LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The race for Oscars has begun in earnest in Venice, Italy, and the small town of Telluride, Colorado, which on Thursday unveiled the movies set to play at its influential film festival this coming weekend.
Director Jane Campion's romance "Bright Star," about poet John Keats and his muse, "The Road," based on Cormac McCarthy's novel about an America ravaged by nuclear weapons, and Cannes festival favorites "The White Ribbon" and "Fish Tank" are among the 24 new movies in the annual event's main program.
The festival at Telluride, an old mining town and modern ski resort in the Rocky Mountains of southwestern Colorado, enters its 36th year when it starts on Friday, September 4.
It only runs one weekend, and is relatively small compared to larger gatherings in Cannes, Venice, Toronto, New York and Berlin, as well as the Sundance film festival in Utah.
But its quirky nature -- organizers unveil the lineup only one day before it starts -- its penchant for the art of cinema and foreign language films, and its location in the mountains has long attracted influential critics and Hollywood stars.
As a result, studios looking to create industry buzz and avid film fans all covet a screening at Telluride, making it key to building momentum for the Oscars, the world's top movie honors, given out each year in Los Angeles.
"Slumdog Millionaire," which won the best film Oscar for 2008, kicked off its campaign in Telluride.
Similarly, the Venice film festival that began this week and the festival in Toronto starting next week, provide launch pads for Oscar campaigns.
Among other titles screening at Telluride this weekend will be "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans," starring Nicolas Cage, directed by Werner Herzog and telling of a bad cop with a taste for drugs; "Life During Wartime," a dark family drama from director Todd Solondz; and "Coco Before Chanel," recounting the early life of the famed designer Coco Chanel.
Outside the festival's main showcase, called the "Show," the festival will screen 11 classic movies including 1961 French film "Lola" and 1950 U.S. title "The Breaking Point."
This year's guest director is Alexander Payne, who won a screenwriting Oscar for 2004's "Sideways," and the festival will give three Silver Medallion Awards to actor Viggo Mortensen, French actress Anouk Aimee and German actress/writer and director Margarethe von Trotta.
Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis