Danny Boyle, Peter Weir headlining Telluride

Keira Knightley's 'Never Let Me Go' screens Friday night

Peter Weir, Danny Boyle, Mark Romanek and Errol Morris will be headlining this year's Telluride Film Festival, which kicks off Friday.

Colorado mountain fest, now in its 37th year, officially announced its program Thursday, and festival directors Tom Luddy, Gary Meyer and Julie Huntsinger have stocked the high-altitude event with a typical mix of the new and unseen, the archival and obscure. Festivalgoers who make the trek to the lush box canyon in the western end of the San Juan Mountains will have their choice of outdoor screenings, shorts programs, filmmaker panels and sneak peeks at some of the fall's new releases as the program unspools through Monday.

Romanek's "Never Let Me Go," which Alex Garland adapted from the Kazuo Ishiguro novel, will screen Friday night at the 650-seat Palm Theatre. Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan star in the film, which Fox Searchlight will also show at the Toronto Film Festival before a theatrical release September 15.

Later that night, Morris will unveil his new documentary "Tabloid," about the bizarre case of former Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney, before it also moves on to Toronto.

Though Boyle will officially be on hand to present a special Sunday morning screening of his 2005 film "Millions," it is widely expected that he will also sneak in his new film "127 Hours" ahead of its Toronto berth. Fox Searchlight has a November theatrical release scheduled for the drama, which stars James Franco as a hiker trapped under a boulder in Utah for days.

Films such as "Juno" (2007), "Up in the Air" (2009) and "Slumdog," which Boyle and Fox Searchlight brought to Telluride in 2008, all went on to high-profile awards recognition. Telluride's programmers consider this nothing more than a nice coincidental bonus.

"We've had some pretty good luck with these things," admits Huntsinger. "I must tell you, I think it's going to happen again [this year]. There are a couple of things that I think people are going to embrace."

Though Huntsinger wouldn't "confirm or deny" whether "127 Hours" or Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" will show up in Telluride, the programmers always leave two or three slots in the schedule open for last-minute surprises. The fest slipped in "Paranormal Activity" in a midnight outdoor screening last year that lit the fuse of the film's shocking box office success (ultimately $193 million worldwide), and there is a big juicy TBA slot on the schedule for the 9 pm screening at the Palm Saturday night.

Weir will be in town to receive one of the fest's special tributes, which will highlight the career that produced "The Last Wave," "Witness," "Dead Poet's Society," "Fearless" and "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World." In addition to a special screening of his 1979 movie "The Plumber," the fest will screen his latest film, "The Way Back," which features Ed Harris, Mark Strong and Colin Farrell as soldiers who escape a Siberian gulag in 1940 and walk all the way to India.

"Back," from Exclusive Films, will be released in January through Exclusive's sister company, Newmarket Films.

"' 'The Way Back,' it's quintessentially Telluride -- it's brilliant, it's bold, it's not something that is easily packaged," Huntsinger said. "We love Peter Weir so much, we've long wanted to tribute him. When we first saw it, we called right away and said, 'Whatever we have to do, we want to secure this now.'"

Additional tributes to the UCLA Film & Television Archive, Italian siren Claudia Cardinale ("8½," "The Leopard") and Colin Firth ("A Single Man," "Girl With a Pearl Earring") are planned. Audiences will also get a sneak peak at Firth's new movie, the Tom Hooper-directed "The King's Speech," which the Weinstein Co. will release in November after its Toronto screening. The 72-year-old Cardinale will be represented by her 1961 film "Girl With the Suitcase" Saturday night.

A frequent patron of Telluride, Sony Pictures Classics is screening Mike Leigh's "Another Year," Charles Ferguson's "Inside Job" and Stephen Frears' "Tamara Drewe," all of which played Cannes and are scheduled for fall releases. Sylvain Chomet's latest animated marvel "The Illusionist," which had its world premiere in Berlin and which SPC will release December 25, is in the Telluride program as well.

Martin Scorsese will screen his Elia Kazan documentary "A Letter to Elia"; Werner Herzog, who last year presented "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," returns with his latest documentary, "Happy People: A Year in the Taiga"; and Ken Burns will bring "The Tenth Inning," a four-hour addendum to his 1994 PBS series "Baseball," which played at Telluride.

Also in the program are Lavinia Currier's "Oka! Amerikee," Mark Cousins' "The First Movie," Justin Chadwick and Ann Peacock's "The First Grader," Florin Serban's "If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle," Fernando Trueba's "Chico and Rita" and Shlomi Eldar's documentary "Precious Life," which HBO just picked up to air in the U.S. next year. Rarities such as the 1930 Italian silent film "Rotaie," which will be accompanied by a live music performance, and a restored version of Robert Flaherty's 1926 documentary "Moana: A Story of the South Seas" round out the selections.

Film preservationist Serge Bromberg will present a show accompanied by piano on the earliest cinematic efforts at stereoscopic 3D, and the fest will showcase student work and emerging filmmakers in its Filmmakers of Tomorrow program.
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