Yes, today’s announcement of movies taking part in the Telluride Film Festival, which begins Thursday and runs by Labor Day, options lots of the ordinary suspects noticed on the autumn fest circuit and eyeing awards consideration for his or her scorching Oscar prospects. Netflix has a number of films, so does Amazon. Focus, Warner Bros, Searchlight, Neon, A24, Sony Classics and extra may even be there with some prime prospects.
But maybe most surprisingly, National Geographic is main the pack and taking 4, depend ’em 4 2021 documentaries to world premiere at Telluride. And really it would have been 5 however the pageant handed on one other (nice) one, however extra on that momentarily.
When I sat down not too long ago for lunch and a preview of all 5 films on Nat Geo’s spectacular slate this 12 months with Carolyn Bernstein, EVP Global Scripted Content and Documentary Films for National Geographic, among the many first issues she identified earlier than extolling the virtues of the slate was how excited they had been to be going to Telluride with this group of movies, additionally revealing a selected technique concerned in using the Telluride viewers of cinephiles and film lovers as kind of a take a look at lab so as to assist decide how the flicks will likely be distributed. This is the primary 12 months filmmakers and studios should determine in the event that they particularly are theatrical or for tv debuts. Pick one: Oscars or Emmys.
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“Here’s what we’re doing. We have ideas, right now, about what we think makes sense. We have ideas about which ones are probably an Emmy pivot versus Oscars,” Bernstein advised me after I requested what the plan was. “But we’re really waiting to see what happens in front of an audience for the first time at Telluride. I mean it’s so exciting to even contemplate. I’ve seen these movies five thousand times. They still move me. They make me cry. But so, I know what moves me. I know, and I’m kind of in love with all of these movies, but we’ll put them in front of an audience, and we’ll see what happens. We have ideas. They may change. They may change depending on what kind of reaction, reception we get, but (eventually) they’re all going to have a big global audience on Disney+.”
Like Bernstein, Courteney Monroe, who oversees content material as president and CEO of National Geographic Global Networks, is pleased with all their output this season, and blissful to be debuting it at Telluride. “In many respects, our National Geographic Documentary Films banner is still in its infancy, with this only our fifth awards cycle. So it is particularly humbling and exciting for us to have four films invited to the prestigious Telluride Film Festival [along with Toronto, London and many others]. Our slate of films this year, beyond Telluride, hails from a group of powerhouse filmmakers with whom we are so honored to be partnering including Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, Liz Garbus and Dan Cogan, Matt Heineman, and Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn. We are also proud to be working with first-time director Max Lowe on our film Torn. Overall, our slate perfectly embodies what we are striving for: to work with the very best creative talent, to empower new voices, and to use the power of storytelling to deepen people’s understanding of the world,” she tells Deadline.
The movies (all of which I’ve now seen of their entirety at the same time as some had been speeding to complete by the premiere deadline) to which she is referring that will likely be hitting Telluride all this weekend embrace the extraordinary Becoming Cousteau from veteran docu director Liz Garbus and her husband and producing associate Dan Cogan, chronicling the legendary ocean explorer and filmmaker who by no means referred to his personal movies as documentaries however moderately adventures. Bernstein calls this “a four-quadrant movie” and Nat Geo is working with distribution veterans Bob Berney and Jeanne Berney and their Picturehouse shingle to convey it to theatres. Garbus and Cogan are additionally govt producers on Fauci, the biodoc, which debuted its trailer on Deadline yesterday, specializing in Dr. Anthony Fauci and masking his life in drugs together with the AIDS disaster all the best way as much as his key position throughout the present Covid-19 pandemic. John Hoffman and Janet Tobias are the administrators. It will really hit choose cities and theatres with vaccine necessities on September 10 (by Magnolia).
Perhaps most outstanding in some ways, significantly when it comes to beforehand never-before-seen footage, is The Rescue, the newest from Free Solo Oscar winners Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasrhelyi. It contains fascinating interviews with the important thing gamers and has unbelievable jaw-dropping entry to each step of the rescue operation of the 2018 Thai soccer crew trapped in an impenetrable cave for 2 weeks. Finally there may be the gut-wrenching household saga, the aforementioned Torn, from first-time filmmaker Max Lowe, who makes use of the medium to discover the tragic demise of his mountaineering father buried in an avalanche within the Himilayas 17 years earlier. It is way, way more than one other mountaineering saga, however an advanced household story with stunning twists alongside the best way. It comes from Lightbox and the Chinn brothers in affiliation with Nat Geo.
