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Telluride Film Festival Selects Barry Jenkins as 2021 Guest Director

Telluride Film Festival, presented by National Film Preserve LTD., is proud to announce Academy Award-winning director Barry Jenkins as its 2021 Guest Director. The celebrated filmmaker is set to select a series of films to present at the 48h Telluride Film Festival running September 2 - 6, 2021


Festival organizers annually select one of the world’s great film enthusiasts to join them in the creation of the Festival’s program lineup. The Guest Director serves as a key collaborator in the Festival’s programming decisions, bringing new ideas and overlooked films to Telluride. In keeping with Telluride Film Festival tradition, Jenkins’s film selections, along with the rest of the Telluride lineup, will be kept secret until Opening Day.


“Each year as we think about who a good Guest Director would be, Tom and I weigh different factors,” said executive director Julie Huntsinger. “Many are based in the intellectual realm: film knowledge, appreciation and, of course, serious talent. But our recipe always includes something more ephemeral – something that has to do with the quality of the human heart. Rare is the person who exceeds on each of these criteria. Barry Jenkins checks every box and more. We feel lucky and a little incredulous that our long-time friend and very talented colleague has agreed to join us as Guest Director this year. The whole world knows of Barry’s gifts, and we’re thrilled that he is taking the time to share the films he loves in a place with the people who love him dearly.”

Academy Award winner Barry Jenkins’ feature film debut, MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY, was hailed as one of the best films of 2009 by The New York Times and received several Independent Spirit and Gotham Award nominations. In 2019, along with playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, Jenkins received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his second feature the Academy Award and Golden Globe winning Best Picture MOONLIGHT. As well as earning eight Academy Award nominations, ten Broadcast Critics Choice Awards nominations, six Golden Globe nominations and four BAFTA nominations, MOONLIGHT won Best Picture and Director at the Gotham Awards and Best International Film by the British Independent Film Awards. In addition to NYFCC and NBR awarding Jenkins Best Director and LAFCA naming him Best Director and the film Best Picture, Jenkins received a DGA Best Director nomination and won the WGA Award for Best Original Screenplay. His third feature, the adaptation of James Baldwin’s IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK went on to receive three Academy Award nominations and won Best Picture at the Independent Spirit Awards. Jenkins also received the Independent Spirit Award for Best Director. Jenkins’ next feature film projects include a follow up to THE LION KING for Walt Disney Studios as well as a biopic of famed choreographer, Alvin Ailey, for Searchlight Pictures.

For television, Jenkins directed an episode in the first season of the Netflix Original Series DEAR WHITE PEOPLE. His most recent project for television is the critically acclaimed adaptation of Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Colson Whitehead’s THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD for Amazon. Jenkins has directed all episodes and written a number of the screenplays. Upcoming work includes a script based on the life of the first American Female Olympic boxing champ Clarissa “T-Rex” Shields as well as an adaptation of Netflix’s original documentary, VIRUNGA, about the battle to save the Congo’s mountain gorilla population.

My first Telluride was the 29th festival, in 2002. In the time since, I've done many things at the festival both high -- opening the Werner Herzog Cinema as Ringmaster and, of course, the world premiere of Moonlight -- and low (rolling up the floor of the Max at festival's end was a rite of passage). When I was approached about curating the Filmmakers of Tomorrow program many years ago, I was honored to be invited deeper into the inner workings of the festival I loved so dearly; being invited to curate a program as Guest Director is an honor my 2002 self would never imagine. We've all been tucked away in our silos longing for the day when we can safely venture out into communal spaces to once again partake in the rituals of cinema we love so dearly. I never doubted that the show would once again go on. But having a role in what is shown? Yes, that is quite the honor indeed. My thanks to Tom and Julie for bestowing this wonderful gift upon me. I'll see everyone at the SHOW. 

Past Guest Directors include Pico Iyer, Jonathan Lethem, Joshua Oppenheimer, Volker Schlöndorff, Rachel Kushner, Guy Maddin, Caetano Veloso, Michael Ondaatje, Alexander Payne, Salman Rushdie, Peter Bogdanovich, B. Ruby Rich, Phillip Lopate, Errol Morris, Bertrand Tavernier, John Boorman, John Simon, Buck Henry, Laurie Anderson, Stephen Sondheim, G. Cabrera Infante, Peter Sellars, Don DeLillo, J.P. Gorin, Edith Kramer and Slavoj Žižek.


The Guest Director program is sponsored by Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Considered throughout the industry as one of the leading authorities on classic film, the network presents great films, uncut and commercial-free, highlighting the entire spectrum of film history. 


For more information about Telluride Film Festival, visit


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