For 12 years, Judith Selby and Richard Lang have collected plastic trash along a one-kilometer stretch of beach near their home in northern California. At a rate of 35 pounds per hour, it isn’t surprising that they have accumulated tons of debris. What may be surprising is the art they produce with it—sculptures and abstract prints reminiscent of Paul Klee and Henri Matisse that feature 1949-vintage toys, Korean lighters, Astroturf (a common find), bubble blowers and hair curlers that may have last adorned a human head thirty or forty years ago. The artwork has exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and now, the Langs can add Mountainfilm’s 2011 filmmaker awards to their resume. Let’s hope that those pieces never find their way back to the sea, where they would join an estimated 46,000 visible pieces of plastic that float in every square mile of Earth’s oceans.
Johnny Barnes is one of the happiest people in the world, and his main goal in life is to share that happiness. This humble and lovable Bermudan wakes up at 3 a.m. every morning and heads to one particularly busy intersection to stand, wave, blow kisses and shout, “I love you!” to passers-by. Crazy or not, Johnny has a lot to say about what it takes to be optimistic and happy. And he has brought smiles to the faces of thousands who would have an otherwise dreary morning commute.
“The worst thing a man can do is live for nothing.” So says James Armstrong, a barber in Birmingham who was one of thousands of unknown and unsung heroes of the civil rights struggle of the '60s. Living by his own creed, Armstrong willingly risked his own life in the often-brutal fight for basic rights—to vote, hold a job, use a public facility or go to school without the oppression of racial segregation or fear of violence. In the decades since, he has kept the faith that enduring what he and his fellow foot soldiers called the “terrible days” would be worth it. Indeed, this short, carefully crafted and compelling film tells his and his compatriots worthwhile story. Armstrong passed away just after this film was shot—but not before witnessing the swearing in of our first African-American president.
Waiting for a Train is the lovely story of Japanese-born Toshio Hirano, who took the road less traveled by following a unique and encompassing passion for the music of Jimmie Rodgers. The moment he discovered Rodgers was a transcendent epiphany that inspired him to immigrate to the United States through Appalachia and Texas, after which he finally landed in San Francisco. As a man who is truly following his bliss, Hirano chases a passionate dream for over 40 years and is rewarded with a life well lived, one that is filled with music, song and dance. After the screenings, Hirano will grace the stage to share a little of his inspired bluegrass magic with Telluride.