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Telluride 2011: Who needs the English language, anyway?

September 3, 2011 | 11:29 am

Visitors to the Telluride Film Festival are used to going the distance for their cinematic pleasure — not only taking the better part of a day traveling to this isolated ski resort for the Labor Day weekend, but also spending very long pulls inside theaters, notably at this year's festival with Martin Scorsese’s 3½-hour George Harrison documentary, “Living in the Material World.”

But rarely has that Telluride commitment run as deep as it did Friday night, when the Brazilian movie “Passerby” started showing to about 150 festival attendees. As the audience quickly realized, the film’s distributor had sent the wrong print to Colorado, with the entire film playing in Portuguese with no English subtitles. The theater staff quickly spotted the problem, as did writer-director Eryk Rocha, who was said to be apoplectic.

The festival suggested to Rocha that his interpreter go on stage and offer a real-time translation for the two-hour-plus story about a 65-year-old man in Rio de Janeiro, but that idea was nixed. So rather than stop the showing, and explain what everyone could see was the problem, the projectionist kept playing the film — and hardly anyone left.

Rocha apparently has a DVD with subtitles that he might bring to later showings, because it would take several days for the proper print to travel from South America to the festival.

One person who stayed until the end said that because the story had minimal dialogue, it was not too hard to follow the plot. But name another film festival where the audience wouldn’t have stampeded for the exits.


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Scene from "Passerby." Credit: Telluride Film Festival

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