Telluride Film Festival 2020

Over the past few months, beginning with South by Southwest in March, several major film festivals have either been outright cancelled or have switched to smaller, online versions in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But as restrictions begin to lessen to varying degrees around the country, the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado has announced that the show must go on, lengthening the festival’s run by an extra day in an attempt to provide more safety for the attendees.

The festival sent an email to media (via IndieWire) announcing that they’ve altered plans for this year’s event, but that it will go on. Instead of beginning on September 4, as originally planned, it will now start on Thursday, September 3 and run through September 7.

“We’re contacting you today to let you know we’re 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,” they said.

Personally, I’m a little conflicted about this. We’re hovering around 100,000 deaths from coronavirus in the United States, and it’s pretty clear that that number will continue to climb. With no vaccine in sight, and a potential second wave of the virus likely on the way if we don’t take the necessary precautions, it seems kind of nuts that a festival – one which theoretically features thousands of guests from all over the world, all of whom traditionally sit near each other in rooms for hours on end – would even be considering to go on under these conditions.

“There has been a determination to proceed, in large part fueled by the voices in our community,” their message reads. “This community understands that movies really are empathy machines, that when we assemble to witness the glories of cinema together, something magical happens. We humbly suggest that our world needs the light of cinema and its beautiful by-products of compassion and emotional storytelling alchemy like never before.”

“We are committed to observing all guidance as suggested by the consensus of voices of the scientific community with whom we are consulting now,” organizers said. “This will not be a business as usual event. Things will look and feel very different…”

It’s clear that the organizers have good intentions here, but will those intentions be enough to convince writers, directors, actors, press, etc. to fly into a small mountain town to attend these screenings? I know I wouldn’t attend, but everyone’s going to have a different level of comfort around this stuff…and who knows, maybe things will be better come September.

Header image: Laurent Durieux’s poster for Telluride Film Festival 2015

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