I didn't do much on Thursday other than check in, get my press pass, and crash hard to catch up on sleep. Friday, though, brought the press meeting, after which we got to choose from one of two Patron screenings: The Band's Visit, which won the jury award at Cannes (I plan to catch it later during the fest) and Trikal: Past, Present, Future, a rarely seen film by Telluride Tribute honoree Shyam Benegal. I opted for the latter, figuring I might never get another chance to see it; also, it was described as a melodrama, and what's more fun that Indian melodrama? The film is interesting also because it's set in Goa, on India's west coast, a region that was under Portugese occupation for many years, and therefore has a culture very different from the rest of India; the film is in Hindi and Portugese with subtitles. In fact, Benegal mentioned when he was introducing the film that when it came out, the Indian press said, "Benegal has made a foreign film!"
The film is about a wealthy Goan family in 1961, around the time when India "liberated" the colony from 450 years of Portugese rule. The film thus, from a historical standpoint, shows a slice of unique Indian culture not often seen in film. True to what we'd heard of the film, it was indeed a melodrama, complete with an emphatic and occasionally oppressive musical score, fainting women, seduction, and ghosts of betrayed rebels haunting the house where they were murdered. The film won Best Director for Benegal at the 1986 National Film Awards in India, but today, it's rather hard to find, at least in a print of this quality. It was a rare chance to see a unique film, and I was glad I chose to hit it -- one of the joys of Telluride is discovering gems of films you may never see elsewhere.
More about Trikal and Opening Day, plus a photo gallery, after the jump ... Following Trikal, it was time to head over for the big Opening Day Feed, free to all passholders, where folks lined up for a nice Indian spread (presumably in honor of Benegal) featuring veggie samosas, cucumber salad, nan, veggie curry with rice, and chicken tikka masala. Yum. Unfortunately, a storm was kicking up; ominous black clouds loomed over the festival sign, and fest patrons had to hang onto their plates to keep their from blowing all over their neighbors. One of the nicest things about the fest is that everyone just mingles together ... filmmakers and actors, publicists and journalists, and of course, all the 4,000 or so film fans who converge on the fest to enjoy the laid-back scene, the atmosphere, and the great lineup of films.
After that, I fueled up with a nice Americano before catching the Daniel Day-Lewis Tribute and a screening of Persepolis. You can read my full write-up of the Daniel Day-Lewis event, which was really great, and I'll have a review out of Persepolis as soon as I have time to write it up later tonight. For now, I'll tell you this much about it: Persepolis is an animated film, based on a graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi and adapted for the screen and directed by Satrapi and her best friend, Vincent Parronaud. The film is based on Satrapi's own experiences during her girlhood and adolescence in Iran spanning the years of the Shah's regime, the revolution that overthrew him, the bloody war with Iraq, and the increasing oppression (in particular of women) under the new regime. This was the first screening of the film in North America, and Satrapi, who introduced the film, said that she hopes that in light of current events, and President Bush threatening to attack her homeland, people will see the film and find what she has to say in trying to capture the history of Iran from the perspective of one girl who lived there relevant to today.
We got tomorrow's update on our way out of Persepolis. Good news for me -- Jason Reitman's Juno, which stars one of my fave indie actresses, Ellen Page, is screening in a pre-Toronto sneak preview, so I'm adding that to my list of films to see today, along with Alison Eastwood's Rails & Ties. More reviews and news from Telluride to follow, so stay tuned.