Welcome to the tenth issue of PITCH.

In our last issue of Pitch we solicited suggestions for our 2011 theme from our thoughtful audiences and readers. What runs through many of the incisive ideas we’ve received in response is a desire for a theme that provides an honest look at critical issues we are facing yet mixes in a sense of how best we deal with these issues as we move forward.

We also reached out to some of our past guest presenters for ideas. Artist Chris Jordan said that many of the people he speaks with—scientists, thinkers, and fellow artists—believe that the next ten years will be the decisive decade for turning back the terrifying tide that is climate change. Longtime Mountainfilm guest Wade Davis suggested we re-imagine the very nature of our past themes and think of a completely different way to present our symposium.

I think we have synthesized this wonderful collection of ideas, and others, for our 2011 theme that will be…drum roll please…Awareness into Action.

As this isn’t our usual one-word theme, where the issue is abundantly clear, let me explain.

Each year we screen films that address important issues and are, inherently, a call to action for our audiences. This year, for example, the film Bag It made a clear case of how pernicious plastic can be. After watching the film, I would think (and hope) that many people from the audience went home to their cupboards to root out the particular kind of plastic that leaches toxic chemicals into their life. Still, despite making this token effort, I know all of us are most likely still surrounded by plastic – just more aware of how problematic it is. 

So, in 2011, Mountainfilm will work on shortening the distance between awareness and action by providing our audience with a way to actively change the world around them. It’s unlike anything we have ever done as we will both look at problems—specific and addressable ones—and offer solutions that our audiences can be a part of. Our Moving Mountains Symposium will kick this off by taking particular issues of our past four themes: Energy, Water, Food, and Extinction. Then, with insight and instruction from guest presenters who are on the front lines of these battles, we will learn how to truly make a difference in the issue(s) of our choice. And, more than ever, we will expect you to get involved to make a real and sustained difference in these critical times.

We’ll still have our usual wide range of programming throughout the festival, with adventure front and center, but we are looking to infuse the whole event with the spirit of action.

Thank you,
David Holbrooke, Festival Director

August 26-29 in Aspen
We are excited to return to the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen for four days of stellar Mountainfilm programming. Some of the highlights include screenings of I Am, Bag It, Eastern Rises, Freedom Riders, Gasland and The Tillman Story, which didn’t play in Telluride. As in Telluride, we will have filmmakers and characters from each of the films in town for Q&A and discussions following the films. We’ll also present again our Extinction Crisis symposium. You can check out the whole schedule here.

Prudence Update
Mountainfilm audiences have contributed several thousand dollars to cover costs of surgery for Prudence Mabhena, the young Zimbabwean singer who dazzled audiences at Mountainfilm 2010 and subject of the Academy Award-winning short documentary, Music By Prudence. We are still some distance from raising the $20,000 needed for the surgery so, if any of wish to lend your support, please let us know. And, on Prudence’s behalf, many thanks to all of you who have already contributed.

Minds of Mountainfilm

More episodes of our Minds of Mountainfilm series are up on our website. Check out terrific conversations between: Tom Shadyac (I Am) and Irwin Kula (Time for a New God); Mike Fay and Josh Bernstein; scientist Terry Root and Beth Gage (American Outrage); and, Dr. Theo Colborn (Gasland and Bag It) and Elizabeth Hightower (Outside Magazine).

Alagados Update
If you saw the film Alagados at Mountainfilm 2008, here is an update from filmmaker Sylvia Johnson on Renato, the main character of the film:

He seems to be doing well.  I spent a little time with his wife and his daughter who is now a beautiful, spunky little 4 year-old.  They’ve rebuilt the house out of brick. It’s still in the same cramped little alleyway, but is much more solid than it was before and offers a little more protection. Renato went through a rehab program about a year ago and came out a devout Christian, which I see primarily as the focus he draws on to help himself stay straight despite all the temptations around him.  He has been able to set up a simple car wash business outside his house and he is able to support the family that way.

Also, the college scholarship program that we launched with Tom Shadyac's help has continued to grow.  Our students are doing awesome and the team has really taken ownership of the project, which is very cool to see. I noticed a real shift this time where people in the community are starting to see studying as a real possibility and an option that can help pull them out of poverty. I've been able to raise the funds to give two new scholarships this year, and we will soon be launching a college prep type program that gets kids ready to get in to and study at the free public universities.

You can learn more about the Alagados project here.

Climate Change

You often see articles talking about the “debate” over climate change. We don’t present debates like that at Mountainfilm because we feel it would be like arguing about whether the earth is flat. Nonetheless, we pay attention to articles like this one, from Reuters, titled: Global Warming Undeniable. The litany of reports is overwhelming, like this excellent Smithsonian Magazine piece about Barrow, Alaska, to the CIA incorporating the issue into their intelligence program.

From Our Guests
David Breashears has put together his photographs of glaciers for an exhibit at the Asia Society in NY. Nick Kristof met David at Mountainfilm 2009 and wrote about this exhibit, along with the essential work of Bill McKibben (who was also at Mountainfilm 2009) with 350.org.

John Harlin (Mountainfilm in 2007) is at work on a mighty challenge in Switzerland.

There was a big article in the Times about natural gas and fracking, the subject of the film, Gasland.

Jon Bowermaster, who has been to Mountainfilm many times, has spent a lot of time down in Louisiana of late chronicling the nightmare that has unfolded in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tim DeChristopher was interviewed in the Huffington Post.

Artist Chris Jordan returned to Midway Island this summer. You can read updates from his trip here.

Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, who spoke at the 2009 Food Symposium about “What We Eat,” were on NPR talking about their new book, Around the World in 80 Diets.

Painter Charlotta Janssen, whose images of the Freedom Riders were at the Ah Haa School for this year’s festival, made a short video called I Love Painting.

Dan Austin, and his non-profit 88 Bikes (88bikes.org), received a grant from our Presenting Sponsor Eddie Bauer/First Ascent.

Filmmaker Roko Belic (Genghis Blues) and his new film about happiness were featured in a thoughtful article in the NY Times about living smaller.

Cover photo by Tim Vierling, BagMonster photo courtesy of Andy Keller, Prudence photo by Gus Gusciora, Outside TV photo by Chris Hanson, Wes Skiles photo by Wes Skiles, Climate Change photo by James Balog


Mountainfilm in NYC

We are thrilled to announce that we will be working with the Film Society of Lincoln Center to present a weekend of Mountainfilm in New York, October 22-24. We will play I Am and Bag It as well as some new films. Thanks so much to Mountainfilm attendee Ronnie Planalp for making this happen.

Mountainfilm Commitment Granting Program
We received several dozen excellent letters of interest for our Mountainfilm Commitment Grant and have winnowed them down, a process that was not easy. The finalists are working on applications, due at the end of August, and then we will have to make more difficult decisions. The range of projects that people are working on is just outstanding, and inspiring, and we hope to share many of them with you at Mountainfilm festivals to come.

Extinction News
An important study has been released about the end-Permian extinction that happened about 250 million years ago and is the largest in the world’s history. Worldwide, 90% of marine species and 70% of terrestrial species went extinct. At the same time a massive set of volcanoes erupted in Siberia dispersing enough lava to cover the entire continental U.S. to almost a mile in depth. Scientists are examining this synchronous pair of events and will learn more about extinction and climate change.

There was also a terrific piece in the NY Times Magazine called, The End of Tuna.

Outside TV

We have licensed a number of films from this year’s festival and past ones for our Mountainfilm Movie Night. The show goes on in November and hosts David Lahuta and Lynsey Dyer (a Mountainfilm artist) were in Telluride this week shooting more intros for the show.

grapher Wes Skiles died in a diving accident in late July. His loss is a big one and the timing is particularly painful because his photos (some of which were exhibited at Mountainfilm this year at the Silver Bell) are on the cover of this month’s National Geographic. His work, often with 2010 Mountainfilm guest Kenny Broad, was ground-breaking and essential.

Stephen Schneider never made it to Mountainfilm but his wife, Terry Root, spoke at our Extinction Symposium this year (you can watch her presentation here). It’s a shame we didn’t have the chance to bring Stephen to Telluride because he was a leading climatologist who understood what greenhouse gases were doing to the ozone layer as early as the 1970’s. The NY Times called him a “Climate Warrior” and his foresight on the subject earned him a spate of death threats but he continued to be blunt and honest about the dire nature of the problem. Read the comments on the Times blog and you see how even those who wrong-headedly disagreed with him respected his passion and insight.

Carolyn Jensen Chadwick attended Mountainfilm many times and contributed to the festival in a variety of ways. Most recently, she worked on Maya Lin's What is Missing artwork and also helped bring together the stellar Interviews 50 Cents, which featured her husband, Alex Chadwick.

For Filmmakers
“The little business of documentary films just got bigger,” wrote the NY Times last month. The article was about a few companies that are trying to help documentarians make a living on non-fiction filmmaking.

Keep up-to-date with Mountainfilm

Stuff We Like

Howard Beale’s famous rant from the essential film Network has been given some nifty graphics. Reading it, you see how current and contemporary it still is.

Information is Beautiful is a website that provides fascinating graphic treatments for all kinds of data.

There is something called the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy that asks normal citizens to represent the best of the U.S. when abroad. Seems Mountainfilm folk would be awfully good ambassadors.