The Mountainfilm Commitment Grant Turns 5

The Mountains of the Moon in Uganda. The Sacred Headwaters of British Columbia. Rural Southwestern Colorado. Kathmandu and the Himalaya. The town of Marmato high in the Colombian Andes. Midway Island. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Basin in the southeastern United States. Favelas and towering rock above Rio de Janeiro. A deadbeat damn, slated for removal but still standing, near Ojai, California.

The Mountainfilm Commitment Grant reaches its first milestone year in 2014. With four seasons of grants behind us, we’re headed toward the fifth — just old enough for kindergarten, but the program has already been around the world several times. In the first four years, we’ve helped — with $5,000 grants and Apple computers — film and photography projects in all of the places listed above and more.

Thank You!

Now that the dust has settled (or, more accurately, the snow has melted), we’re starting to feel almost rested here at the Mountainfilm offices. We hope the films, guests and art exhibitions inspired all of you as much as they impressed us.

We’re feeling particularly grateful and want to extend thanks to everyone (guests, filmmakers, volunteers and festival staff) who helped make this year one of the smoothest on Mountainfilm record. And speaking of smooth, we turned fewer people away from full theaters, thanks to a new smartphone app and some strategic programming. This feat not only allowed 11 percent more people to attend the festival, but also resulted in more general happiness. (Look out, Bhutan.)

#mfilm14 Primer

Whether you’re new to Mountainfilm in Telluride this year or a veteran with decades of festival stories, listen up. The following tips and new additions might just make the difference between a good weekend and the best weekend…ever.

Tip 1 (for everyone): We suggest you make a general plan by first reading all the film synopses and presentations. Take note of what interests you, and then check out the schedule to see when those films and presentations happen. While you’re looking at the schedule, also note the events (parties, art exhibitions, book signings, Coffee Talks, etc.) that you want to attend.

Tip 2 (for everyone): Telluride’s theaters, as with most venues, offer a wide range of seating capacity. If you want to get into one of the smaller theaters, be sure to show up extra early to get a queue. Theater seats: Palm 600, High Camp 500, Sheridan 230, Nugget 186, Masons 120 and Library 65.

Climate Change through the Eyes of a Climate Artist

During
 the late 1990s, while my brother, Cameron, was assistant director of 
Mountainfilm, I was a regular. So I’m excited to return after 
more than a decade’s hiatus, and it’s fortuitous that the word in the 
air this year is “wilderness.” Cameron wrote his senior college paper 
on the Wilderness Act, perhaps inspired by a class we both took with the legendary philosopher-turned-environmental-historian Bill Cronon. Cronon taught us how our mental concept of 
wilderness and nature affected how we manifest ourselves on the 
landscape, whether we were conscious of it or not.
 

The
 year was 1988, and climate change wasn’t yet on my radar. In fact, it 
was just stepping onto the public stage. The IPCC was formed that year, 
and Jim Hansen gave his now-historical first testimony on climate change
 before the U.S. Senate. A year later, Bill McKibben published the first 
book on the subject for the general public, The End of Nature,
 in which he pointed out the surreal realization that an 
untouched nature wasn’t possible anymore, now that we’ve changed the 
air.
 

Wrenched

Edward Abbey’s life is explored in this entertaining ramble through the environmental history of the Southwest. His life was the stuff of legend, but his legacy is the myriad of eco-activists he inspired — from the inimitable Katie Lee, who threw herself into the fight against Glen Canyon, to Tim DeChristopher of Bidder 70 (Mountainfilm 2012).

Winter Light

Dawn patrol on an inky winter morning leads to a contemplative climb through a snowbound world, a cold and starkly beautiful place imbued with solitude and the purity of winter light. When daylight turns and the summit is achieved, the only place to go is down.

Who Owns Water

Water wars have always been heated in the American southwest desert, where water is scarce and droughts are frequent, but the same quarrels were once unthinkable in lusher areas of the country. That’s changing as Georgia, Alabama and Florida are locked in a battle over water from their once-bountiful rivers. Two young brothers decide to paddle the three rivers in the Appalachiacola–Chattahoochee–Flint River Basin to tell the story of a system that still flows, though it’s threatened from all sides. Who Owns Water received a Mountainfilm Commitment Grant in 2013.

When Dogs Fly

Dean Potter has pushed the boundaries of what can be done in the climbing world for years. He has repeatedly set the speed record for climbing The Nose in Yosemite, and he caused great controversy in 2006 by climbing Delicate Arch in Utah. Recently, he’s funneled much of his considerable energy into being in air instead of on rock.

The Weight of Mountains

The Weight of Mountains

We should never take mountains lightly. Because, as this short film makes beautifully clear, the processes that combine to create, sustain and, ultimately, destroy the world’s mountains are elemental, powerful and deep with meaning — meaning that may exceed our capacity to measure. One line from the narration captures the essence of mountains perfectly: “All the good and evil things that happen in the world are of no consequence to the magnitude of their scale.”

Walled In

Ostensibly, Walled In is the story of a first descent of the rowdy Marble Fork of the Kaweah River in Sequoia National Park by kayakers Ben Stookesbury and Chris Korbulic, but this film poses bigger questions than whether the pair can send a river that flows from above 12,000 feet in elevation to near sea level in less than 30 miles.

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