I can’t think of a place I would rather be on Memorial Day weekend than at Mountainfilm in Telluride. What could compare? The beauty of the place is unmatched. On the long-lit first evening, you arrive at a delicious barbecue in a meadow surrounded by snowy peaks where a great bluegrass band is playing, and everyone is dancing, eating, talking, catching up. So many of my comrades are there — the environmentalists and activists of all stripes, the filmmakers whose dedication to storytelling and to making the world a better place through film is matched only by their sense of joy. And the films are terrific! I love the breadth of films that are invited every year and have seen some of my all-time favorites there for the first time. Among the truly memorable, films by Kesang Tseten and the dramatic film The Cup come to mind, but there are many others.
I love the small size of the festival, and its distinctly un-businesslike feel. People are there to see films, to be moved, to connect with new friends and old, to be inspired. No one is making deals or even thinking about them; everyone is talking about the films and all the myriad issues and stories in them. And when I need a little solitude, I set off on a fabulous hike right from town that takes me up through sweet-smelling pines along a lovely clear stream to waterfalls and pools.
It is a true honor to have a film chosen by the festival and to be invited to come. I have had the great fortune to have played three of my films at Mountainfilm: Coming to Light in 2000, Robert Capa in Love and War in 2003 and We Still Live Here in 2011. Even more wonderful is that all three won major prizes at the festival: Best Film, Best Documentary, and in 2011 the fabulous Moving Mountains prize for We Still Live Here that gave the Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project the $3,000 they needed to found their first-ever Wampanoag Language Immersion Camp. How cool is that? These awards have meant so much to me, providing the encouragement and validation of the work that keeps me going through those inevitable times of doubt and frustration that are seemingly a necessary part of documentary filmmaking.
I’m working on a few projects now that I’m hoping will win me another invitation to Telluride one day, though most likely none of them will be done for a few years. I’m slogging away, though, with visions of Telluride dancing in my head.
This year will mark Mountainfilm's 35th festival, and we feel fortunate to still be going strong. We owe our longevity to many people: volunteers, staff, audiences and, of course, many filmmakers, artists and guests. Some people who have taken the stage have helped shape Mountainfilm in Telluride. To celebrate their longtime involvement, we asked a few of these creative types to write something about their relationship with Mountainfilm. This blog by Anne Makepeace of MakePeaceProductions is the second in this series.