In 1999, I came to Mountainfilm in Telluride with my first movie, Genghis Blues. I had no idea how it would play at a “mountain” film festival when there were only a few shots of mountains in the whole movie. The screening at the Sheridan Opera House was packed to capacity with standing room only, and as the end credits came up, the audience exploded with applause. It couldn’t have gone better – and then it did.
Through the help of then-festival director Rick Silverman, and a number of others, we had managed to get Kongar-ol Ondar, the Tuvan throat-singer from the film, to come all the way from Siberia to Telluride, Colorado. As the lights came up on the Opera House stage, Kongar-ol walked out in his traditional gold-gilded silk costume, complete with pointy-toed boots and Genghis Khan hat. He performed his world-class multi-harmonic singing in encore after encore. It remains one of the top experiences I have ever had showing a film.
That night and over the next few days, I met an extraordinary number of kind and wonderful people, all kindred spirits. Though many of them were outdoorsy, they were not all mountain climbers. I realized that the “mountain” in Mountainfilm isn’t only referring to a geological feature. It is also a metaphor for those obstacles we hope to overcome, those dreams we hope to achieve. Mountainfilm is a place where people with passion come together.
I have been extremely lucky as a filmmaker. I’ve been to film festivals all around the world, but Mountainfilm is the only one that I come back to over and over again, because every time I come up the road leading into Telluride, I feel that I’m coming home.
*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 filmmaker RokoBelic (Genghis Blues and Happy 2011) is the seventh in this series.