In spite of the writer's strike keeping several larger films that otherwise would have been on the Telluride slate out of this year's fest, and the absence of Cannes Palm d'or winner The Class, which many had hoped to see here (that film is opening the upcoming New York Film Festival, and so was unable to play at Telluride), the 35th Telluride Film Festival was a solid success.

The fest scored sneak previews of Danny Boyle's hotly anticipated Slumdog Millionaire, which was very well received by audiences, and gave North American premieres to some films that you'll likely be hearing about come Oscar time, including I've Loved You So Long, Flame and Citron, and Adam Resurrected, and Everlasting Moments.


One of the surprise audience faves at the fest was a little doc called Prodigal Sons, which follows Kimberly Reed as she returns to her hometown for her 20th high school reunion. There are more than the the usual post-high school issues for Kimberly to face at her reunion, though; during her high school days, she was popular football star Paul, and now she's a woman. Added to the mix is Kimberly's desire to reconcile a troubled relationship with adopted brother Marc, who, as it turns out, is the offspring of the daughter of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth.

The film screened initially at the tiny Backlot theater, but audience demand was so great that TBA screenings had to be added to allow more folks to see the film. I had the pleasure of hanging out last night with Reed and the film's production team, and it was lovely to see how absolutely delighted they were with the response their film received at one of the most prestigious film fests in the world. These moments of discovery and joy are what make Telluride so special.

Word on Paul Schrader's film Adam Resurrected was more mixed, although praise for Jeff Goldblum's astounding performance in the film was universal. Although the film is dark and highly abstract, and rather heavy to wrap your mind around, with the right marketing of the film Goldblum could quite possibly score an Oscar nod for this role. As always, Cannes films played heavily on the fest's schedule, with films Hunger, Tulpan, Waltz with Bashir and The Good the Bad and the Weird all getting solid favorable responses and Monday TBAs (the TBA slots are held for those films that play particularly well at the fest, that passholders end up getting shut out of earlier in the weekend).

While the bigger films are great to catch at Telluride, the fest also has a reputation for providing unique opportunities to see films you likely won't see anywhere else. I'm still kicking myself for being unable to work into my schedule the documentary about fest tributee Jan Troell's life work, and Troell's two-part masterpiece The Emigrants + The New World, starring Liv Ullman and Max Von Sydow. I also missed catching fest tributee Jean Simmons on the big screen in one of my favorite films, Elmer Gantry.

I did manage to work in Laughing Til it Hurts, the program of restored slapstick silent films, which included 1918 film The Cook, starring the amazing Buster Keaton (and directed by Roscoe Arbuckle), the delightfully surrealist There it Is (1928), which featured some fairly spectacular special effects for its time, and my favorite of the series, Pass the Gravy, a 1928 film by Fred L Guiol, which had the audience practically rolling in the aisles -- and featured animal stunts that would have PETA collectively frothing at the bit.

Telluride is also noted for its remarkable opportunities for casual conversations with filmmakers and talent; I had a lovely conversation about the films playing the fest with director Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky) over dinner, many conversations about the state of independent film with studio folks, filmmakers and critics, and chatted up heaps of brilliant film people at the annual Variety party, which was teeming with fest celebs, including singer Tracy Chapman, who attended the fest with her sister.

All in all, it was another great year at Telluride; the weather was gorgeous save for one day of rain, there were tons of great films to discover, and the scenery, as always, is unmatched. I'll be looking to see how some of these films end up playing at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival; in the meantime, you can check out our reviews from Telluride to get an idea of what you might be interested in if you're heading to TIFF yourself.