October 13, 2011

Announcing the 2011 Mountainfilm Commitment Grant Recipients

Representing a highly diverse scope of projects – from a biographical film about a living legend of Himalayan mountaineering to a photographic exploration of art and activism in the aftermath of Japan’s recent tsunami – five Mountainfilm Commitment grantees will receive $5,000, each, as well as a new Mac Book Pro. The winning applicants were chosen from a field of over one hundred contenders. Mountainfilm introduced its granting initiative last year as a means to help ensure that important stories are told – and heard.

“This was an enormously tough decision for the judges,” said Festival Director David Holbrooke. “It was even tougher than last year as there were so many compelling projects that we had to look closely at multiple factors, including artistic ability, budget, vision and not unimportantly, feasibility. It was a challenging process but we are thrilled with the projects that we are granting.”

“We were deeply impressed by the quality of this year’s submissions,” said Mountainfilm Program Director Emily Long who manages the granting initiative.

“We receive letters of interest from all over the world,” she said. “And this year, it just happened that three of the strongest were from locals who are very well known to us and whose outstanding work we have had the pleasure of presenting to Mountainfilm audiences. It’s wonderful to be able to deepen the relationship with these tremendously talented people and help them move their next projects ahead.”

The five winning 2011 grantees are:

Suzan Beraza – Beraza’s feature-length documentary film, Uranium Drive In, is about a boom-bust uranium mining community in rural, southwestern Colorado and the heated battle there over a new proposed uranium mill – the first, if approved, to be built in the United States in over 25 years. While some residents question the issue of environmental destruction and health hazards associated with uranium mining and milling, most feel that having a job and providing for their families is more important, regardless of the potential risks.Beraza’s last film, Bag It, won the 2010 Mountainfilm Audience Choice Award.

Hal Clifford and Jason Houston – Clifford and Houston have collaborated on short documentaries that have screened at Mountainfilm such as Stone River and Eel/Water/Rock/Man. Their next project is Picture the Leviathan, a short documentary film about James Prosek, the author of eleven books, winner of a Peabody Award, and well established as an artist by the time he finished college. Prosek paints in the tradition of nineteenth-century naturalists who catalogued the world as it was discovered. But he paints creatures that are vanishing. Clifford’s and Houston’s film will follow Prosek on a quest to paint approximately 40 Atlantic fish species that are significant to humans -- and paint them from life, full-sized, after seeing them alive. It is a quest never before attempted.

Ben Knight and Travis Rummel – Mountainfilm helped inspire the award-winning Felt Soul Media team to make documentaries such as Running Down the Man, Red Gold, and Eastern Rises. This grant will go towards their next film, tentatively titled, Amend, which is about a national movement to bring down dams across North America. Knight and Rummel have been living in a van for months filming in California and the Pacific Northwest andintend to take a poetic but balanced look at the issue through characters and ecosystems that have been affected by dam construction.

Drew Ludwig – Photographer Ludwig will travel the northeast coast of Japan by foot to explore the intersection between art and activism in the debris of this year’s tsunami. At Mountainfilm 2011, Ludwig’s exhibited his memorable photography exhibit of gloves that he found as he walked through Louisiana after the Gulf Oil spill. Ludwig will shoot portraits of those who lived through the tsunami’s devastation and hopes to capture both the enormity of the wave and the vulnerability of the subjects. The height of the wave will act as a visual thread through each photograph as Ludwig poses the same two questions to all his subjects: “How high was the tsunami?” and, “Can you show me?”

Allison Otto and Carole Snow – Otto’s and Snow’s documentary film, Keeper of the Mountains, is about the legendary Everest historian, Elizabeth Hawley, now in her late 80’s. The filmmakers have been filming and interviewing the Grande Dame of the Himalayas about her unique vantage on mountaineering history as she has often decided who has earned a summit in the Himalaya having helped resolve many mountaineering controversies.

Mountainfilm is excited to partner on this project with the American Alpine Club, which will fund the $5000 grant. "The stories climbers tell influence safety, open new terrain and inspire us all,” said Alpine Club Executive Director Phil Powers. “The American Alpine Club is proud to support excellence in telling the climber’s story through a Mountainfilm Commitment Grant."

You can read more about the 2010 class of Mountainfilm Commitment grantees here.

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