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A sneak preview of the Telluride Film Festival

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling star in Damien Chazelle's upcoming musical
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling star in Damien Chazelle's upcoming musical "La La Land," which is one of many high-profile draws at the Telluride Film Festival.
Courtesy of Summit Entertainment

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Hang on to your seats, folks. The movie festival season is upon us.

The Venice Film Festival is happening right now and the Telluride Film Festival happens over Labor Day weekend, which means we'll soon see premieres of some of the year's leading awards contenders.

The Frame's host, John Horn, as well as some of our producers, are headed to Telluride to cover the festival. But John stopped by the studios before he left to give senior producer Oscar Garza a preview of some of the festival's biggest draws, from narrative films to indie documentaries.

Interview Highlights:

How is Telluride different from other film festivals?

The main thing is that you don't know what movies you're going to see. It's part of the charm of Telluride — though some people might call it the affectation — but you don't know what's going to play there until you arrive, and that means that you can't shop.

You either go or you don't go, and you put your trust in the film programmers. Generally, they do a pretty good job of showing an eclectic mix of narrative features, documentaries, and even some short films.

Even before the lineup was released, the trade magazines were writing about what Telluride can mean to a film that has Oscar aspirations.

The one thing that is true of Telluride is that if a movie doesn't play well there, it will not play well anywhere. This is an audience that is primed to love whatever it's going to see. That said, if you look over the very recent history of Telluride, in terms of films that have had either their world or North American premiere at the festival, tell me what these films have in common — "The King's Speech," "Argo," "Slumdog Millionaire," "Birdman," "Spotlight" and "12 Years a Slave." Do you detect a theme?

They're all Academy Award winners.

Yeah. I would say the Telluride programmers are gratified by that, but that's not their intention. They're not chasing awards, they want to show the movies that they think are the most interesting of that year's releases.

What are you looking forward to in this year's narrative films?

I'm very much looking forward to "La La Land," which is the musical set in Los Angeles by Damien Chazelle. He did "Whiplash" a couple of years ago, and "La La Land" stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

Very high up there is also "Sully," which stars Tom Hanks as the pilot who landed his plane in the middle of the Hudson River, and "Arrival," which is the latest sci-fi movie from Denis Villeneuve, who did "Sicario" and is now busy at work on the new "Blade Runner."

Do Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone do their own singing in "La La Land"?

Their own singing and dancing, and maybe they did their own catering. It's a lower-budget film, but Damien Chazelle is an unbelievably talented filmmaker. That movie's actually premiering at Venice, and it's part of a group of films that go from Venice to Telluride to Toronto, which is the week that follows.

Something else that happens at Telluride, and not all festivals do this, is tributes, and there are two this year. Who's getting the honors?

Casey Affleck, who has a movie that played at Sundance called "Manchester by the Sea," and Amy Adams, who's in the Denis Villeneuve movie, "Arrival." Again, they don't always pick big stars — you might say that Casey Affleck's a little young to have a career tribute — but they've had one for Rooney Mara, too. They focus on actors who they think have an interesting body of work, even if it's not a big body of work.

Telluride also screens documentaries. What do they have this year?

They're very fond of certain kinds of filmmakers. Werner Herzog, who's probably made 17 movies this year...

[laughs] Another one already?

He's got three movies this year: his documentary "Lo and Behold," he has a dramatic feature that will play in Toronto, and [at Telluride] he has another documentary, called "Into the Inferno," which is about volcanoes.

Errol Morris, who you probably know best from "The Thin Blue Line," has a new movie called "The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography." There's a fair mix of foreign language documentary and narrative features, so if you have any interest in any of those genres, you'll probably find something that you like a lot.

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