Nat Geo Documentaries Set To Dominate Telluride Film Festival – Deadline



Yes, today’s announcement of the films showing at the Telluride Film Festival, which begins Thursday and runs through Labor Day, features many of the usual suspects spotted on the Fall Festival circuit and draws the watch out for awards for their hot outlook at the Oscars. Netflix has several movies, as does Amazon. Focus, Warner Bros, Searchlight, Neon, A24, Sony Classics and many more will also be there with choice perspectives.

But perhaps most surprisingly, National Geographic leads the pack and takes four, count four 2021 documentaries world premieres in Telluride. And in fact he would have were five but the festival transmitted another (large), but more on that momentarily.

When I sat down for lunch recently and previewed the five films on Nat Geo’s impressive list this year with Carolyn Bernstein, EVP Global Scripted Content and Documentary Films for National Geographic, among the first things she highlighted before to extol the virtues of Slate was how excited they were to go to Telluride with this group of films, also revealing a specific strategy of employing Telluride’s audience of moviegoers and moviegoers as a sort of test lab. to help determine how the films will be distributed. This is the first year that filmmakers and studios have to decide whether they are specifically for film or television. Pick one: Oscars or Emmys.

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“This is what we do. We have ideas, right now, about what we think makes sense. We have ideas on which Emmy is probably a pivotal point in relation to the Oscars, ”Bernstein told me when I asked what the plan was. “But we’re really waiting to see what goes in front of an audience for the first time in Telluride. I mean it’s so exciting to even contemplate. I have seen these films five thousand times. They still move me. They make me cry. But hey, I know what moves me. I know, and I’m a little bit in love with all of these movies, but we’ll put them in front of an audience, and we’ll see what happens. We have ideas. They can change. They can change depending on what kind of reaction, reception we get, but (eventually) they’ll all have a large global audience on Disney +.

Telluride Film Festival

Like Bernstein, Courteney Monroe, who oversees content as President and CEO of National Geographic Global Networks, is proud of all of their productions this season and happy to debut them at Telluride. “In many ways, our National Geographic Documentary Films banner is in its infancy, just our fifth round of awards. It is therefore particularly humiliating and exciting for us to have four films invited to the prestigious Telluride Film Festival. [along with Toronto, London and many others]. Our list of films this year, Beyond Telluride, comes from a group of powerful filmmakers we are so honored to partner with, including Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, Liz Garbus and Dan Cogan, Matt Heineman and Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn. We’re also proud to be working with first-time director Max Lowe on our film. Torn up. Overall, our list perfectly embodies what we strive for: working with the best creative talent, empowering new voices, and using the power of storytelling to deepen people’s understanding of the world, ”he said. she told Deadline.

The movies (which I have now all seen in their entirety although some were rushing to finish before the premiere deadline) that she references that will hit Telluride all weekend include the extraordinary. Become Cousteau from seasoned docu director Liz Garbus and her husband and production partner Dan Cogan, chronicling the legendary ocean explorer and filmmaker who never called his own films documentaries but rather adventures. Bernstein calls it “a four quadrant movie” and Nat Geo is working with cast veterans Bob Berney and Jeanne Berney and their Picturehouse shingle to bring it to theaters. Garbus and Cogan are also executive producers on Fauci, the biodoc, which debuted yesterday in its trailer on Deadline, focusing on Dr Anthony Fauci and covering his life in medicine, including the AIDS crisis to his key role during the current Covid pandemic- 19. John Hoffman and Janet Tobias are the directors. It will actually hit some cities and theaters with vaccine requirements on September 10 (via Magnolia).

Perhaps the most notable in many ways, especially in terms of unreleased footage, is The rescue, The last of Free solo Oscar winners Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasrhelyi. It includes fascinating interviews with key players and provides incredible access to every step of the way to rescue the 2018 Thai soccer team trapped in an impenetrable cave for two weeks. Finally, there is the heartbreaking family saga, the Torn up, from novice filmmaker Max Lowe, who uses the medium to explore the tragic death of his mountaineer father who was buried in an avalanche in the Himilayas 17 years earlier. It’s more than just another mountaineering saga, but a complicated family story with surprising twists along the way. It comes from Lightbox and the Chinn brothers in association with Nat Geo.