You would possibly say this output is the results of a cautious and deliberate constructing course of at Nat Geo in increasing its characteristic documentary ambitions following the success of their Oscar-winning Free Solo (which additionally picked up seven Emmys when that sort of double play was attainable, earlier than the Television Academy modified its eligibility guidelines to dam movies that additionally competed for Academy Awards), in addition to nominees just like the acclaimed The Cave. And Telluride, Nat Geo execs really feel, provides them an entry level, however really the ticking clock additionally has a direct affect on the choice to go there with such pressure this 12 months.
“A lot of it had to do with Covid-related timing, to be honest. A few of these are still in post, and we will just make it. You know it would’ve been nice if Becoming Cousteau had a Cannes premiere, but it wasn’t done, right? I mean it would’ve been lovely, but it just wasn’t finished,” lamented Bernstein. “So, you know, it gives us a shorter runway from an awards perspective, but I can’t tell you how thrilled everyone at Nat Geo and all of our filmmakers are to be at Telluride. It feels really special, and they’re going to be in such good company, and it wasn’t really completely by design. Part of it was by design. Part of it was Covid timing, delays, you know, whatever, but here we are with four films. So, it’s just so exciting, and I’ve never been to Telluride.”
To give an instance of simply how they’re narrowly beating the clock, Bernstein factors to the making of The Rescue. “It was very difficult for us to go to Thailand during Covid with quarantines and borders closed and whatever. Chai managed to do it. She had to do a two-week quarantine, but she got into Thailand, and that’s why the movie’s a little delayed, we’re racing to get it done. Probably two months ago they found a treasure trove of footage that just Thai nationals had, a colonel in the Thai military, someone who worked for Thai PBS, the wife of a Navy SEAL had taken all of this footage right at the rescue site, and there was additional footage of the boys that just hasn’t been widely released. There’s a famous still photograph of the boys when our divers come upon them, but no one’s seen that video. That is not out in the public,” she defined when it comes to getting this all into the completed movie because it was being found.
Free Solo really premiered in Telluride in 2018, however that was one month earlier than Bernstein took over docs in October of that 12 months, a job she says positively has its benefits. “It’s very fun to run a business where you’re in the incoming call business, you know? I’ve worked at many jobs where I’m in the outgoing call business. It’s a whole other ballgame. I just met (Telluride co-head) Julie Huntsinger for the first time. I think she’s so terrific, but she said to me, when I met her, she said this year we might as well rename the Telluride Film Festival the Nat Geo Telluride Film Festival. I think that’s a great idea,” Bernstein laughed. “You know I think she really appreciates the humanistic values of all of these films.”
The one different movie that Nat Geo additionally hoped to take to Telluride was director Matthew Heineman’s (City of Ghosts, Cartel Land, A Private War) harrowing, devastating and emotionally highly effective The First Wave, which takes viewers inside a New York City hospital overwhelmed within the early months of the Covid pandemic between March and June 2020, additionally incorporating the parallel tragedy and protests across the demise of George Floyd. Although it focuses on the extreme struggle to outlive of some sufferers, it additionally doesn’t flinch at displaying those that die whereas struggling to struggle the lethal illness, in addition to the human toll on the courageous docs, nurses and workers who struggle in any respect private prices to avoid wasting lives. But Telluride, like many different entities, was canceled final 12 months because of the pandemic and this 12 months is working with nice warning and security measures so as to happen this week. And though the pandemic is clear in another movies showing there (Fauci, Peter Hedges’ The Same Storm), this movie might need been too harrowing, with Bernstein surmising she felt it might need been on this circumstance simply “too upsetting, I think too disturbing.” Instead it’s going to function the opening-night world premiere October 7 on the Hamptons Film Festival, appropriately in New York the place this gorgeous documentary is ready.
As for his or her movies that will be at Telluride, Bernstein actually appreciates that Huntsinger is giving such a prestigious showcase to Nat Geo.
“The other ones, I mean, she just had exactly the reaction we would dream of in terms of really understanding and appreciating the values of the movie and the themes of the movies, which, you know, share a lot of stuff in common. We talk at Nat Geo about our content needs to, among other things, deepen people’s understanding of the world and their role in it. It’s kind of a lofty goal.” she stated. “I also want to make movies that are commercial. I want to make movies that have fantastic characters, big, complicated, outsized characters. Telluride is kind of dreamy and I can’t wait to put these movies in front of a real audience because I think there’s just so much to get from them. People will be moved. We definitely don’t shy away from stories with a lot of emotional content.”