Director Max Walker-Silverman, a Telluride native who grew up in Mountainfilm’s theaters, brings a homespun narrative about family and place to the festival. In it, the death of a patriarch closes the gap between a divorced cowboy and his young daughter. What follows is a tale of forgiveness, in few words.
Rugged individualism? Sure, but the history of America’s West is also very much defined by communal grit and a spirit of togetherness. Just look to the railroads. John Bush, who grew up playing in the (long since vanished) trainyard of Telluride, has been captivated by steam engines and the rails that bind this nation together his entire life. In this short film, he contemplates the rich history of the locomotive and how it shaped this nation. “America built the railroads,” he notes, “and the railroads built America.”
When defense contractor Neal Blue paid $6 million for Telluride’s Valley Floor in 1983, the longtime Idarado Mining Co. dumping ground was in rough shape, replete with heavy metals, arsenic and other toxic mining byproducts. In 1993, Blue’s staff leaked plans to turn the high-alpine wetlands into a housing complex featuring artificial lakes, luxury homes and golf courses — an outrageous proposal to many in liberal Telluride. “We needed to preserve the entire ecosystem,” says San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper, who fought to save the Valley Floor, which in 2005 was appraised at $25 million. What ensued was a years-long battle that entailed fierce litigation, divisive town elections and a heroic 11th-hour fundraising drive. The Valley chronicles one community’s fight to keep a little piece of their valley forever wild.