Mountainfilm Blog

Mountainfilm's blog has evolved quickly and steadily to become the engine that drives Mountainfilm.org. 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.

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.

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.

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