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Variety | ‘Sully,’ ‘Arrival,’ ‘La La Land’ and More Set for 43rd Annual Telluride Film Festival

Awards Editor@kristapley

Sully Arrival La La Land Telluride

COURTESY OF WARNER BROS./SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT/PARAMOUNT

SEPTEMBER 1, 2016 | 08:00AM PT

New films from Clint Eastwood (“Sully”), Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”), Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) and Ben Younger (“Bleed for This”) are set to screen at this year’s Telluride Film Festival, commencing Friday, Sept. 2.

“Sully,” premiering Friday night, marks the first Eastwood film to screen at the fest since 1990’s “White Hunter, Black Heart.” He received a tribute that year as well, and hasn’t been back since he was on hand for Meryl Streep’s tribute in 1998.

The film stars Tom Hanks as commercial pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who miraculously water-landed US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, when a flock of geese struck the aircraft and disabled both engines.

Elsewhere, hot off the 2014 Oscar-winning sensation “Whiplash,” Chazelle will transition his vibrant musical to Telluride from an opening night bow at the Venice Film Festival, where it drew raves, before heading to Toronto next week. Also playing the trifecta is Villeneuve’s sci-fi follow-up to last year’s “Sicario,” starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.

Younger’s biopic of boxer Vinny Pazienza, played by Miles Teller, will join a number of films that will slide from Telluride world premieres to screenings in Toronto, Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” from A24, Robin Swicord’s “Wakefield” starring Bryan Cranston, François Ozon’s “Frantz” and Benedict Andrews’ “Una” among them.

Other highlights include carryovers from previous festivals, such as Gianfranco Rosi’s Berlin prize winner “Fire at Sea,” Kenneth Lonergan’s Sundance hit “Manchester by the Sea” and Cannes breakout “Toni Erdmann.”

The festival has set tributes for “Arrival’s” Adams, “Manchester’s” Casey Affleck and director Pablo Larrain, whose “Neruda” will premiere at the fest. (Larrain’s Jacqueline Kennedy biopic “Jackie,” with Natalie Portman, is not on the schedule, though it is set for a Venice premiere.)

“It’s Casey’s time,” festival director Julie Huntsinger says of Affleck’s moment. “And he’s not someone who is constantly jumping up and down and patting himself on the back, so we’re happy to do that for him.”

Huntsinger also reveals that Andrew Dominik’s 2007 western “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” which netted Affleck a best supporting actor Oscar nomination, will kick off the fest Thursday night with an outdoor screening in Elks Park. She and TFF co-founder Tom Luddy have been looking for a reason to screen the film ever since it slipped through their fingers nearly a decade ago.

“We were never able to consider it [in 2007],” she says. “There was some complicated management thing about how that movie eventually got released that we never penetrated and never figured out why. But we would have so gladly shown it.”

She says she’s particularly happy to include a celebration of Larrain after the festival was unable to book his film “The Club” last year. “I don’t think he can set a foot wrong,” she says.

And on Adams, despite the five Oscar nominations the actress managed to rack up before the age of 40, Huntsinger finds her underappreciated. “I still think people aren’t quite cognizant of how incredible an actor she is,” she says. “Her performance [in ‘Arrival’] will leave you breathless.

Huntsinger singles out this year’s non-fiction slate when pressed for hidden gems. Documentaries from Errol Morris (“The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography”), Werner Herzog (“Into the Inferno”) and Bertrand Tavernier (“My Journey Through French Cinema”) will make an appearance, while Netflix will launch Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani’s “The Ivory Game,” which documents the conflict between activists and poachers in Africa.

“There’s such a growth in the doc world,” Huntsinger says. “They end up being my favorites almost every year. There’s a thing called ‘California Typewriter’ that’s so special. Doug Nichol started out with a story of this incredible shop in Berkeley, California that repairs manual typewriters, and then he found out Tom Hanks, David McCullough, the great historian, Sam Shepard, John Mayer — they all get their typewriters serviced there! It’s about this analog business struggling in a digital world.”

Hanks, who will already be on hand for “Sully,” will in fact participate in the “California Typewriter” Q&A Sunday morning.

And finally, a year after it was originally set to bow in Telluride, Sydney Pollack’s swan song of sorts, “Amazing Grace,” had been set to make an appearance this year. But while it will be on official schedule materials for the festival, the film has been pulled from the program at the last minute.

A documentary about the making of Aretha Franklin’s best-selling album, the film was never completed due to sound sync issues, until last year, when it was scheduled to screen in both Telluride and Toronto. But Franklin sued and was granted an injunction to stop the screening by a federal judge in Denver a day ahead of its premiere, forcing Huntsinger and company to pull the film.

“At this time, Telluride Film Festival will not be screening ‘Amazing Grace ‘in its 2016 program,” an official statement reads. “The Festival respects the decision of the court and the rights and wishes of all parties involved. The Festival will continue to reserve a space for the title in its program guide should the legal situation change and should the parties all agree that the film may be screened.”

The last time there was movement in the case was in March, when Franklin and the film’s producer, Alan Elliott, asked for more time to settle their dispute.

The special Guest Director of this year’s festival is filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff. His selections include Joseph Mankiewicz’s “The Barefoot Contessa,” Louis Malle’s “The Fire Within” and Fritz Lang’s “Spies.”

As for the Oscar season, Telluride remains a key launch pad for presumptive hopefuls. Seven of the last eight best picture winners have screened at the fest, including last year’s “Spotlight.” Four of them were world premieres.

