Welcome to the fifth issue of Pitch.

Normally, summer is quiet in the Mountainfilm offices, but that’s not the case this year. First, we planned a July fundraiser at the Sheridan Opera House around the film Fire on the Mountain by Beth and George about the Tenth Mountain Division. The event exceeded our expectations by netting more than $30,000 in contributions—thank you all for being a part of it.

We also have two special screenings in Mountain Village. The first, showing tonight, features a terrific combination of short films. Friday, we will play the essential documentary, Food, Inc, which has garnered enormous attention (including from our 2009 festival guest Nick Kristof in a New York Times column this summer). (more details below).

On top of that, we have been organizing a mini-Mountainfilm in Aspen, August 27 to 30 at the Wheeler Opera House (more details below). This is our largest festival effort outside Telluride to date, and we hope you can come see some films that you might have missed in May.

We have also been increasing our online video presence and now offer an array of compelling pieces on our website. Check out breakfast talks, short films, and Interviews 50 Cents with Mountainfilm guests and attendees. We are particularly proud of the 2009 Minds of Mountainfilm interviews (which are also available on iTunes). The first ones we are releasing feature Ken Burns, who is interviewed by Tom Shadyac, and Jim Whittaker talking with my wife, Sarah Holbrooke. (Happy Tenth Anniversary Sarah)

Also keeping us busy this summer is figuring out how best to work with 350.org, the organization founded by Mountainfilm 2009 guest Bill McKibben to combat climate change. As he explained at Mountainfilm (and this past week on the Colbert Report), 350 is the maximum parts per million of CO2 that we can allow in the atmosphere without facing drastic changes in our world. Currently we are at 390— and moving steadily upward. Bill believes politicians are dithering on this essential issue (reinforced by Paul Krugman in the New York Times) and will only pay attention to its urgency by organizing a huge international day of climate action on October 24. He is asking people to create demonstrations that illustrate why the number 350 is so important. He has already received a written contribution from a group of mountain climbers, including 2009 guests Conrad Anker, David Breashears and Jim Whittaker.

My question is: What should the Mountainfilm community do to be a part of this important day? Any thoughts and ideas would be most appreciated.

Thanks so much,

David Holbrooke
Festival Director

Mountainfilm in Aspen
Mountain Summit in Aspen
We will play some of our strongest films from the May 2009 festival including Big River Man, The Yes Men Fix the World, Samsara, and Rock Prophecies with filmmakers and characters present as well. We will also show The Cove (which was off-the-schedule in May) as well as Horse Boy, which is a classic Mountainfilm story about a family dealing with autism who heads to the mountains of Mongolia to solve their struggle.

We are excited to have Ed Viesturs involved with Mountainfilm for the first time. He told me he’s always wanted to attend the festival but it conflicted with the Himalayan climbing season in May. Jim Whittaker will be in Aspen as will other top-notch Mountainfilm guests such as Tim DeChristopher and Chris Jordan who told me that “I am going to do something I have never done before. I can’t tell what it is but people will need some breathing room afterward.”

Food, Glorious Food
Clearly the real food movement is gaining traction with a wide variety of people who are thinking about growing and eating food in new and creative ways. I have found interesting articles about: yardsharing (“an arrangement between people to share skills and gardening resources; space, time, strength, tools or skills, in order to grow food as locally as possible”); Veggietrader.com (an article said it was a “Craigslist for herbs and vegetables”); a floating farm (“The Science Barge is a prototype, sustainable urban farm and environmental education center.”); and yes, a truck farm (created by two of the filmmakers who made King Corn).

Wiley Holbrooke with Sasquatch the chicken
Wiley Holbrooke with Sasquatch (Photo by Wiley Holbrooke)

Spending much of my year in Brooklyn with chickens (backyward chickens is on the upswing according to this article), I am a sucker for urban agriculture stories, like this photo essay. That is why Dan Barber’s Op-ed piece in the NY Times about the late tomato blight that is dramatically affecting the East Coast tomato crops made my head itch. Barber writes: “Here’s the unhappy twist: the explosion of home gardeners — the very people most conscious of buying local food and opting out of the conventional food chain — has paradoxically set the stage for the worst local tomato harvest in memory.”

