Domino Effect

What emerges from the unique, counter-point profusion of art, ideas, causes and conversations at Mountainfilm is inspiration. That is the overwhelming effect of our programming. That inspiration, in turn, leads to action. That action changes lives. Every year, we document new examples of this phenomenon, which we call "The Domino Effect of Mountainfilm." Who knows what adventures and actions have been inspired by such former guests as Sir Edmund Hillary, Norman Vaughan, Julia Butterfly Hill, Dr. Robert Thurman, Captain Paul Watson, Yvon Chouinard, Lynn Hill, Richard Holbrooke and others? Would you like to share your story? Please tell us how Mountainfilm created a Domino Effect.

Samplings of The Domino Effect

THE MOMENT: For the first time ever, Mountainfilm plays at Lincoln Center in New York City. 
THE RESULT: After the Extinction Panel, Greg Carr—who is helping to restore a wildlife refuge in Mozambique called Gorangosa—asks Laurie Marker—founder and director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund—if it would be possible to bring cheetahs back to Mozambique. They are now working together to make it happen. And Tim DeChristopher—whose act of civil disobedience for taking a stand against a fraudulent oil and gas at an auction as “Bidder 70″ may result in 10 years of jail time—received several thousand dollars in donations for the organization Peaceful Uprising and for climate change protesters who face arrest and jail time.
THE MOMENT: Dr. Rick Hodes—whose medical program was awarded the Moving Mountains Prize at the 2009 festival (see below)—returns to Mountainfilm as a judge for the 2010 festival. With him is Mieraf, a young Ethiopian girl who had corrective surgery on her radically curved spine, thanks to the Moving Mountains Prize money. At the festival, Rick and Mieraf meet Prudence Mabhena, the severely disabled star of Music by Prudence.
THE RESULT: Immediately upon meeting Prudence, Rick recognizes that orthopaedic surgery could significantly ameliorate the discomfort and pain caused by her rare disorder, arthrogryposis, which causes the contraction of her joints and spine. Dr. Hodes connects with medical colleagues in Africa and, before the festival is over, announces that surgery for Prudence has been scheduled.
THE MOMENT: Dr. Rick Hodes works with Ethiopian children who suffer from tuberculosis of the spine, a condition that leads to severe and potentially fatal deformation. Making the Crooked Straight, which tells the moving and uplifting story about Rick and the children—plays at Mountainfilm in 2009. Deeply touched by Rick’s selfless humanitarianism, the Mountainfilm judges award his medical program a $5,000 Moving Mountains Prize.
THE RESULT: One of the young patients Rick is able to help with the Mountainfilm award money is Mieraf, an 11 year-old whose spinal curvature has become progressively worse since birth. Her armpit and hip have become so close together that her lungs are compressed and her breathing has decreased by 30 percent. Mieraf tells Rick that she wants to become a scoliosis specialist when she grows up. She tells him of her plans with such passion and sincerity that a visiting photographer has to put down his camera to wipe his tears. Mieraf went to Ghana for surgery to permanently correct her condition. Upon her return home, she planned to volunteer at the mission where Dr. Hodes sees patients.
THE MOMENT: Sylvia Johnson is a young filmmaker who was granted a fellowship in Brazil to chronicle the lives of poor kids who lived in slums there. Mountainfilm is one of the first festivals to accept her short film, Alagados, which profiles Renato, an ex-criminal who chooses to defy the stereotype and engage in the active development of his own identity. A photography series called "The Alagados Project," which puts cameras into the hands of some of Brazil’s most underprivileged and challenged young people, shows in Mountainfilm's Gallery Walk.
THE RESULT: Sylvia’s film and the work of The Alagados Project inspire a Mountainfilm sponsor to commit $60,000 to the effort, giving the nonprofit an enormous financial boost. The Alagados donation, says Johnson, will “put three kids through college and give them a real shot to work their way out of poverty.”
THE MOMENT: Mountainfilm spotlights the appalling, yet surprisingly unknown, issue of modern-day slavery. There is a photography exhibit by Nat Geo photographer Jodi Cobb, several documentaries and a panel discussion built around author Ben Skinner’s book, A Crime So Monstrous. Ben is the center of a panel that includes Bill Nathan, a freed slave from Haiti; Maria Suarez, a freed slave from Florida; and Malauna Steele, an anti-slavery activist from the nonprofit Free the Slaves.
THE RESULT: All of the programming on the horrific scope of contemporary slavery motivates a Mountainfilm sponsor to contribute $135,000 to Free The Slaves. The same sponsor also pledges to build a new school in Haiti where Bill was enslaved and where slavery conditions are rife. Ben says, “The abolitionist football was moved farther downfield by Mountainfilm than it had been in a long time.”
THE MOMENT: 2008 Gallery Walk artist Chris Jordan, who uses photographic images to convert hard statistics and cold facts into dazzling and provocative art, attends a modern-day slavery panel at the festival. Among the panelists is Ben Skinner, whose book A Crime So Monstrous is a searing expose of the brutal violence and threat of violence that today keeps 27 million people enslaved.
