August 19, 2015

Meet the 2015 Mountainfilm Commitment Grant finalists

Projects range in topic from salmon runs to Tibetan refugees and duck painters

In June and July, Telluride Mountainfilm was the recipient of nearly 100 letters of interest from filmmakers, writers, photographers and artists hoping to nab one of five Mountainfilm Commitment Grants — $5,000 prizes bestowed upon projects that the organization believes will further its mission of inspiring audience on worthy causes.

The pool of talent was deep, and the pitches were promising. Applicants wrote of incredible individuals, intriguing adventures, harrowing conflicts and important environmental issues. There were projects aimed at kids, homegrown stories about Telluride, cultural issues from across the world and international wildlife crises — and all were worth exploring. In short, the six-person committee tasked with selecting the finalists was challenged with a difficult task.

But after a great deal of reading and much thoughtful deliberation, the committee narrowed the pool to 15 projects they believe to be the most promising, vital and able to carry Mountainfilm’s mission into the future. The finalists will now fill out a more detailed application before the second round of judging this fall, where the grants committee will choose the final five grantees.

Stay tuned to hear more about the process as it unfolds. In the meantime, here’s an introduction to the 2015 Mountainfilm Grants finalists.

  1. Ryan Peterson, The Super Salmon. Peterson — a fisherman, storyteller and past Mountainfilm guest who made the 2015 film XBoundaryis working on a short documentary that examines a government plan to dam Alaska’s Susitna River, a wild and beautiful place home to healthy ecosystems, a strong tourist economy and a substantive salmon run.
  2. Andrew Michael Ellis, Fight Hate with Love. Ellis’ feature-length documentary, Fight Hate with Love, examines the extraordinary life of Michael T’abon, a former prisoner turned full-time activist who devotes his life to keeping young people out of prison.
  3. Anna Moot-Levin, On Call. This feature-length documentary by Moot-Levin, the filmmaker behind the 2013 short Well-Fed, chronicles the struggle to provide access to quality healthcare in underserved rural communities through three primary-care providers and their patients.
  4. Leslie Thomas, The Prosecutors. The Prosecutors is an in-production documentary about the complex and challenging issue of prosecuting sexual violence and rape as war crimes. The documentary spans three countries as it focuses on individual attorneys in Colombia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  5. Lisa Lees, The Last Inch — A Tom Frost Documentary. This documentary project by Flatlander Films honors the legendary and humble American mountaineer Tom Frost, who began his career with a series of first ascents in Yosemite in the 1950s and went on to become a pioneer of the sport with innovations, “clean climbing” philosophies and inspiring accomplishments.
  6. Nicholas Edwards, Sea Gypsies: The Far Side of the World. This film project follows a group of sea nomads as they strike out on an epic 8,000-mile sea crossing of the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand to Patagonia with a stop in Antarctica. The three-month journey entails an ice storm in the Ross Sea, imposing waves, equipment failures and a mission with the environmental activists of the Sea Shepherd.
  7. Brian Golden Davis, The Million Dollar Duck. The Million Dollar Duck is a documentary that focuses on the strange and wonderful world of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, the only juried art competition run by the U.S. government. Along with examining the often-eccentric nature of the artists who vie for the prize, the film reflects on the history and challenges facing the successful conservation program.
  8. Patti Bonnet, Langtang Photo Album. Bonnet, who was a line producer on the 2015 Mountainfilm selection Racing Extinction, is working on a project to capture the vast collection of photos from trekkers of the earthquake-devastated Langtang region of Nepal. The project entails a database and portable printer stations that will enable displaced villagers to create photo albums of the people and places that have been lost.
  9. Sarah Garlick, The Lost Mountain. Sarah Garlick, an author and 2010 Mountainfilm judge, is working on a short film that follows an international team of climbers and scientists as they explore a remote region of “inselbergs” (island mountains) between Mozambique and Malawi.
  10. Amy Marquis and Dana Romanoff, National Park Experience: Canyon de Chelly. Mountainfilm alum Amy Marquis’ National Park Experience documentary tells the story of Canyon de Chelly through the eyes of Tonisha Draper, an 11-year-old Navajo singer whose family still works the land and grazes livestock as they have done for generations. The film touches on the deep history of the Navajo people and the place and the parts of the culture that are under threat of disappearing.
  11. Jim Aikman, The Lost Temple of Auzancata. Aikman, the filmmaker who made the 2015 Mountainfilm selection Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia, has cast his attention to South America, where an amazing story is unfolding in the Lake Sibinacocha watershed of the Peruvian Andes. There, a team of scientists doing climate studies and biological surveys believe they may have found the lost temple of Auzancata — a famed ceremonial site that marks a significant discovery.
  12. Russell Bush, Untitled Tibetan Refugee Artist Documentary. Bush, who made the 2014 Mountainfilm selection Vultures of Tibet, is working on a documentary about young Tibetan refugee artists in Dharamsala, India, who are exploring their visions for Tibet’s uncertain future despite the great risk it poses to their safety.
  13. Justin Bogardus, NatureRx for Kids. Bogardus and the team that brought the hilarious NatureRx shorts to Mountainfilm 2015 are working on a new series of humorous mock-commercials — these ones aimed at getting children outside and exposed to the miraculous healing qualities of nature.
  14. Catharine Axley, Attla. This documentary tracks the life and career of George Attla, an 81-year-old Alaska native who is recognized as the greatest sprint dogsled racer in the world, as he trains his grandson in the sport and attempts to preserve the heritage of dogsledding in his village of Huslia.
  15. Suzan Beraza, ¡No Soy Puta! Telluride filmmaker and Mountainfilm veteran Suzan Beraza’s latest project tells the story of two women — a Haitian sex worker and Dominican prostitute-turned activist — as they strive to build better lives for their families despite racial tension, violent demonstrations and a long history of strife on the island of Hispaniola.
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