Festival News

Wilderness Joy from an Artist’s Perspective

When I was asked to make the awards for Mountainfilm 2014, I was thrilled about taking on a new challenge. But as always with new opportunities, the excitement soon waned and madness set in. My inner voices whispered, "Why the hell are you taking this on?" and "You don't know a thing about making an award." And the scariest one nailed it: "What, exactly, are you going to create?" That anxiety continued for at least a week with sleepless nights and unwelcome inner voices — a kind of temporary insanity that is part of my creative process.

DamNation: Undercover

Why bother making a film about dams if you don’t have footage of one blowing up?

Dam removal, on this scale, was unheard of. This was historic. The dam’s owner and demolition crew denied our requests to film the event. Knowing they had allowed other filmmakers to install remote cameras near the blast zone was infuriating and awoke some dormant issues I have with authority. (Being chased incessantly by rent-a-cops for skateboarding when I was little messed with my head. Those cops didn’t respect that I was doing something creative and positive, and I didn’t respect that they couldn’t run down a 14-year-old in baggy pants.) I took the denial personally, as if the powers that be were saying our film didn’t matter.

Working for Wilderness

The United States has The Wilderness Act (1964), 50 years old this year (Happy birthday!), which enables us to protect specific Wilderness Areas legally. When the word “wilderness” is used internationally, however, it is more often a generic term, referring to a “wildland” area rather than a designated Wilderness Area. Some 10 to 11 other countries have national legislation like ours, and that number grows slowly.

The Wilderness Act continues to be a social, scientific and poetic milestone in law and policy, demonstrating that contemporary civilization is beginning to consider “What does Nature need?” 

Redefining “Wild”

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Wilderness Act. In that same year, he also dramatically escalated the war in Vietnam. As Errol Morris’ Oscar-winning Vietnam documentary The Fog of War details, America vastly underestimated the resolve and desires of the local population, and that is a key reason why we lost the war.

I fear we may be at risk of losing the war to save nature for a similar reason.

The environmental movement has long been dominated by an understanding that “untrammeled” nature is the end goal and that people are generally bad for nature. This perception is right there in The Wilderness Act itself, which defines “wilderness” as a place absent from the influences of humans: “where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”  Humans, in this view, are separate from nature.

Mountainfilm in Telluride Announces Additional Featured Guests for 2014 Festival

Mountainfilm in Telluride Announces Additional Featured Guests for 2014 Festival
Updated List Includes Leading Names in Conservation, Adventure and Advocacy


Telluride, Colorado (March 27, 2014)Mountainfilm in Telluride just released the latest in an expanding roster of festival guest speakers, including new additions to the line-up for the Moving Mountains Symposium, which will focus on the theme of “wilderness.”

Love Your Brain

Kevin Pearce was a 22-year-old Olympic snowboarding hopeful and one of America’s top riders when, in December of 2009, he attempted a difficult trick in a halfpipe in Park City, Utah, and missed the landing. Pearce hit his head on the lip of the halfpipe and suffered a traumatic brain injury that rerouted his trajectory, forcing the rising star down an unfamiliar path of rehabilitation, recovery and reconsideration of his life’s passion. Lucy Walker’s documentary, The Crash Reel, follows Pearce and his tight-knit family through the demanding journey of physical rehab, returning to the slopes and coming to terms with risk.

Top 5 Reasons to Buy a Mountainfilm in Telluride 2014 Pass Right Now

1.     Based on last year’s numbers, we predict that this year’s festival is going to sell out.
2.     In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, we’ve chosen wilderness as the theme for the Moving Mountains Symposium and have lined up a stellar batch of speakers. And who doesn’t love wilderness?
3.     2014’s festival is going to be better than ever because we’re introducing new stuff: a smart phone app, queue buskers, new programs, line-reduction techniques and more.
4.     We’re going to release more detailed information about special guests and films soon, so once you buy a pass, you can shiver with antici…pation.

What Me Worry?

This year’s Mountainfilmin Telluride festival is taking shape, but David Holbrooke, the festival’s director, is fighting a twinge of panic.

I got a panicky feeling the other day during our weekly Mountainfilm staff meeting. The reason: Our meetings are normally attended only by a core team of seven year-round festival employees, but this one was significantly bigger with seasonal staff in attendance. I knew that this could only mean that the festival is closer than I realize.

March is a crazy busy month here with all kinds of preparation going into different parts of the festival. Our executive director, Peter Kenworthy, is locking down sponsor agreements and managing any number of other endless, yet essential, details. Stash Wislocki, the festival’s producer, is getting his team together and his house (well, his theaters) in order while my team (program director Emily Long and new addition Naani Sheva) focus on this year’s films.

Where are the Women?

Mountainfilm on Tour is constantly growing, so we’re screening films for larger audiences in more locations around the world. Perhaps that’s why we’ve received a rash of criticism we’ve not seen before: Women are writing to describe “feeling upset…at the end of the presentation” because of “an utter lack of films portraying women.” They want female role models. We hear you and appreciate the input, and Emily Long, Mountainfilm’s program director, offers this response:

Thanks to everyone who has noticed and addressed the lack of adventureous and inspiring females in our programming. It's a problem for sure, but the problem goes much deeper than just Mountainfilm or one Mountainfilm on Tour show. The truth is, unfortunately, that not that many awesome, adventuresome women are making films. This is 2014, not 1954, and yet there's still a huge dearth of women in film that is endemic to the entire industry.

The Last Season

To mushroom hunt is to discern the relationships in the forest, uncovering how tree roots connect to the minutiae of life coursing beneath the soil or how canopy cover relates to moisture in the climate, which produces pockets of decomposition throughout the forest floor. All of these pieces must come together to produce a mushroom—and a good mushroom hunter reads the landscape’s clues in order to find what’s hidden underground.

The process of documentary filmmaking is not unlike navigating the forest ecology to find mushrooms. Documentary is about a search for a story produced from unexpected configurations. Filmmakers survey the cluttered social, political and economic landscapes to find pathways into people’s lives. Documentarians look beneath the surface of the proverbial soil to discover complex interconnections. And, from the messiness of the worlds they examine, they cobble together a sense of meaning.

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