The Telluride Film Festival announced Thursday morning that this year's edition of the annual Colorado mountainside event will be dedicated, in part, to Roger Ebert. The celebrated movie critic and media personality was a long-time fixture at the festival and one of its most vocal champions prior to his passing in April.
"I'm deeply touched that the board of the Telluride Film Festival decided to honor Roger this way," Ebert's wife, Chaz, said in a statement. "Roger loved going to film festivals to find little movie gems and always had a soft spot for Telluride in particular. He admired the wide diversity of films and the fact that, in many cases, it offered attendees their only chance to see certain important retrospectives."
An anonymous contribution was also made in Ebert's name toward the opening of the 650-seat Werner Herzog Theater at the festival. Ebert and Herzog were long-time friends and admirers of one another. In an essay in the festival's program, Herzog wrote of Ebert, "He was the last mammoth alive, the last to create excitement and intelligent discourse about movies.… His passing signifies much, much more than the passing of one wonderful man."
In addition to honoring Ebert, this year's festival is also dedicated to three other members of the film community who died in the last year: documentarian Les Blank, philanthropist and Telluride supporter George Gund, and writer and director Donald Richie.
The 40th edition of Telluride begins Thursday, with a lineup that includes Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity," J.C. Chandor's "All Is Lost," Jason Reitman's "Labor Day," Alexander Payne's "Nebraska," Joel and Ethan Coen's "Inside Llewyn Davis" and Jonathan Glazer's "Under the Skin."
Over the last few years, Telluride has increasingly become a bellwether of the awards season to come, hosting the first public screenings of eventual Oscar best picture winners "Argo," "The King's Speech" and "Slumdog Millionaire."
Follow Mark Olsen on Twitter: @IndieFocus