August 28, 2008 / 7:25 PM / 9 years ago

Foreign films dominate Telluride Film Festival

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Telluride Film Festival will show fewer American movies than usual at its upcoming 2008 edition with foreign titles dominating the list of 23 new features unveiled on Thursday from hundreds of entries.

<p>Indian actress Nandita Das poses on the red carpet at the 58th Cannes Film Festival May 14, 2005. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler SN/dh</p>

The four-day event in the picturesque town of Telluride, Colorado, a mining camp turned ski resort in the Rockies, prides itself on shying away from the glitz and glamour of other film festivals and has in recent years paved the way for such hits as “Brokeback Mountain” and “Juno.”

The selection for this year’s 35th annual showcase, opening on Friday, includes six U.S. films, down from eight in 2007.

Festival director Gary Meyer and managing director Julie Huntsinger said the greater emphasis on foreign films stems from both the rising quality of cinema outside the United States and the impact of the recent Hollywood writers strike.

“Not many American films is neither a good or bad thing, it is what it is,” said Huntsinger. “We have to address the fact there was a writers’ strike and there is a lot of American product that is not going to be completed -- truly, will not be finished -- until its winter release date.”

Meyer said other parts of the world such as Ireland and Italy had produced especially appealing films this year, and movies from France, Britain and Israel also are featured at the Telluride event.

“There is no lack of great movies,” he said. “Do you say ‘The Lives of Others’ was a lesser film because it was not an American movie?” That film, Germany’s 2006 Oscar winner for best foreign-language film, had its first U.S. screening at Telluride.

BOLLYWOOD IN THE ROCKIES

Bollywood actress Nandita Das will screen her directorial debut, “Firaaq,” a fictional account of the 2002 Indian train fire that killed 58 Hindus and provoked deadly religious riots. Author Salman Rushdie will appear with Das at the festival.

A number of films that already have won acclaim overseas also will screen at Telluride, including France’s “I’ve Loved You So Long,” starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Cannes prize winner “Gomorrah” from Italy, and Turner Prize winner “Hunger,” the story of IRA member Bobby Sands’ 1981 prison hunger strike from first-time writer-director Steve McQueen.

Veteran director Mike Leigh will appear for his film “Happy-Go-Lucky,” for which Britain’s Sally Hawkins won best actress at the Berlin festival earlier this year portraying an infectiously optimistic school teacher.

Like 2007 best picture Oscar nominee “Juno,” which played first at Telluride, smaller films hoping to catch on this year include “American Violet,” starring Nicole Behaire as a young mother struggling to make ends meet, as well as “Kisses” -- a coming-of-age story set in a Dublin slum about an asthmatic 11-year-old boy who flees with the girl next door.

Meyer said the number of documentaries increased this year, as did the number of dramas based on true stories, including the Israeli animated film “Waltz With Bashir” that was praised at Cannes for its unnerving retelling of the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in Beirut’s refugee camps.

“Pirate for the Sea,” a documentary about controversial environmental activist and renegade sea captain Paul Watson, who has grabbed world headlines after spending decades confronting whaling boats, will make its debut showing.

Lastly, Telluride will pay tribute to several directors, including Academy Award-nominated Swedish director Jan Troell, 77, who will show his new film, “Everlasting Moments.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Steve Gorman

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