I was also disturbed but transfixed by this photo series by Mark Menjivar who photographs what is inside people’s refrigerators. I particularly liked the photo from inside of the documentary filmmaker’s fridge, which was stocked with three kinds of beer (including Fat Tire from our sponsor, New Belgium).

Looking to Mountainfilm 2010
The author of Three Cups of Tea, the indefatigable Greg Mortenson, will attend Mountainfilm in 2010 to update us on his work in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was the focus of a recent column by Tom Friedman who writes, “Mortenson’s efforts remind us what the essence of the ‘war on terrorism’ is about. It’s about the war of ideas within Islam – a war between religious zealots who glorify martyrdom and want to keep Islam untouched by modernity and isolated from other faiths, with its women disempowered, and those who want to embrace modernity, open Islam to new ideas and empower Muslim woman as much as men.”

With extinction as our theme for 2010, we are discovering interesting work on this subject. Time Magazine did a very thorough piece as did the New York Times. While much of the news is grim – which is no surprise given the nature of the subject – there is the recent good news that hundreds of species have recently been discovered in the eastern Himalayas.

Colorado Council on the Arts Approves Funding for “Making Movies that Matter”
MF's educational outreach program, Making Movies that Matter, takes festival films into middle and high school classes to complement core curricula. In addition to learning about critical global issues through the films, the students learn to edit and, with permission from the filmmakers, they de-construct the films and rebuild their own shortened versions. The program recently received extremely high marks from the Colorado Council on the Arts - read more here.

Cover photo by Tim Vierling, McKibben & Burns photo by Jennifer Koskinen, Mountain Summit photo by Cole Rise, Nicholas Kristof photo by Jennifer Koskinen, Wiley & Sasquatch photo by Wiley Holbrooke


Sunset Film Screenings in Mountain Village
On Thursday August 20, we will play an eclectic mix of shorts, including Felt Soul Media’s wonderful, Running Down the Man and on Friday the 21st, we will be playing Food, Inc, the essential documentary that is getting enormous attention (including from 2009 festival guest Nick Kristof in a NY Times column this summer). The films are screened outdoors so please bring a blanket or warm clothes. These screenings are kindly supported by Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association. (more here)

From Our Guests
It’s no surprise that our Mountainfilm guests have been busy. Here’s an update:

- Nick Kristof recently wrote a column, the subject of which most Mountainfilm people will feel is self-evident. It’s about combating “nature deficit disorder” by going camping and hiking in the woods. Some of the comments it provoked were worth reading.

- Roger Cohen (Mountainfilm 2008) covered the Iranian elections for the New York Times. He ended up staying in Tehran well past any other Western reporter, writing trenchant pieces for the Times and the New York Review of Books that may well win him a Pulitzer Prize.

- The Yes Men Fix the World Game. Join the Yes Men community by coming up with your own Yes men challenge – everything from a hijacked conference to publishing your own special edition of a newspaper.

- Ken Burns’ new companion book to his series about the National Parks is about to be published. In fact, just like the world premiere of the film, the first signing of this special book will be in Telluride at Between the Covers Bookstore on Monday, September 7th starting at 10 am. Books are first come, first serve but call to reserve one before they sell out.

- Laurie Garrett (Mountainfilm 2008) is a swine flu expert who explains her concerns both about how we are handling the virus and about the Obama Administration in this interview.

- Haynes Johnson, a Pulitzer Prize winner who was part of a breakfast talk (watch it here) with Ken Burns has been getting great reviews of his new book, The Battle for America 2008 about the 2008 election.

- Once again, a new issue of Pitch, a new Chris Jordan piece. Chris will be speaking in Aspen and is promising a new and memorable talk.

Up with Uighurs
This is just a quick shout out of solidarity for our brethren at the Melbourne Film Festival. They were harassed by Chinese nationalists, who were upset that the festival was playing The Ten Conditions of Love. The film is about Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled leader of the Uighur people who have a similar but in some ways, harder road than the Tibetans in preventing their culture from being destroyed by the Chinese. The Uighurs have been in the news after recent riots in China. We have asked for a copy of the film and will consider it for 2010.