Martin Scorsese Remembers Telluride Co-Founder Tom Luddy as a ‘Pivotal Figure in the World of Cinema’

“Tom lived and breathed cinema, and he was truly irreplaceable,” Scorsese writes

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In a statement late Tuesday, Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese paid tribute to Tom Luddy, co-founder of the Telluride Film Festival who died Monday at age 79.

“Tom Luddy was a pivotal figure in the world of cinema. As a programmer and a curator, at the Pacific Film Archive, the San Francisco International Film Festival and the Telluride Film Festival, he was instrumental in finding new filmmakers of promise, forgotten filmmakers of the past, and bringing us all together, bridging every distance, geographical and historical,” Scorsese wrote.

“He found films that had remained hidden for decades and reintroduced them to the world. If it weren’t for Tom, the extraordinary I Am Cuba would probably still be locked away in a vault in Russia,” Scorsese continued. “He also produced films that really counted, by Werner Herzog, Paul Schrader, Norman Mailer, Jean-Luc Godard, Barbet Schroeder, Agnieszka Holland and others. Tom lived and breathed cinema, and he was truly irreplaceable. The best way to honor him would be to follow his example.”

Luddy, who died Monday in Berkeley, California, after a long illness, co-founded the Colordao-based festival in 1974 alongside Bill and Stella Pence and James Card. He initially served as co-director, then artistic director and adviser until 2022. 

Luddy also served on juries at Cannes Film Festival, Moscow Film Festival and Berlin Film Festival, among others. He produced several films and worked as a programming consultant and curator at institutions like the New York Film Festival, Documentary Film Institute at San Francisco State University and the Berlin Film Festival.