Mountainfilm is 35, and I’ve attended 25 of its festivals. By 1992, I’d become a regular. Mountainfilm was showing The Wilderness Idea about John Muir, Gifford Pinchot and their battle over the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. Both were called “conservationists,” but Pinchot wanted to flood the valley to create a reservoir to serve San Francisco. John Muir wanted to preserve the national wilderness treasure. Ultimately, congress agreed with Pinchot. It was a beautiful film about passionate people and a big idea.
Inspired by the film and the festival, I knew that this was the kind of film I wanted to make. That fleeting thought was the impetus for our first documentary in 1995, Fire on the Mountain, the Story of the Men of the 10th Mountain Division.
I know I’m not alone. Many filmmakers have been inspired by Mountainfilm in Telluride. It’s where we’ve recognized the power of film. Mountainfilm’s tagline back then was “the power of film to change the world.” I bought it. Mountainfilm’s tagline now is “celebrating indomitable spirit,” and the organization has always done both. That’s one of the reasons I think it is so special. It celebrates individuals taking chances, following their passion and exploring the limits of their strength, power and influence all over the world.
Back then, Mountainfilm was movies and a “gathering of the tribe,” people who loved recreating in and celebrating mountains, mountain spirit and mountain culture. People hiked and climbed in the daytime and watched movies all night. In the 25 years I’ve attended Mountainfilm, both as an audience member and a filmmaker, the festival has grown. Now there’s not as much time to climb or hike because you’d miss an amazing speaker or art walk or ice cream social or coffee talk or symposium.
Now the tribe is bigger, and the topics are wider. Through Mountainfilm on Tour, this celebration of indomitable spirit has spread all over the country and is now spilling out to countries beyond our borders.
Happy birthday, Mountainfilm! Every Memorial Day weekend, Telluride is where I want to be!
A lot of my friends kid me about all the film festivals that I attend. Well, by attending all those festivals it has become extremely clear to me that Mountainfilm is like no other festival. It is completely unique in the way that it seamlessly intertwines film with speakers, symposiums, coffee talks, art walks and, now, beer talks. It’s much more than simply a celebration of film: It is a celebration of ideas and thought. Most of which encourage engagement and, many times, action.
*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 two-part blog by the filmmaking duo George and Beth Gage of Gage & Gage Productions (Fire on the Mountain 1995 and Bidder 70 2012) is the eighth in this series.