Warner Bros. will no doubt be looking to drum up that kind of support for “Sully,” particularly for Hanks, who was surprisingly passed over for a nomination three years ago for “Captain Phillips.” The studio had seen great luck with films like “Argo” and “Gravity” at the fest in recent years, but hit a speed bump with “Black Mass” last season.

By leveraging a tribute for Adams, Paramount will kick the tires on her lead actress campaign, as will Amazon with the Affleck celebration. Open Road Films, fresh off “Spotlight’s” Cinderella season, could please the crowds again with “Bleed for This” and set Teller on a course through the season, while Cranston’s role in “Wakefield” as a man whose nervous breakdown forces him to leave his wife and live in his attic for several months sounds as juicy as they come.

It will be half a year before we can sift through those ashes, though. For now, Huntsinger reflects warmly on “Spotlight’s” trajectory last year.

“That was so good for them,” she says. “It was such a smart film. You root for those. And I hope Tom McCarthy will come back again and again. Telluride seems to attract people who are curious, thoughtful, expansive human beings, and boy is he one.”

The 43rd annual Telluride Film Festival has been dedicated to the memory of filmmakers Paul Cox and Abbas Kiarostami, who both passed away this year at the age of 76. It runs Sept. 2-5.

This year’s full lineup:
“Arrival” (d. Denis Villeneuve, U.S., 2016)
“The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography” (d. Errol Morris, U.S., 2016)
“Bleed for This” (d. Ben Younger, U.S., 2016)
“California Typewriter” (d. Doug Nichol, U.S., 2016)
“Chasing Trane” (d. John Scheinfeld, U.S., 2016)
“The End of Eden” (d. Angus Macqueen, U.K., 2016)
“Finding Oscar” (d. Ryan Suffern, U.S., 2016)
“Fire at Sea” (d. Gianfranco Rosi, Italy/France, 2016)
“Frantz” (d. François Ozon, France, 2016)
“Gentleman Rissient” (d. Benoît Jacquot, Pascal Mérigeau, Guy Seligmann, France, 2016)
“Graduation” (d. Cristian Mungiu, Romania/France/Belgium, 2016)
“Into the Inferno” (d. Werner Herzog, U.K./Austria, 2016)
“The Ivory Game” (d. Kief Davidson, Richard Ladkani, Austria/U.S., 2016)
“La La Land” (d. Damien Chazelle, U.S., 2016)
“Lost in Paris” (d. Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, France/Belgium, 2016)
“Manchester by the Sea” (d. Kenneth Lonergan, U.S., 2016)
“Maudie” (d. Aisling Walsh, Canada/Ireland, 2016)
“Men: A Love Story” (d. Mimi Chakarova, U.S., 2016)
“Moonlight” (d. Barry Jenkins, U.S., 2016)
“My Journey Through French Cinema” (d. Bertrand Tavernier, France, 2016)
“Neruda” (d. Pablo Larraín, Chile/Argentina/France/Spain, 2016)
“Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer” (d. Joseph Cedar, U.S./Israel, 2016)
“Snapshots: Eyes on the World” — three nonfiction short films including “Extremis” (d. Dan Krauss, U.S., 2016); “Refugee” (d. Joyce Chen, Emily Moore, U.S., 2016); “The White Helmets” (d. Orlando von Einsiedel, U.K., 2016)
“Sully” (d. Clint Eastwood, U.S., 2016)
“Things to Come” (d. Mia Hansen-Løve, France/Germany, 2016)
“Through the Wall” (d. Rama Burshtein, U.S./Israel, 2016)
“Toni Erdmann” (d. Maren Ade, Germany/Austria, 2016)
“Una” (d. Benedict Andrews, U.K./U.S./Canada, 2016)
“Wakefield” (d. Robin Swicord, U.S., 2016)

FRONTLOT/BACKLOT
(Behind-the-scenes movies and portraits of artists, musicians and filmmakers.)

“Beauties of the Night” (d. María José Cuevas, Mexico, 2016)
“Bernadette Lafont, and God Created the Free Woman” (d. Esther Hoffenberg, France, 2016)
“Bright Lights” (d. Alexis Bloom, Fisher Stevens, U.S., 2016)
“Cool Cats” (d. Janus Køster-Rasmussen, Denmark, 2015)
“The Family Whistle” (d. Michele Salfi Russo, U.S./Italy, 2016)
“A Fanatic Heart — Bob Geldof on W.B. Yeats” (d. Gerry Hoban, Ireland, 2016)
“Gulag” (d. Angus Macqueen, U.K., 2000)
“I Called Him Morgan” (d. Kasper Collin, Sweden/U.S., 2016)
“Jerry Lewis: The Man Behind the Clown” (d. Gregory Monro, France, 2016)
“Mifune: The Last Samurai” (d. Steven Okazaki, U.S., 2015)

GUEST DIRECTOR
(Selections by Guest Director Volker Schlöndorff.)

“The Barefoot Contessa” (d. Joseph Mankiewicz, U.S., 1954)
“The Fire Within” (d. Louis Malle, France, 1963)
“I Was Nineteen” (d. Konrad Wolf, East Germany, 1968)
“It Was the Month of May” (d. Marlen Khutsiev, U.S.S.R., 1970)
“Les Enfants Terribles” (d. Jean-Pierre Melville, France, 1950)
“Spies” (d. Fritz Lang, Germany, 1928)

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