Telluride 2021 documentaries: NatGeo unveils four new films

Plus, check out the exclusive poster and trailer for “Devenir Cousteau” by Liz Garbus, as well as the trailer for “Fauci”.

Documentaries are in the spotlight at this year’s Telluride Film Festival, far more than usual, with 18 new releases in the main program (not classics) and a total of four from NatGeo Documentary Films. How did it happen? NatGeo is no stranger to quality non-fiction, from Oscar, BAFTA and Emmy “Free Solo” to Oscar-nominated Syrian documentary “The Cave”.

For one, one of the films booked for last year’s canceled festival is in the 2021 selection, as TFF co-director Julie Huntsinger welcomed rookie filmmaker Max Lowe with “Torn,” the true story of a family hard hit by the loss of their father, the legendary mountaineer Alex Lowe, who was killed in an avalanche in Tibet in 1999.

Much like Bing Liu’s Oscar-winning “Minding the Gap,” “Torn” explores untapped emotions as Lowe searches for answers to complex and unexplored family dynamics, aided by his younger brothers, mother and second husband, partner of mountain of his father, Conrad Anker, who returned from Tibet ravaged by the guilt of the survivors. “The Trojan horse is escalation,” said Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president of scripted content and documentaries at NatGeo, in an interview. “It quickly becomes an intense family drama with universal themes: love, loss, redemption, forgiveness, fathers and sons, mothers and sons. It’s very Shakespearean.

“Torn up”


This film will be played well by the local Rocky Mountain crowds. “A lot of people in the Telluride community know the family,” Huntsinger told IndieWire. “The story is well known in the rock climbing community. The story is amazing, and dare I say it, even better than ‘Free Solo’.

Well, Huntsinger admired the Oscar winning filmmakers who made this film, E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, enough to invite their new feature film “The Rescue”, about the intimidating rescue in 2018 of a dozen Thai soccer players. by a group quickly assembled. team of expert caving divers from the UK, Australia and China.

When NatGeo’s first choice, “Touching the Void” filmmaker Kevin Macdonald, stepped down to direct “Le Mauritanien”, NatGeo had an open directing mission. Vasarhelyi approached Bernstein and said, “Jimmy and I are perfect for this.” NatGeo and producer John Battsek agreed.

“You are on the edge of your seat,” Bernstein said. “It’s incredibly suspenseful. But all of these children live. It’s a Disney story. This falls into the Truth is Stranger category than the Fiction category, which is always a great way to tell those stories. “

THE RESCUE tells the story of the 2018 rescue of 12 Thai boys and their football coach, trapped deep in a flooded cave.  E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin reveal the perilous world of cave diving, the bravery of lifeguards and the dedication of a community that made great sacrifices to save these young boys.  (Credit: National Geographic)

“The Rescue” by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin recounts the 2018 rescue of 12 Thai boys and their football coach trapped deep in a flooded cave

National Geographic

During the pandemic, as soon as she could, Vasarhelyi traveled to Thailand to consult local archives. “She found a treasure trove of images,” Bernstein said. “And that made the film deeper, richer and more complex. Now it’s the cross-collaboration between a whole bunch of heroic Thai nationals and British and Australian cave divers.

Last year, Stacey Abrams’ “All In: The Fight for Democracy” was also hijacked from a launch of Telluride, by two-time Oscar nominee Liz Garbus (“The Farm: Angola USA”, “What Happened, Miss Simone? “), Who made her” Love, Marilyn “debut at Telluride 2012.

This year, Garbus is back with “Becoming Cousteau,” a serious Oscar contender, which Picturehouse hits theaters on October 22. This enlightening deep dive of archives reveals the transformation of French filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau from ocean explorer and former oil exploiter to film and television producer and activist protecting the sea. (See our exclusive poster and trailer below.)

Without using talking heads interviews, Garbus went through 550 hours of archival material, finding unseen footage and allowing Cousteau’s films, TV shows, writings (read by Vincent Cassel) and hours of audio memories to tell his story. story. The red-cap captain Cousteau, like many motivated adventurers, was happier on his beloved ship the Calypso than at home. His first wife, Simone Melchior, “the shepherdess” of Calypso, was also, because their two sons attended the boarding school; Philippe, a long time ago, joined his father’s mission with the Cousteau Company and its environmental crusade.

“I think of The Calypso as Peter Pan,” Bernstein said. “It’s a bunch of guys who didn’t want to grow up and they went and had these crazy adventures. There is a lot of meat on the bone. Liz found the character fascinating.

The fact that scuba-diving pioneer Cousteau was a prolific filmmaker gave Garbus access to Oscar-winning Cannes films, as well as his long-running TV show that was ultimately cut short by his pessimistic environmental message. He is the author of more than 50 books on his life at sea (usurped in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” by Wes Anderson).

“It took a great spirit, tremendous bravery and a pioneering spirit to do what Cousteau did in his lifetime,” Garbus said. “And today we are surrounded by images and technologies that exist because of it.”

Dr Anthony Fauci in an interview seated in his office at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  (National Geographic for Disney +)

Dr Anthony Fauci in interview sitting in his office at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

National Geographic for Disney +

The fourth Telluride subject was won by NatGeo in a bidding war. “We sanded,” Bernstein said. “We are very competitive when we feel that something matters. It has to make financial sense, but is it a subject, a filmmaker and a story that we believe will transform our brand, elevate it and amplify it? Our audiences expect substantive stories from us.

“Fauci” (September 10, Magnolia) also traces the career arc of a famous man since the decision of Anthony Fauci, a graduate of Brooklyn medical school, to stay at the National Institutes of Health, where he has long been director of the National Institute of Allergy. and infectious diseases and the chief medical adviser to seven presidents, to his valiant battles against such scourges as the AIDS epidemic and Ebola, and most notoriously, COVID-19. (The film will debut on Disney + in October.)

To direct “Fauci,” NatGeo and producer Dan Cogan reunited two Emmy winners, John Hoffman and Janet Tobias, who had previously established a relationship with Fauci at NIH. Clearly, Fauci is comfortable with filmmakers, whether at home with his wife and three daughters, in the car, or in his office. The film shows Fauci, who has a spine of steel, using the F-bomb and, in several places, choking. Why was he so moved? “PTSD,” he said.

What he experienced in the ’80s during the AIDS crisis, when gay activists like Act Up’s Larry Kramer vilified Fauci and the NIH for dragging their feet in AIDS research, helped him to fortify it to face President Trump defying the truth during COVID. Primarily, Fauci listens to others and sticks to the facts. Some of these activists are still friends with the immunologist; Peter Staley spoke to the 80-year-old to make sure he was holding out during the long pandemic siege. “Every once in a while, her Brooklyn comes out,” Bernstein said. “You see a bit of the street fighter in him.”

Additional reporting by Eric Kohn.

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