Telluride at Dartmouth returns for a 30th year

by Haley Gordon | 9/16/15 6:04pm

In 1972, Bill Pence and his wife Stella Pence transformed an old opera house into a functional theater and screened two movies there. The opera-house-turned-theater was in Telluride, Colorado, and the Telluride Film Festival was born.

Over the years, the film festival grew to become an international favorite, attracting attention from critics, stars and film fans alike. This festival is particularly well-known for its egalitarian approach to treating attendees and its remarkable seclusion from the press.

For the last 30 years, a partnership has existed between the Telluride Film Festival and the College, solely through the relationship with Pence, who is the Hopkins Center’s film director.

The 30th annual presentation of six Telluride films at the College will begin on Friday evening at 4 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium. This years’ film lineup includes “He Named Me Malala” (2015), “Spotlight” (2015), “Suffragette” (2015), “Ixcanul” (2015), “Rams” (2015) and “45 Years” (2015).

“He Named Me Malala,” directed by Academy Award-winning director David Guggenheim, tells the story of Nobel Peace prize recipient and education activist Malala Yousafzai. The film focuses on her relationship with her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is also an activist, and her survival of an assassination attempt.

“Spotlight” depicts the story of a group of reporters at The Boston Globe who uncovered a massive child abuse scandal within the city’s Catholic church and ultimately won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting. The film stars Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Stanley Tucci.

“Suffragette” explores the stories of three women involved in the British suffragette movement — a factory worker (Carey Mulligan), a teacher-organizer (Helena Bonham Carter) and British political activist Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep).

“Ixcanul,” which became the first Guatemalan film to be submitted to the Academy Awards, tells the story of a young woman whose unplanned pregnancy brings her into contact with a new world.

“Rams,” which has already won the Prize Un Certain Regard at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and will be Iceland’s entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, tells the story of two elderly shepherd brothers trapped in a years-long feud and how their relationship changes when one of their sheep falls ill with a contagious disease.

Pence described “45 Years” as a British film that tells the story of a couple married for 45 years as they are affected by discoveries of the past that may reveal more than desired. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, who play the couple, won best actress and best actor, respectively, at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Pence, who attends the showings at the College every year, said he was most excited to see “45 Years.”

“My wife and I are ready to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary this coming year,” Pence said. “And I do not want to it to be the disaster like I suspect is portrayed in the film.”

Current Telluride intern Andrew Kingsley ’16 said that “45 Years” was the film that personally affected him the most and described it as “devastating.”

Kingsley also said that he recommends that students see two of the films with ensemble casts, “Suffragette” and “Spotlight.” He said that the these two films in particular were bound to attract attention when released later in the year and could be relied upon for an engaging viewing experience.

A busy Dartmouth student might wonder why she should attend these advance screenings instead of waiting for the titles to appear on her Netflix homepage next year. Director of the Dartmouth Film Society Johanna Evans ’10 emphasized the draw of a festival of films over solitary movie watching, explaining that the power of the community can help heighten the emotional component of the experience.

“Seeing a movie with that many other people, you get a totally different experience with the film,” Evans said. “You can really gauge the power of the film on a broader scale [by seeing] how many people are laughing at what you’re laughing at, or when it’s totally silent, then you really get a full experience of the film that you cannot get when you’re sitting alone watching it on your laptop.”

Evans said that another advantage of going to Telluride at Dartmouth is seeing a movie without much or any previous knowledge given by previews or reviews.

“It’s nice to go in with a clean slate,” she said. “I read a lot of film reviews before I go see them, and I think a lot of people of people who care about film will read reviews first, but I find more and more it’s hard to go into the film without having all those preconceived ideas about what the film is about or what parts of it are good rather than just watching the film.”

Pence said that he wants to continue the relationship between the festival and the Hopkins Center.

“[The relationship] will probably continue as long as I continue to be here at Dartmouth,” Pence said. “Thirty years ago, I was going into my fourth year here at the College. I felt frankly that I owed them my best work in terms of curating films.”

Pence said that he wanted to express his gratitude to the College by forging this relationship with the festival.

Although Pence chose to relinquish his position as one of the directors of the festival in 2007, he has maintained some involvement by playing a role in the selection of the short films shown each year. With the help of the Telluride interns, each spring, beginning in March, the group narrows the shorts that have the potential to be screened from 1,600 to around 60 to 70, Pence said.

Kingsley said that for the selection process he would watch each short, write a mini-synopsis, a mini-critique and give a “final stamp” of no, maybe or yes. Pence would watch those with a “maybe” or a “yes”, and send his final picks to the festival’s board of directors.

The two Telluride interns, Kingsley and Mac Simonson ’16, both got to attend the festival in Colorado. They were assigned to help with individual theaters. Kingsley said his job involved scanning all the passes of the people in the queue for data collection.

“The queues can range from 100 to 600 [people] long”, Kingsley said, “so the spots are really coveted.”

The festival not only showcases the latest and greatest in modern films but also features viewings of revivals and restorations that may be relevant to each year’s lineup.

“It seems like it’s preserving all that’s still important in cinema today,” Kingsley said of the festival. “There was a five and a half hour silent German film that people went to. Nowhere else in world would you be able to show a five and a half hour silent German film and people would be like ‘Yeah I like that, that’s cool.’”

“He Named Me Malala” will be shown on Friday at 4 and 7 p.m. “Spotlight” will be shown on Saturday at 4 and 7 p.m. “Suffragette” will be shown on Sunday at 4 and 7 p.m. “Ixcanul” will be shown on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 4 and 7 p.m. “Rams” will be shown on Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 4 and 7 p.m. “45 Years” will be shown on Thursday, Sept. 24 at 4 and 7 p.m. Tickets will be $12 a ticket or $60 for a pass for general audiences and $6 a ticket or $30 for a pass for students. The pass includes admission for all six films.

Andrew Kingsley is a member of The Dartmouth staff.