Festival News

Two Fathers of Fame

Growing up as the son of two of the world’s most renowned alpine and high-altitude mountaineers has been no ordinary childhood. My father, Alex Lowe, was off in the mountains more of than he was around me. On October 4, 1990, seven days before my second birthday, he became the fortieth American to reach the summit of Mount Everest successfully. I flew to Thailand with my mother to meet him, making my first intercontinental travel as a two year old.

I’ve gotten used to meeting people and them asking, “Lowe, like Alex Lowe, the climber?” As I move through life, I’m continually amazed by the people who knew my father and looked up to him, not only for his prowess as a climber, but for his integrity, compassion and life-loving nature as a person. I was first exposed to the magnetic effect he had on people after he died in 1999 in an avalanche on Shishapangma, a peak high in the Tibetan Himalaya. Over the next few months, my family received hundreds of consoling letters from friends, coworkers and even people who had never met Alex, sharing how he had influenced or impacted their life.

The Art of Storytelling: A Filmmaker's Tip

As a mountain person I am familiar, all too well, with the stories that present themselves in the mountains — the quest to go higher, the drive to push farther and the epically stunning imagery waiting to be captured at the top. There is the ever-present danger of death, methods of survival and related tales to tell about each adventure. I know. I was caught in an avalanche…once upon a time.

But here's the catch: We don't want our friends or family to encounter danger and hardship. So how do we plan to find compelling stories in the mountains without putting lives on the line?

This is the contradiction I face every time I make a film about mountain adventure.  To document something "risky,” we’re counting on real life danger for dramatic effect.  I generally choose the alternative: Find a story in another piece of the human experience.

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.

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