Mountainfilm Blog

Mountainfilm's blog has evolved quickly and steadily to become the engine that drives This steady current of images, words and action carry global news about Mountainfilm themes, issues and personalities. Please join in the conversation, and let us know what you think about the cultural, environmental and socio-political issues and  heroes of adventure and activism that we highlight.

Recognizing the Power of Film*

Mountainfilm is 35, and I’ve attended 25 of its festivals. By 1992, I’d become a regular. Mountainfilm was showing The Wilderness Idea about John Muir, Gifford Pinchot and their battle over the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. Both were called “conservationists,” but Pinchot wanted to flood the valley to create a reservoir to serve San Francisco. John Muir wanted to preserve the national wilderness treasure. Ultimately, congress agreed with Pinchot. It was a beautiful film about passionate people and a big idea.

Inspired by the film and the festival, I knew that this was the kind of film I wanted to make. That fleeting thought was the impetus for our first documentary in 1995, Fire on the Mountain, the Story of the Men of the 10th Mountain Division.

Coming Home*

In 1999, I came to Mountainfilm in Telluride with my first movie, Genghis Blues. I had no idea how it would play at a “mountain” film festival when there were only a few shots of mountains in the whole movie. The screening at the Sheridan Opera House was packed to capacity with standing room only, and as the end credits came up, the audience exploded with applause. It couldn’t have gone better – and then it did.

Becoming a Mountainfilm Addict*

It was only 8 minutes long, a tiny film that I made as a student of the Munich film school. But it brought Mountainfilm into my life.

When I received an invitation to present my film in Telluride, I thought, “Telluride! Where the hell is Telluride, Colorado?” I bought a map. (There was no Google in 1993). “Wow! Are they really serious?” I wondered. I called to find out. Only 15 minutes later, I was absolutely convinced that traveling halfway around the globe to screen an 8-minute film was the natural thing to do. And there was one more thing: Rick Silverman [the director of the festival back then] had asked me to bring a warm jacket and pants for skiing.

Although this wasn’t my first trip to the States, I felt as if I was entering a new world. The spirit of Mountainfilm overwhelmed me completely. The people, the films, the art exhibits, the talks, the picnic, the friendship and, of course, the place — the fun! Altogether, it was pure inspiration. It was also great skiing (and half of my equipment came from the town’s Free Box).

I Won’t Miss Another Mountainfilm*

My first experience with Mountainfilm in Telluride was as a featured artist on the Gallery Walk in 2009. For a decade, I‘d been photographing the good work of small farmers across the United States, and the exhibition had shown a few times around the country. My Telluride venue wasn’t a gallery but La Cocina de Luz, the local Mexican restaurant. I had no idea what to expect. Since I had scheduled a photo shoot in New York that same weekend, I was only able to come for the Gallery Walk event. Afterward, I had to drive to the Montrose airport for an early flight the next morning.

Mountainfilm = Community*

I went to my first Mountainfilm in 2009. It was during a time where I was uncertain where to go with filmmaking. I had just sold most of my belongings and was preparing to set out on the road to film my first documentary – 23 Feet. It was at a time where I was overwhelmed and discouraged, wondering if I could even make a film. I needed support, a community, and Mountainfilm gave me that — and so much more.   

I hitched a ride from Santa Fe, New Mexico, slept on a friend’s floor and out of sheer luck by being in the right place at the right time, I was given a pass by a kind Mountainfilm staff member. I was elated, and I spent the entire festival not missing a beat. I listened and absorbed every moment I could. 

I was so inspired by the films I saw and even more so by the discussions afterward. Being able to meet filmmakers who are still my mentors today was a life-changing experience. They helped me believe in myself and encouraged me to push forward with filmmaking.

I Was Wrong about Mountainfilm*

When I submitted my first documentary short, Pickin’ & Trimmin’, to Mountainfilm in 2008, my motivation was simple: I just wanted to go to Telluride. I’d just started submitting to film festivals and, as far as I was concerned, Mountainfilm was no different than the myriad of other festivals around the country, except that it was in a beautiful town that I had always wanted to visit. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Leading up to my first Mountainfilm, I’d get one of two reactions when I mentioned the festival. Either people would ask, “What is Mountainfilm?” or their eyes would widen moments before they launched into a breathless, enthusiastic soliloquy about the festival. It was the later response that had me wondering what made Mountainfilm so different.

Once I arrived in Telluride, it didn’t take me long to realize something special was going on. The houses are always packed, and the audiences are the most enthusiastic I’ve ever come across. Find me another film festival where people cheer during the promotional trailer before the film!

The Collective Energy of Mountainfilm

Lately, in celebration of our 35 years, we’ve been running a series written by some of the creative types who’ve taken the stage over the years at Mountainfilmin Telluride. (Read the blogs posted so far by filmmakers Travis Rummel, “Mountainfilm was Different. It was in my Face”; Anne Makepeace, “The Distinctive Un-Business Like Feel of Mountainfilm”; and Hal Clifford, “Mountainfilm: More Than the Sum of its Parts.”)