TELLURIDE, COLORADO (Reuters) - Film fans, directors, actors and industry executives mingled easily the past three days in this mountain town for the Telluride Film Festival where foreign films including director Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” gained strong buzz.
The film industry each year looks to the four-day event — which favours filmmaking over celebrity spotting — to create early word of mouth for mostly independents films in the run toward Hollywood’s award season and the Oscars.
This year, talk in the theatres, bars and cafes where film lovers mixed with actors such as actors Greg Kinnear and Jeff Goldblum, author Salman Rushdie and directors David Fincher and Mike Leigh centred on the lack of American films selected.
In the past, Telluride has paved the way for hits such as “Juno,” to go onto box office success and critical acclaim. British director Boyle’s new “Slumdog Millionaire” earned praise after it packed the larger festival cinemas with audiences who clapped and cheered as the credits rolled.
Boyle, 51, told Reuters on Monday that America’s current “conservative market,” which favours blockbusters, meant initial audience reaction was important to spreading early word about his energetic, colourful film. The film tells of an orphan from the slums of Mumbai, India, on the verge of winning millions on India’s television show “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.”
“For a film like this that doesn’t have a particular star in it and is challenging in certain respects, somebody has to pick it up and say ‘There, Go, Walk’ . . . and this film festival has done that,” said Boyle, who has directed movies such as “Trainspotting,” “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine.”
“Driven by fantastic energy and a torrent of vivid images of India old and new, “Slumdog Millionaire” is a blast,” said the review from showbusiness newspaper Daily Variety.
Other films winning Telluride audiences included “Hunger,” the feature debut of another British director, Steve McQueen. It tells of IRA member Bobby Sands’ 1981 prison hunger strike. And a small Irish film “Kisses,” about a young boy and girl escaping their Dublin slum, gained some following.
“I don’t know enough about America and the audience to know where it could go,” “Kisses” director Lance Daly told Reuters, adding he was “relieved that anybody wants to see my film.”
He said he was unsure if “Kisses” could repeat the success of last year’s “Once” — another low-budget Irish film that became a commercial and critical success. “I’d like it to be a movie that people talk about that has good word of mouth.”
British director Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky” also proved popular, and Leigh told Reuters the high number of European films should “remind the American audience here that there is vibrant cinema called world cinema going on all the time.”
“At any given moment there are massive numbers of films being made at an important and interesting time everywhere,” said the acclaimed director of “Vera Drake” and “Secrets & Lies” as he rode up one of the ski resort’s gondolas.
Other European films to attract favourable reaction included France’s “I’ve Loved You So Long,” Denmark’s “Flame and Citron,” Norway’s “O’Horten” and Austria’s “Revanche.”
U.S. writer and director Paul Schrader’s “Adam Resurrected” starring Jeff Goldblum gained some favourable reactions, and “American Violet” — starring newcomer Nicole Behaire as a young black mother struggling in a small Texan town — gained some modest positive reaction.
Film executives said repeating the success of last year’s “Juno” or previous years’ Telluride hits such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was not expected.
“‘Juno’ and ‘Crouching Tiger’ are the kind of phenomenons that come very rarely, “said Michael Barker, Co-President of Sony Pictures.
He and other executives said the high number of European films were simply part of the film “cycle,” but Barker added that the lack of good U.S. films might hurt overall ticket sales. “Foreign films have a tough time,” he said. “The American films are really important because they are the ones that do the big numbers.”
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte