Welcome to the seventh issue of PITCH.

2009 festival guest Nick Kristof wrote a fascinating piece in this month’s Outside magazine about how he tries to impact people with his columns in the New York Times. (The issue is out now and is filled with familiar Mountainfilm faces). Nick has found—and separate research confirms—that if he tells one individual’s painful story, particularly a woman’s, the column has more resonance than if it’s about many people with that same problem. As he writes, “all the psychological research shows that we are moved not by statistics but by fresh, wet tears, with a bit of hope glistening below.”

Using Nick’s approach, here’s a holiday story of fresh, wet tears and a good dose of hope. Our 2009 Moving Mountains Prize went to Dr. Rick Hodes, who was featured in the film Making the Crooked Straight. Thanks to our judges and generous audience members, we were able to boost the prize money to $5,000 (another $5,000 went to Burmese activists). Rick decided to allocate these funds to one child: an eleven-year-old girl named Mieraf whose back started to severely curve when she was a baby, compressing her lungs and reducing her breathing. Two weeks ago, she underwent surgery, and doctors removed four ribs and straightened her spine. It’s been a rough recovery, but Mieraf’s now out of ICU and according to Rick, “she’s sitting up, changing position herself, and complaining about the food. That’s always a good sign!”

Mieraf—who I’m told is fiercely smart—wants to be a doctor, specializing in treating scoliosis because, as she explained to Rick, there are no Ethiopians doing that. In reply, Rick told her, “Work hard because I need to retire someday, and I want you to take my place here.”

Yes, it’s just one girl’s story, but I hope–like one of Nick Kristof’s columns-that it ends up being about many more people than Mieraf. Thank you for helping to make her surgery happen.

I hope the holidays find you well.
David Holbrooke, Festival Director

Greg Mortenson at Mountainfilm
Author, adventurer and activist Greg Mortenson will return to Mountainfilm in 2010. We’re looking forward to getting an update on his adventures since he last passed through Telluride. Greg’s latest book, Stones into Schools, was just published and has been getting great reviews.

Ed Viesturs at Mountainfilm
For years, we’ve tried to get Ed to come to Telluride for the festival, but he always has some lame excuse about how Mountainfilm conflicts with the Himalayan climbing season. Well, he’s come to his senses and has said he’ll make the trip to Mountainfilm this year (thanks to the efforts of our presenting sponsor Eddie Bauer/First Ascent). In the meantime, check out how Ed prepares for an appearance on the Colbert Report.

Court Updates
Filmmakers Beth and George Gage have a way of finding fearless characters who seem to have a penchant for taking on the U.S. Government. The Western Shoshone and Carrie Dann, the star of American Outrage (previously named Our Land, Our Life), won a big victory recently when California’s Ninth Circuit decided that the BLM violated federal environmental and public law by approving the mine. Tim DeChristopher suffered a setback when a federal judge issued a pre-trial ruling that he could not use the “necessity defense” in his efforts to defend himself. His trial is expected to begin in March.

Extinction News

As we’ve announced, Mountainfilm’s theme for the 2010 festival is the Extinction Crisis. It’s a fluid issue because there are certainly small triumphs, such as the discovery of a “lost world of fanged frogs and giant rats” in Papua, New Guinea, but there are also vast tragedies including the extremely precarious health of our oceans, a topic everyone from the New York Times editorial page to actor Ted Danson is writing about. If you want to read more about extinction, check out Mongabay.com and the International Union of Concerned Scientists’ Red List of endangered species.

Renowned artist (and part-time Ridgway resident) Maya Lin has been working on her last memorial, this one dedicated to extinct species. Unlike previous work—such as her famous Vietnam War Memorial—this piece is a ubiquitous, multi-media, multi-platform installation called What is Missing? It’s installed at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and we’ll have a version of this piece at Mountainfilm. Maya will speak at the Moving Mountains Symposium this year (and, in fact, her work inspired us to choose this theme for this year). You can get a sense of What is Missing? in an interview Maya did on CNN with 2008 festival guest Christiane Amanpour (Christiane’s daily show is really worthwhile, substantive and smart, but you have to watch it online as it runs on CNN International).

Updates From Our Guests

- The work of Azzam Alwash, the Iraqi-American water engineer who spoke at Mountainfilm in 2008 and 2005, was the subject of a fascinating piece on “60 Minutes.”

- Mountainfilm stalwart Wade Davis has a new book titled The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. Wade talks about some of what’s in the book in the CBC’s Massey Lectures, which is a longtime Canadian radio series.

- 2008 Mountainfilm artist Jeff Scher created a music video for Bob Dylan, recording of the Christmas song Little Drummer Boy. How cool is that?

- Josh Aronson has brought several films to Mountainfilm, including the Oscar-nominated doc Sound and Fury. Two of his shorts on the Hudson River played in 2009, but you can see the whole series here.

- Photographer Aaron Huey had a spectacular exhibit at Mountainfilm last May with images from Salvation Mountain. His new work on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota is equally striking but devastating.

- Author Kati Marton, who has been a part of Mountainfilm several times, wrote a thoughtful piece about Russia.

- Author, filmmaker and longtime friend of Mountainfilm Dan Austin was profiled in Outside for creating 88bikes.org. (Tim DeChristopher, Martin Strel (Big River Man) and Nick Kristof are also in the magazine).

- Last May, we presented a performance of A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. The History Channel has renamed it The People Speak and brought together a group of top-flight actors to read some of these first-person accounts.

- With the world’s eyes on Copenhagen for the climate conference, it seemed a likely place for the Yes Men to do what they do, which is cause trouble and sow confusion.

In Memoriam
Longtime friend of Mountainfilm Stephen Wald passed away this fall. Stephen served on Mountainfilm's board and was a generous supporter. Our deepest condolences go out to Sheila Wald and the rest of his family.

We're sorry to report that Lawrence Anthony, the lead barber in the lovely short, Pickin' and Trimmin' (Mountainfilm 2008) died peacefully in his sleep this week. His family is trying to start a memorial fund to keep the barbershop open.


December 26 Telluride Fundraiser

We’ll be playing The Wildest Dream at the Sheridan Opera House in Telluride on December 26. The film really has several plotlines, the primary one concerning legendary mountaineer George Mallory and his attempt to be the first person to climb Mt. Everest. It also tells the story of how longtime Mountainfilm guest Conrad Anker discovered Mallory’s body high on the mountain and his own attempt to summit Everest in the same style and manner as Mallory.

Conrad will be in Telluride for the event and will answer questions after the film, so it promises to be a special evening. Tickets are $100, including an open bar reception, and you can see a trailer of the film here.

We are now taking film submissions for 2010. Click here for more information.

National Geographic Adventure Closing
We’re sad to report that National Geographic Adventure, a fine magazine and a partner of Mountainfilm, is no longer in print—a victim of the economy. We wish our friends at NGA the best in their next chapter and hope to see them back in Telluride for Mountainfilm.

For Filmmakers

- The D-Word is an online forum for documentary filmmakers, which recently held a worthwhile discussion about theatrical and digital distribution.

- The Tribeca Film Festival has a fund that provides grants for feature documentaries. They say they’re looking for films, “which challenge the status quo not just as it pertains to subject matter but also in form.” Filmmakers can submit until January 11, 2010.

- Filmmaker magazine has an interesting piece about how filmmakers can make money using Video on Demand.

- Fellow filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, the director of Leaving Fear Behind, was arrested in Tibet by the Chinese government. Please sign a petition for his release here.

Clothing Drive for Afghanistan
A distant cousin of mine is a doctor in the U.S. Army who has been stationed in Afghanistan. He wrote that “The Roughriders of the 108th Cavalry would like to receive scarves, gloves, warm socks, sweaters, towels, especially children's clothing and reading glasses to give to villagers in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan. 

Defeat the Taliban and Al Quaeda by helping us make friends in this hostile place. Gently used clothing is welcome.” If you’re interested in sending clothes, please send to:
Lt.Col. Kenneth Marx
TF 1-108 CAV
FOB Hughie
APO AE  09310
Please mark the postal form "IF UNDELIVERABLE, ANY SOLDIER".

From Our Blog -
"The Conversation"
The Yes Men Hit Copenhagen: With the climate conference Cop15 happening, it seemed a likely place for the Yes Men to to pull something off. Canada took the hit on this one...
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Cover photo by Tim Vierling, Mieraf photos courtesy of Rick Hodes, Azzam Alwash & Aaron Huey photos by Jennifer Koskinen, Dan Austin photo by Chloe Crespi and Stephen Wald photo courtesy of Sheila Wald


Worthwhile Stuff


NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen was on the Late Show where Dave talks about wanting to be arrested to protest climate change. Perhaps Dave and Tim DeChristopher should get together?

These sharp short films are about life at the Hadron Collider in Europe.

“Frontline” produced a great doc on Iran and the attempted revolution this past summer.

Renan Ozturk, the director of the great climbing film Samsara (which won the Charlie Fowler Prize this past year) did a short video for a Nikon contest that is just so damn clever and creative.

Articles & Art      

Foreign Policy
magazine has a curious, but compelling, list of the top 100 international influencers that includes some past and future Mountainfilm guests.

Photographer Lu Guang focuses on “people living at the bottom of society.” In the tradition of Sebastao Salgado, his photos of appalling pollution in China are beautiful.

New York Times
Columnist Bob Herbert wrote a powerful column about how individuals can make a difference, a concept that is close to the heart of Mountainfilm.

Leaves become art materials—clever and lovely.