, he told me, even though audiences pay hundreds of dollars for passes. However, he noted that the short films are free for one and all to see.
Jenkins has curated the short film section for the past decade, a task he continues to this day. He’ll be taking a few days away from working on the live-action/animation film Mufasa:
The Lion King to attend this year’s festival that kicks off Thursday for a four-day run rather than its usual three days.
Jenkins told me that he admires the festival for enabling free access to the shorts and for its generosity to emerging artists.
“And it’s crazy,” he said. “I’m saying this of the town in the middle of nowhere. It’s very difficult to get to and very expensive these days.” But it’s welcoming.
“It’s why I — a kid from the projects of Miami, Florida — showed up at this place, the whitest place I ever been in my life.
Whitest, wealthiest place I’ve ever been to in my life, and I didn’t feel any of that. I didn’t.”
That first time, Jenkins remembers attending Q&A sessions with Fernando Meirelles, whose City of God was shown.
Chris Hedges and D.A. Pennebaker. Lynne Ramsay screened Morvern Callar, and David Cronenberg showed Spider.