If you know Roko Belic–a longtime Mountainfilm regular who along with his brother Adrian is one of the filmmakers behind Genghis Blues–he seems like a pretty happy guy (especially after the birth of his daughter Viva Paradise Firth Belic on March 27). You may not need to be happy to make a film called Happy, but it must have helped Belic as this fine documentary is infused with wisdom and warmth and abounds with life lessons. Filmed in more than fourteen countries, the film takes you around the world looking for universal truths about happiness, inquiring of scientists and surfers alike. But what happens quite naturally is that you learn something about your own state of mind and how you best might be, yes, happy.
When Prudence Mabhena took the stage after a screening of Music by Prudence, the short documentary about her life, it was one of the most electrifying moments of Mountainfilm 2010. This incredibly talented young lady was born with a debilitating condition called arthogryposis that left her severely handicapped. In Mabhena’s home country of Zimbabwe, the handicapped are often associated with witchcraft and her parents abandoned her as a young child. Her maternal grandmother refused to do the same and eventually found a school for disabled people that would take her granddaughter.
The school–St. George’s-changed her life as she found other musically inclined students who formed a band, Liyana, which featured the little girl with the big voice as the lead singer. When we saw the film (which won an Oscar for short documentary), we managed–with the support of Stuart and Joanna Brown–to get Mabhena to Mountainfilm.
After arriving in Telluride, she met Dr. Rick Hodes who has dedicated his career to fixing spines of children in Ethiopia. Hodes knew he could help her and announced at last year’s Awards Picnic that he had found a surgeon who would be able to alleviate Mabhena’s life-threatening condition. This winter the daunting–and expensive–surgery happened in Denver and after a grueling recovery, Mabhena is ready to return to the stage. For her first performance since the operation, she is returning to Mountainfilm 2011, which should again be one of the highlights of the festival.In Person: