Telluride Film Festival Canceled For 2020

Another one bites the dust. As film festivals grapple with what to do in a world overrun with the coronavirus/COVID-19, more and more organizers seem to be giving in to the inevitable. SXSW and Cannes were canceled, TIFF is still on but adding a digital element, and the Venice Film Festival still plans to go ahead. But one fest that won't be around for 2020 is the intimate Telluride Film Festival. In May, Telluride said they still planned to forge ahead, and even planned to add an extra day for safety. Now, that's changed, and Telluride is canceled for the year.

Film festival season is all but non-existent this year thanks to the coronavirus, which shows no signs of going away (I've written those words a lot in the last few days). The Telluride Film Festival is usually held on Labor Day, and while it's a relatively small fest in scale, it's often looked at as the first indicator of what's to come in awards season. Usually, the films that play there also play at TIFF, and as the year winds down, all eyes are on those fests to see what films generate the biggest buzz.

But things will be different this year. TIFF still plans to hold some in-person events, but they're also putting all of their films online for the first time ever. Telluride, however, is pulling the plug entirely. Part of the problem with Telluride is that it's set in a very remote location in Colorado, and the logistics of getting people there in the midst of a pandemic just seemed untenable. Telluride also transforms local venues into theaters, but that, too, was too much of a challenge to deal with this year.

The festival released the following statement:


After months of intense due diligence around physically holding an event, we've come to the heartbreaking but unanimous conclusion to cancel this year's Labor Day celebration of film in Telluride.

While there will be those who might say they're not surprised by it, that this was inevitable, we beg to differ. It didn't have to be this way. Until the past week or so, we had a very good plan to put on the SHOW safely. But with a seemingly unending number of new cases of Covid-19 and the national chaos around it, even the best strategy is threatened by this out of control environment. No matter how much many of us wear our masks and observe social distancing protocols, the pandemic has worsened rather than improved and the health and safety of you – our passholders, filmmakers, the people of Telluride and its surrounding areas – cannot be compromised.

As you may know, we have been working cooperatively with our fellow fall film festival partners to champion global cinema and its artists. We hope that many of you will seek out and discover the titles we've selected for this year's program at the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, or Venice Film Festival, or when they're made available on a wider basis. We will announce soon what we have carefully programmed in the hopes that you will experience as we did, the best in film this year. There are some incredible, powerful, and beautiful gems and we're excited to extol their virtues when the time is right. Follow these titles, support them. We intend to champion them outside of the festival as best we can.

For those who have supported us and believe in what we are trying to do, our gratitude is enormous. Thank you. We will need you in the coming months in many ways. Let's light candles now to conjure a better 2021 and Labor Day weekend in Telluride, together, under the stars in the mountains doing what many of us love the most. The way we prefer to experience cinema will return.  Let's make it so.

We wish you good health, peace and may we collectively move forward to a better world.

We understand that film festivals and their long-term health are not top of mind today. A safe vaccine, vital medical interventions for those sick and properly enforced health regulations are. However, we do ask that you take this moment to consider a world where gathering around a shared love of culture is no longer possible and what that means for the psychological condition of the world. If the prospect prompts a sense of despair, please advocate and champion the return of our gatherings that provide vital nourishment and oxygen to humanity's soul, at the appropriate time, of course!


This news comes in the wake of earlier plans to keep the fest going. Back in May, Telluride sent out an email stating that they were "hard at work to provide a safe and joyous environment that will include an extra day to allow more space within and between screenings, along with all of the necessary safety tweaks and adjustments you've become very familiar with, regardless of where you call home." Sadly, that didn't work out.

I've never attended Telluride, but I've always wanted to – it looks like a truly special fest. Maybe I'll be able to go one day in the future, after all of this over. Assuming any of this is ever over.