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.

The Heart of Mountainfilm

In 2010, my partner Christopher and I were just beginning to work on our first documentary, TINY: A Story About Living Small, about people who have downsized their lives into homes smaller than 120-square feet. We both had backgrounds in film and writing, but had never directed a project of our own, so we cast our net to our Boulder, Colorado, community and asked two friends to meet us for lunch. We sat down with Samara, a former co-worker, and Joe, who had just finished a whirlwind tour as one of the characters/crew in The Cove, to ask for filmmaking advice.

“Go to Mountainfilm!” they said.

And so three weeks later we did, following the first and most valuable words of wisdom we’ve been given. We arrived in Telluride knowing few people, but felt like we had found our tribe: people devoted to watching and listening, documenting their world and unafraid to jump into it and get their hands dirty, to find solutions to some of the most complex and pressing questions that we face.

Mountainfilm 2013 Intros

The lights go dark, the audience quiets down and each show begins at Mountainfilm with a trailer comprised of footage from the many films at that year’s festival. This quick hit of adrenaline, enchantment and humor provides a high-octane start to every program at the festival.

This year, we screened seven intros, and even if you attended the festival, it’s possible that you didn’t catch them all. So by popular demand, we’ve loaded the seven introductions from Mountainfilm 2013 to our website, and you can now watch them all in the comfort of your own home.

Please watch, share and enjoy.

Special thanks goes to those who made this year’s introductions:

Keith Hill
Casey Nay
David Byars
Justin Clifton
Scott Upshur
Stash Wislocki
Raven Hopgood

That’s a Wrap

Every year, I find myself feeling a mixture of sadness and relief when I see the Mountainfilm banner taken down after the festival weekend is over. Our guests left town with sails full from the rousing reception they received and our filmmakers have headed to other festivals (and hopefully new projects that they’ll bring back to Telluride), but I wonder about our audience. I want to know what sort of impact the weekend had on them and how it will affect their lives.

This year was particularly compelling in regard to potential impact as we kicked off the festival with the Moving Mountains Symposium on climate solutions, the great challenge of future generations. Our speakers examined the problem, described some solutions and exhorted the audience to action, but the true test of whether it worked is what happens next. What will you, our audience, do as a result?

New at Mountainfilm 2013

Mountainfilm turns 35 this year. While we’ve had a long and illustrious history of trying new things (with varied success), we’re still trying to make improvements. This year, in particular, we’ve added several new programs and initiatives.

The Library, Reimagined

Our smallest and pluckiest venue, The Library, was slammed with long lines and unfortunate turn-away numbers in 2012. To fix the issues that seem endemic to the venue, we decided to completely re-imagine how we use it. We’re going to experiment with a few different kinds of programming: targeted, workshop-style talks and in-depth conversations specifically geared to appeal to only a small percentage of our Mountainfilm audience. Check the online schedule to see what we’ve lined up for you at The Library.

Lastly, keep in mind that the Library has only 66 seats. If you’re not there early, you might want to head to a bigger venue for another program.

The Fitzroy Pass & What You Should Know about the Bigger Venues

A Non-Existent Playing Field*

I first learned of Mountainfilm in 1995 when a film I had narrated, Cry of the Forgotten Land, an account of the plight of the Moi people of New Guinea, won the prize for best environmental film. The documentary was the work of my close friend and colleague, Ian MacKenzie, who remains a warmly regarded member of the Mountainfilm family. Thanks to Ian, I received an invitation in 1997 from Rick Silverman (festival director at the time) to speak about a new book, One River, a story of plant exploration and experimentation, and a biography of my mentor Richard Evans Schultes, the legendary ethnobotanist who sparked the psychedelic era with his discovery of the so-called magic mushrooms in Oaxaca in 1938. Needless to say, in Telluride the talk was a hit!

Thank god for Mountainfilm!*

Mountainfilm is like the Aspen Institute wrapped in a TED Talk plugged into Sundance and turned up to eleven. Where else could a dude who makes climbing flicks have a chance to rub elbows with Nobel laureates, New York Times columnists, shamans and lots of other people who make climbing flicks? I get to have beers with Tim DeChristopher (Hayduke lives!), then take in a panel on something that inspires me to take action (but I don’t), then go late night with assorted party outfits like the Baffin Babes and the Moab Monkey Crew. Very little sleep.

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.