Telluride at Dartmouth features six films before release dates

by Betty Kim | 9/21/17 12:00am

Each year, Telluride at Dartmouth brings hand-selected films from the famous Colorado’s Telluride Film Festival to Hanover. This year’s Telluride at Dartmouth kicked off on Sept. 15 with a screening of “The Shape of Water” and ends tonight with acclaimed drama “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.”

According to Hopkins Center for the Arts acting director of film Sydney Stowe, Telluride at Dartmouth was founded 32 years ago by former director of film Bill Pence, who retired last spring. Stowe and Pence currently work together to choose what six movies will come to Dartmouth.

Dartmouth is the only college that has a connection with Telluride of this kind, Dartmouth Film Society co-director and film office intern Jordyn Fitch ’20 said; it is a special opportunity to see critically acclaimed films months before their commercial release, if there is one.

Though the Telluride festival tends to screen more independent films, its repertoire ranges from commercial and conventional films to independent and niche ones, Stowe said. An important criterion for choosing the films to be shown at Dartmouth is balance.

“The Shape of Water” and “Downsizing,” both shown last week along with “Hostiles,” are commercial films that were chosen in part because they were predicted to have a great appeal to audiences.

In Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” Sally Hawkins plays a mute woman working in a government lab. She forms a deep connection with a merman-like creature captured from the Amazon, and they learn to communicate when she teaches him sign language. Tension rises throughout the film as the creature’s future safety becomes increasingly uncertain.

“[Del Toro] has always been interested in monsters and what they say about us; it is the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story,” Stowe said. “Everyone will go see ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ but they’re not sure about this one. I cannot recommend it enough.”

Fitch enjoyed “The Shape of Water” but did not think it “lived up to the hype,” especially compared to the director’s older work, which includes acclaimed films such as “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy” and “Pacific Rim.”

“Hostiles,” Saturday night’s feature, was Fitch’s favorite film screened during the first week. In this adventure-drama film from director Scott Cooper, Christian Bale plays an army captain who comes into conflict with “hostiles” on the frontier as he accompanies a dying Cheyenne chief back to sacred lands.

“It was really well done,” Fitch said. “They’ve all been really good. I haven’t had any complaints.”

In the third film screened, Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing,” Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig play a couple who choose to “go small” in a universe where scientists shrink human beings to remedy overpopulation.

Christina Lu ’20, a member of the Dartmouth Film Society directorate, said “Downsizing” was her favorite film screened in the first week.

“It’s a really creative idea, excellent world building, and I think Hollywood films need a lot more of that, especially with how bad the summer has been for movies,” Lu said. “Telluride gives us the opportunity to see films at our school for a really discounted price and really acclaimed films months before they come out.”

“The Other Side of Hope” and “First Reformed” were shown this Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Aki Kaurismäki’s “The Other Side of Hope” deals with the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe in a unique way, telling the story of a refugee who arrives in Helsinki and crosses paths with a man who abandoned his wife to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant.

“I think it’s supposed to be a dark comedy that takes on the refugee crisis in Europe with compassion but doesn’t shy around it; it addresses the story of refugees that landed in Europe and how it affects people around them,” Stowe said.

This year, “The Other Side of Hope” is the only foreign-language film in the Telluride at Dartmouth lineup. There are usually two to three foreign-language films shown out of the six; Stowe said that this is the first year there is only one.

Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed” is similarly gripping in its portrayal of an emotional issue. Described by the director as “Diary of a Country Priest” meets “Taxi Driver,” the film depicts Ethan Hawke as a reverend dealing with feelings of grief.

“First Reformed” is one of the more independent films in the festival. Stowe described it as a “very small, very intense movie,” explaining that because films like “First Reformed” may not have a distributor, they will not be shown in regular movie theaters and will not be released for months.

“These films are advanced screening,” Stowe said.

Scottish director Paul McGuigan’s “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” the sixth and final film, will be shown today at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The film features Jamie Bell as an aspiring actor and Annette Bening as a former movie star trying to “make it” again; the two fall in love, and an emotional story ensues.

Stowe said that the reception this year has been good, but she hopes there will be more students attending screenings in future years.

“[Telluride at Dartmouth] is a chance to see a movie before someone can tell you how to feel about it,” Stowe said. “The movie hasn’t been shown, there’s no trailers on TV, your neighbor doesn’t comment on it ... It’s such a treat to see it and make up your own mind without anyone telling you how to feel about the movie. It’s a real opportunity to go see it in its most original form and make up your own mind.”

Stowe said that seeing “La La Land” at Dartmouth last year was an especially interesting, rare experience.

“We saw ‘La La Land’ before anyone else, the second night of the festival,” Stowe said. “We liked it, but we didn’t love it, and when everyone started loving it, I was like, ‘I wonder if I got it wrong.’ But it was because the hype got ahead of the movie. What’s nice about Telluride at Dartmouth is that we get ahead of the hype.”

Johanna Evans, acting manager of the Hop, expressed that she would also like to have more students attend the screenings but remains confident that the movies speak for themselves.

“The movies are the things that matter,” Evans said. “At the end of the day, getting to see the movie is exciting enough.”