Gotten to the Movies! Telluride Film Fest Day 1: Lessons I never learned from the bear in The Revenant

I never saw The Revenant*, although one time we had plans to see it with our friend Jenny, and instead made the wise choice to eat and drink on her living room floor while watching the first episode of Catastrophe. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that we spoke with Jenny just minutes before a teenage (doesitreallymatter) bear ran in front of our car a few miles away from Telluride. I took this as a good omen for no other reason than wanting to incorporate the fact that WE SAW A FUCKING BEAR.


We woke up this morning and hopped on the gondola that whisks us from our accommodations in Mountain Village over a 10,000 foot peak into Telluride. Leonard Maltin greeted us with a friendly ‘good morning’ when we arrived into town and I recalled the time a few years ago when he stood in line next to us in the pouring rain donning the same bright yellow rain poncho my mom made me wear when I was eight.

Movies don’t begin until mid-day, so besides getting settled (checking in, buying memorabilia, eating at our favorite breakfast spot), we don’t do much until scarfing down food at the kickoff picnic before racing into line for our first movie of the fest.

While I’m not deeply superstitious I do have some pre-fest rituals that I engage in for no other reason than getting my head in the game. To outsiders it may seem easy to sit around and watch movies all day, but to the uninitiated there are several facts to appreciate:

  1. Telluride and nearby Mountain Village average 9000 feet altitude That’s crazy stuff and unless you are diligent about water and nutrients, your health can go downhill, no pun, quickly.
  2. Movies run nearly 17 hours a day. In order to see what (and who) you really want to see, you have to plan your days wisely, disregard food and be prepared to run around town (see #1) to one of the festival’s ten venues.
  3. Pass holders are not guaranteed admission to a movie, they are simply guaranteed a spot in line. If you don’t care about sitting together or getting up close to smell the breath of your favorite filmmakers or actors then this doesn’t matter. But if you do, then you might be waiting in line for up to two hours. It’s not such a hardship with the advent of phones (we have two wireless chargers) and the company of the hardcore movie lovers you meet.
  4. However, the weather here is unpredictable. One minute it’s sunny and 70 and the next minute it’s a monsoon. Freals. If you’re making movie watching a priority, you need to dress and pack for any weather or social event.

So my pre-game includes serious wardrobe considerations (thank god this is the Land of Fleece & Flannel), nonperishable food purchasing, safe wine packaging and movie studying. Since the program doesn’t come out until the night before the festival, there isn’t much time to learn about the movies, see who’s in town, and strategically plan what to watch.

The good news is that my physical deterioration is balanced by an uptick in my mental and emotional health. A couple of years ago I admitted that there are not four consecutive days in any given year that make me as happy as this place does. And it’s not because of the stars or even the movies themselves. Rather, it’s the combination of seeing an artist reveal his or her work after pouring themselves into a story, a part or a single shot.

While this place is most certainly about the movies, I believe it is equally about the stories. The stories on screen and the real-life stories of those who’ve toiled for years and years (and even more years, just ask the director of Amazing Grace). It took me a while to understand where my constant tears (I cry here every day) came from, but I’ve come to realize that while I may never have the pleasure of seeing the bear from The Revenant, I hold the deep and humbling honor of witnessing countless people bare their souls.


*We just ate dinner with the guy who made the trailer for The Revanant. Seriously, what’re the chances?

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