Festival News

If it’s Monday, Then This Must be Boise

As its residents sleep, I slip out of Telluride, Colorado, at an inhumane hour en route to the Montrose airport, 65 miles north, to begin my week-long road trip for Mountainfilm on Tour. Before I can make it past the restrictive speed zones, I’m slowed by a resident herd of elk. I roll down my window to inquire with the nearest bull, “How long until the road is clear?” But by then, the group has parted.

A full day of travel finds me at Fairfield, Connecticut, where I return for the fourth consecutive year. I like the vibe here and happily pencil my name onto the presenter list each year. This is an educated crowd and eager to applaud film selections each year. Other than reconnecting with the hosts, I look forward to the annual visit to The Colony for lip-searing, eye-watering, stinger pepper pizza. It’s funny how good food can tie your memories to a location.

2015 Moving Mountains Symposium Theme: Afghanistan

For much of the past decade, we’ve chosen environmental themes for the Moving Mountains Symposium, issues that we’ve felt were essential to the global conversation. This year, we’re changing directions and will focus on Afghanistan as the theme for the 2015 symposium. We haven't selected a theme directly tied to a country since 2006 (Mongolia), so we’re ready to revisit Afghanistan, where the situation has changed considerably since we last spotlighted it during the symposium of 1997 (and since  "Mountains of Islam" was our symposium subject in 2002).

I had a chance to see what was happening there myself when I traveled to Kabul in December of 2013. I made the trip with my eldest daughter to film the third act of The Diplomat, a documentary I’m making about my father, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who was President Obama's Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Like my father, I was taken by the country's unique cultural flavor and, even more, by its stark mountain landscape.

Hello from Sage Martin, Mountainfilm’s New Executive Director

The night before the 2014 Mountainfilm festival, we gathered as a family and poured over the festival program. We took turns reading the film descriptions and blurted out the names of the films we had to see. My boys voted for Virunga and Living Wild, my husband for Mission Blue and Dear Governor Hickenlooper. I couldn't wait to see Wrenched, but proposed we kick things off with DamNation Friday night. As it turned out, DamNation was a terrific choice because it spoke to all of us. It fired up my personal fascination with monkeywrenching, kept the boys entertained with a great message about our nation's rivers and ended in the best possible way with spying, helicopters and blowing up things.

Peter Kenworthy, Outgoing Executive Director, Shares His Favorite Mountainfilm Moment

One of the questions we asked candidates applying to become the new Mountainfilm executive director was what has been their favorite Mountainfilm moment. As I step away from my eight-year stint, I’d like to share my own.

It was Saturday morning of the Mountainfilm 2011 festival. Not unusually, I was back and forth between Hospitality and the Mountainfilm office, meeting and greeting and trouble-shooting. As I jumped on my bike at Camel’s Garden, I recognized a van parked in front of the hotel. It was the one used to bring Prudence Mabhena, and her specialized, extremely heavy wheelchair, from Denver. Prudence was the star of Music by Prudence, which we screened in 2010. Severely disabled at birth, with a truly angelic singing voice, Prudence completely captivated everyone who saw and heard her at the festival.

A Journey to Compassion

Jhamtse Gatsal, the remote children’s community where we made our film Tashi And the Monk, is a long way from the nearest city. After my first visit a couple of years ago, I shared the bouncy, seemingly endless 18-hour Jeep ride back through the mountains of Northeast India with two American volunteers who’d been teaching the kids. At some point, one of them asked whether I’d seen a documentary called I Am, a Mountainfilm 2010 world premiere about Hollywood director Tom Shadyac, who changes his life and sets out to meet wise people and ask them the big questions.

Mountainfilm Represented at the People’s Climate March in NYC

On Sunday, September 21, I was one of more than 400,000 people who participated in the People's Climate March in New York City.  The event was buoyant and impressive. As the New York Times wrote, "the People’s Climate March was a spectacle even for a city known for doing things big."

Telluride Mountainfilm Hires Sage Martin as Executive Director

Telluride Mountainfilm Hires Sage Martin as Executive Director

Telluride, Colorado (September 17, 2014) – Sage Martin, a ten-year Telluride local, was hired as Mountainfilm’s Executive Director by the organization’s board of directors today. Current Executive Director Peter Kenworthy announced his resignation in July and will assist Martin in transitioning into her new role before his departure on October 18th.

How to Watch Mountainfilm’s 2014 Shorts

In July, we posted an article about how to catch feature-length films that you missed during Telluride Mountainfilm 2014. Short and mid-length films are a different beast entirely.

Until recently, the market for short films was practically nonexistent. Filmmakers could find audiences with a festival run (which usually costs money instead of earning it), and if they were lucky, one of the few companies that buys and sells short films, such as Wholphin, would be interested. A television deal was an option for only an even luckier few. When the Internet came along, the market for original content for television crashed without creating an instant online market.

How We Increased Gross Festival Happiness

Behind the scenes, we’re always looking for ways to make the festival better. Like sausage and laws, however, we hope you never have to experience how a successful festival is truly made. But the process is less messy than a sausage factory or the floor of Congress — at least most of the time.

In 2013, we identified a happiness obstacle: getting turned away from theaters. Hundreds of passholders got shut out of the opening night screening of High & Hallowed at the Sheridan Opera House, and the buzz on the street at the start of Mountainfilm 2013 centered around how hard it was to get a seat in a theater. We keep theater turn-away numbers that go back nearly a decade, and while we hit a record high of 1,278 turn-aways in 2010, they were still unacceptable in 2013 at 723.

Finalists for the 2014 Mountainfilm Commitment Grant

In June, we wrote about the fifth anniversary of the Mountainfilm Commitment Grant, and now we’re proud to announce the finalists for 2014. These individuals have the opportunity to apply for one of the five $5,000 grants that also include a MacBook Pro computer.

The number of applicants increase annually, so the competition gets fiercer. We thank all of those who submitted letters. Many worthy projects did not make it to the final round, but here are the 16 that did qualify:

Alfredo Alcántara and Caitlin Machak
Shaki (film)
The filmmakers will take a journey into the Amazon to learn the real story behind the life of Napoleon Chagnon, one of the first anthropologists to research an uncontacted Yanamamo tribe in Venezuela, who was later discredited and disgraced. Alfredo Alcántara co-directed the film Duke and the Buffalo, which screened at Mountainfilm 2014.