You could say that this release is the result of a careful and deliberate building process at Nat Geo to expand their documentary feature-length ambitions after the success of their Oscar-winning film. Free Solo (which also won seven Emmy Awards when this kind of double play was possible, before Television Academy changed its eligibility rules to block films that also competed for the Oscars), as well as nominees like the famous The cave. And Telluride, Nat Geo executives believe, gives them an entry point, but in reality the countdown also has a direct impact on the decision to go with such force this year.


Nat Geo

“To be honest, a lot of it had to do with the timing of Covid. A few of them are still there, and we’ll just do it. You know it would’ve been good if Become Cousteau premiered at Cannes, but it wasn’t done, right? I mean, it would have been beautiful, but it just wasn’t over, ”Bernstein lamented. “So, you know, that gives us a shorter track from an awards point of view, but I can’t tell you how excited everyone at Nat Geo and all of our filmmakers are to be at Telluride. It’s really special, and they’re going to be in such great company, and it wasn’t really completely planned. It was partly by design. Part of that was the timing of Covid, the delays, you know, whatever, but here we are with four movies. So, it’s so exciting, and I’ve never been to Telluride.

The rescue

“The rescue”
Nat Geo

To give an example of how they narrowly beat the watch, Bernstein points to the achievement of The rescue. “It was very difficult for us to go to Thailand during Covid with the quarantines and the borders closed and whatever. Chai managed to do it. She had to do a two week quarantine, but she got into Thailand, and that’s why the movie is a bit delayed, we’re fighting to do it. Probably two months ago, they found a treasure trove of images that only Thai nationals had, a Thai army colonel, someone who worked for Thai PBS, a Navy SEAL’s wife had taken all of them. those images straight to the rescue site, and there were additional images of the boys that just weren’t widely released. There is a famous photo of the boys when our divers find them, but no one has seen this video. It’s not made public, ”she explained in terms of incorporating all of this into the finished film as it is discovered.

Torn up

“Torn up”
Nat Geo

Free solo actually premiered at Telluride in 2018, but that was a month before Bernstein took over the docs in October of that year, a job she says certainly has its benefits. “It’s a lot of fun running a business where you’re in the inbound business, you know? I have held many jobs in the field of outgoing calls. It’s a whole different ball game. I just met (Telluride co-director) Julie Huntsinger for the first time. I think she’s so great, but she told me, when I met her she said this year we might as well rename the Telluride Film Festival to Nat Geo Telluride Film Festival. I think it’s a great idea, ”Bernstein said with a laugh. “You know, I think she really appreciates the humanistic values ​​of all of these films.”

The first wave

“The first wave”
Hamptons Film Festival

The only other movie Nat Geo also hoped to bring to Telluride was that of director Matthew Heineman (City of Ghosts, Cartel Land, A Private War) heartbreaking, devastating and emotionally powerful The first wave, which takes viewers inside a busy New York hospital in the early months of the Covid pandemic between March and June 2020, also incorporating the parallel tragedy and protests surrounding the death of George Floyd. While it focuses on the bitter struggle for survival of some patients, it also doesn’t back down by showing those who die fighting the deadly disease, as well as the human toll of the brave doctors, nurses and staff. who are fighting. personal costs to save lives. But Telluride, like many other entities, was canceled last year due to the pandemic and this year is operating with great caution and safety measures to take place this week. And while the pandemic is evident in some of the other films that appear there (Fauci, Peter Hedges’ The same storm), this movie could have been too much heartbreaking, with Bernstein assuming that she thought it could have been under this circumstance just “too upsetting, I think too disturbing”. Instead, it will serve as the world premiere on opening night on October 7 at the Hamptons Film Festival, rightly so in New York City, where this mind-blowing documentary takes place.


As for their films which will Being in Telluride, Bernstein truly appreciates that Huntsinger provides such a prestigious showcase for Nat Geo.

“The others, I mean, she just had exactly the reaction we were dreaming of in terms of really understanding and appreciating the values ​​of the film and the themes of the films, which you know share a lot of things in common. , we’re discussing our content needs to, among other things, deepen understanding of the people of the world and their role in it. It’s kind of a lofty goal. She said. “I want to do too. commercial films. I want to make films with fantastic characters, big, complicated, oversized characters. Telluride is a bit of a dreamer and I can’t wait to put these films in front of a real audience because I think there are so many things to be learned. People will be moved. We certainly don’t shy away from stories with a lot of emotional content. “

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