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.

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.”)

Mountainfilm: More than the Sum of its Parts*

I stumbled across Mountainfilm in the spring of 1998, a few weeks after I moved to Telluride.

A door opened. For a few magical days, I felt like an initiate to whom secrets and magic were being revealed. It became my favorite event of the year. Fifteen years later, it still is.

I have often tried to explain Mountainfilm to Those Who Do Not Know. I tell them about the mechanics: the ice cream social, the growing number of screens, the fact that you’ll have a conversation with Aaron Huey or Chris Jordan and it may change your life. But I am unable to convey the ineffable aspects, those things that are both the most evanescent and the most essential to Mountainfilm. They are the qualities that make the festival more than the sum of its parts. Trying to describe them is like trying to explain sex.

Colorado River Named Most Endangered River in the Nation

For more than two decades, American Rivers has released its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers, and this week, the river at the top of the 2013 list— the most endangered river in the nation — is the mighty Colorado.

The Colorado River is a lifeline in the desert, its water sustaining tens of millions of people in seven states, as well as endangered fish and wildlife. Thirty million people in the Southwest depend upon the Colorado River for drinking water and irrigation for food — not to mention the millions more who flock to it to boat and those who stand atop the Grand Canyon to view the breathtaking formations created by this magnificent and powerful river.

Mountainfilm’s Distinctly Un-Businesslike Feel*

I can’t think of a place I would rather be on Memorial Day weekend than at Mountainfilm in Telluride. What could compare? The beauty of the place is unmatched. On the long-lit first evening, you arrive at a delicious barbecue in a meadow surrounded by snowy peaks where a great bluegrass band is playing, and everyone is dancing, eating, talking, catching up. So many of my comrades are there — the environmentalists and activists of all stripes, the filmmakers whose dedication to storytelling and to making the world a better place through film is matched only by their sense of joy. And the films are terrific! I love the breadth of films that are invited every year and have seen some of my all-time favorites there for the first time. Among the truly memorable, films by Kesang Tseten and the dramatic film The Cup come to mind, but there are many others.

Mountainfilm was Different. It Was in My Face.*

Mountainfilm came into my life at a pivotal moment, changing my trajectory forever. My dad made films; they were on shows like “60 Minutes,” “20/20” and “FRONTLINE.” His films were powerful, award winning and had impact. I grew up understanding that you can tell stories that make a difference, but there was always a distance that came with watching a piece on TV that I could never quite get beyond.

Mountainfilm was different. It was in my face. It momentarily swallowed me, and the emotion I felt was real. It wasn’t just the films that reached me, it was the community — the cliché of the gathering of tribe rang true, and I wanted in.

I met Ben Knight at the Telluride Daily Planet. He hired me into the photo department (even though I was shooting with a Nikon at the time). Over the course of a year, we talked about the beauty and emotion of films that we took in at Mountainfilm. We were both in awe of the power of film to create change when paired with passionate people and a cause worth fighting for.  

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