THE RESULT: Chris is inspired to begin work on a new photographic piece—a huge image of 50,000 fingerprints, illustrating the estimated number of people living under slavery conditions in the US—re-portraying a grafitti-style painting by a Chicano artist from Denver of hollow faces surrounded by tangled barbed wire. “It's a really amazing painting, haunting and frightening,” says Chris, “and it should make for a good effect when the viewer walks up close and sees all the fingerprints and reads what they depict.” Chris is dedicating 100 percent of the proceeds from print sales of this piece to Free the Slaves, the leading anti-slavery organization in the U.S.
THE MOMENT: Dr. Daniel Nocera joins the Mountainfilm 2007 Moving Mountains Symposium on energy to discuss one of the most sustainable, renewable, carbon-neutral energy sources: sunlight. Daniel addresses the largest Symposium audience ever, describing that within our lifetimes energy consumption will increase two-fold and that the additional energy we'll need is not attainable from nuclear, biomass, wind, geothermal or hydroelectric technologies.
THE RESULT: In a town that has historically fought to maintain its victorian charm, a local Tellurider seeks to reduce his property's average consumption of fossil-fuel-generated energy by installing solar panels in his home. Although this type of system (with both photovoltaic panels and solar condensing tubes for hot water) had never before been approved within town limits, his application passes. In his defense of the energy conversion, the man states, "This project is not being done for financial reasons." He cites Daniel's presentation at Mountainfilm as motivation for the change. This is an important manifestation of Telluride's commitment to renewable energy.
THE MOMENT: The filmmaking team of Darius Goes West: The Roll of his Life desperately wants speak with Oprah Winfrey, hoping that an appearance on her show would dramatically raise awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the number-one genetic killer of children worldwide. During their packed-house, post-screening Q & A, they hand out pre-addressed postcards to Oprah and ask the audience to complete and mail them on their behalf.
THE RESULT: An independent filmmaker in the audience, who had previously worked closely with Oprah, refuses to forward the card. Instead, he give the team Oprah's direct phone number. Then a major Hollywood director, after making a generous financial donation to the fight against DMD, invites the team, including Darius and his mother, to an all-expenses-paid visit to Beverly Hills and to the premiere of his latest film. The team accepted the invitation and took advantage of the exposure they were afforded in Hollywood to push closer to the goal of eradicating DMD.
THE MOMENT: Canadian filmmaker Richard Fitoussi screens his powerful depiction of former Khmer Rouge orphan soldier Aki Ra, a man who has devoted his life to clearing the land mines that he and his fellow soldiers had planted throughout the Cambodian countryside. Not far from Angkor Wat, a major tourist destination (and much to the dismay of the Cambodian government, which would rather forget its country’s past), Aki has set up a makeshift land mine museum. In closing the screening, Richard appeals for funds so that Aki may continue his valuable work.
THE RESULT: An audience member asks, “How much?” Richard responds, “$85,000.” The man promises a check. The Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Facility is the first accredited museum of its kind in the world and currently cares for nearly 40 children suffering from landmine injury, physical disability and poverty. Aki Ra went on to win a Top 10 CNN HERO award for 2010.
THE MOMENT: Ophthalmologist and mountaineer Geoff Tabin and his Nepalese colleague Sanduk Riat present a program about restoring sight for hundreds of Himalayan villagers.
THE RESULT: An audience member is inspired to join Geoff and Sanduk on their next vision quest. Impressed by the effective high-tech, low-cost work practiced by the Himalayan Cataract Project, the man finances a grant that has since raised $350,000. That gift builds a hospital in which the work continues, saving sight for countless others.
THE MOMENT: On the lawn between films, Galen Rowell and Rick Ridgeway discuss their excitement to explore “the most remote region ever experienced” by legendary George Schaller. Caught up in Georges’s vision, the two form a team that includes Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin and, within a year, they set off on foot into the uninhabited Chang Tang plateau of Tibet.
THE RESULT: Having gathered indisputable documentation where none existed before, the group persuades the government of China to preserve hundreds of thousands of acres as a new national park that will protect the birthing grounds of the rare and endangered Tibetan antelope, the chirru. In 2004, the team presents their 275-mile, unsupported journey’s film in memory of Galen.
THE MOMENT: Harvard-trained ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin presents a film about the pharmacological wonders of the Amazon, The Shaman's Apprentice, finishing with the all-too-known statistics about thousands of acres lost within days, endangering the livelihood of indigenous peoples.
THE RESULT: An audience member antes up the dollars necessary to save a swath of the forest, permitting a culture to evolve at its natural pace.