Diversity marks packed Telluride lineup

Israeli films, Cannes titles, Day-Lewis in spotlight

A tribute to actor Daniel Day-Lewis, new documentaries from Barbet Schroeder, Werner Herzog and Kevin Macdonald, a spotlight on such Israeli films as "The Band's Visit" and "Jellyfish" and a restoration of King Vidor's classic silent film "The Big Parade" are all part of the jampacked program that will greet cineastes making the pilgrimage this weekend to the 34th annual Telluride Film Festival.

The high-altitude, informal, equalitarian festival, which runs today through Monday, has undergone change at the top: Bill and Stella Pence, who co-founded the fest in 1974 with Tom Luddy and the late James Card, announced their resignation last year and will not participate in this year's gathering. Longtime Telluride participant Gary Meyer has joined Luddy as co-director.

But festivalgoers aren't likely to see changes because of the transition. "Emotionally, it was very different," Luddy said. "I kept thinking about 33 years of having constant conversations with my partner and friend Bill Pence, but Gary Meyer is also an old friend. Bill and I both identified Gary as really the one and only candidate to replace Bill when that day would come," Luddy added, noting of the partial changing of the guard that "it was pretty smooth, very harmonious and very efficient."

As usual, there will be first looks at Hollywood product that could well figure in the fall's awards race. The lineup includes Sean Penn's "Into the Wild," an adaptation of Jon Krakauer's account of a fateful trip into the Alaskan wilderness, which will be released by Paramount Vantage; Noah Baumbach, in his first film since "The Squid and the Whale," looks at two contentious sisters (Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh) in Paramount Vantage's "Margot at the Wedding"; Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan study "I'm Not There," from the Weinstein Co.; and Allison Eastwood, making her directorial debut with the family drama "Rails and Ties," starring Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden, from Warner Independent Pictures.

There also is a strong selection of titles that earned critical applause at May's Festival de Cannes. "Cannes had a very strong year," Luddy said. "Normally, we try to show a number of films from Cannes, but I think we're showing many more than usual, and I think we could have included a lot more."

The program includes Cannes' Palme d'Or winner, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," which IFC Films has picked up for U.S. release; Miramax Films' "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," the screen adaptation of Jean-Dominique Bauby's memoir about his life after a stroke that earned Julian Schnabel a directing prize at Cannes; Lee Chang-dong's "Secret Sunshine," for which Cannes hailed Jeon Do-yeon as best actress; and the animated "Persepolis," from Sony Pictures Classics, which won a jury prize at the French fest.

As Luddy and Meyer surveyed this year's output of films from around the world, Luddy said they were struck by the fact that "this year, the Israeli cinema is really strong. I saw at least five films that were really superb. We ended up with two Israeli films, plus we have two very strong Israeli shorts by new filmmakers. Something is definitely happening there."

The features are Eran Kolirin's "The Band's Visit" -- about a brass band composed of Egyptian policeman that becomes stranded in an Israeli town, which SPC is releasing stateside -- and Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen's "Jellyfish," which revolves around three Tel Aviv women, winner of Cannes' Camera d'Or.

On the documentary front, Telluride is welcoming back such regular visitors as Shroeder, who looks at a French lawyer who defended such controversial figures as Carlos the Jackal and Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy in "Terror's Advocate"; Herzog, who explores the Antarctic in "Encounters at the End of the World"; and Macdonald ("Touching the Void"), who tracks Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbi in the Weinstein Co.'s "My Enemy's Enemy."

The nonfiction titles also include Todd McCarthy's "Pierre Rissient: Man of Cinema," a portrait of the indefatigable publicist and film buff who championed the work of Jane Campion and Abbas Kiarostami; Mark Kidel's "Journey With Peter Sellars," which focuses on the peripatetic theater director; and Mark Obenhaus' extreme skiing docu "Steep!" which should feel right at home in the mountains of Colorado.

Luddy is particularly looking forward to Matthew Sussman's "Who Is Norman Lloyd?" a look at the veteran actor, writer and director. "It will be Norman Lloyd's second time at Telluride. He's one of the most entertaining raconteurs, and we'd always felt like we wanted a chance to bring him back," Luddy said.

As for narrative features, the schedule also includes Wayne Wang's "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers"; Stefan Ruzowitzky's "The Counterfeiters," from SPC; Li Yang's "Blind Mountain"; Baltasar Kormakur's "Jar City"; Anand Tucker's "When Did You Last See Your Father?"; Sarah Gavron's "Brick Lane," from SPC; Aleksei Balabanov's "Cargo 200"; and Khuat Akhmetov's "Wind Man."

As for the tributes, Luddy had hoped to entice back Day-Lewis ever since the actor accompanied "My Left Foot" to the fest in 1989. The star, who next appears in Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood," from Miramax Films and Paramount Vantage, will take part in an onstage conversation about his career.

French composer Michel Legrand also will be feted, while two of the films for which he provided music -- "Five Days in June" and "The Young Girls of Rochefort" -- will screen.

Convinced that Indian director Shyam Benegal has not received proper recognition in the States -- "he's the greatest Indian director after Satyajit Ray," Luddy said -- the fest will present Benegal with its Silver Medallion and show three of his films, "Ankur," "Bhumika" and "Zubeidaa."

Telluride's annual Medallion Award, set aside to honor film lovers, will be awarded to critic Leonard Maltin.

This year's guest director Edith R. Kramer, film programmer and retired senior film curator and director of the Pacific Film Archive at UC Berkeley, will present five archival programs: "George Kuchar, Moviemaker," Marco Ferreri's "Dillinger Is Dead," Teuvo Tulio's "The Way You Wanted Me," Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat's "Millions Like Us" and Paul Fejos' "Marie, A Hungarian Legend."

As well as Vidor's "The Big Parade," Telluride will shine the spotlight on such classic films as Shin Sang-ok's "Bound by Chastity Rules," Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer's "People on Sunday" and Richard Lester's "Help!"

This year, the fest also is opening a new screening venue, the Backlot, which will show 10 films about filmmaking and filmmakers.

That program encompasses Lee Sung-soo's "A Lucky Adventurer of Korean Film: Director Shin Sang-ok"; Marie Nyrerod's "Bergman Island: Ingmar Bergman on Faro Island, Cinema and Life"; Guido Santi and Tina Mascara's "Chris & Don: A Love Story," a portrait of Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy; "The Dawn of Sound: How Movies Learned to Talk"; Federico Leon and Marcos Martinez's "Estrellas," which looks South American filmmaker Julio Arrieta; Gerald Peary's "For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism"; Jyll Johnstone's "Hats Off," a film about 92-year-old actress Mimi Weddell; Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones' "Man in the Shadows: Val Lewton"; Anne-Marie Faux and Jean-Pierre Devillers' "Maurice Pialat: Love Exists"; and Charles and Nevin Tait's 1906 film "The Story of the Kelly Gang."