I stumbled into my first Mountainfilm with zero knowledge of the festival and no expectations. It was May of 2006, two months after I moved to Telluride to work as a reporter at the local paper, and I was still a googley-eyed newbie pinching myself that I ended up in this idyllic mountain town.
A documentary film festival? Sure, I thought, Ill check it out. When in Rome, right?
What unfolded was three days of awakening and inspiration a familiar story at Mountainfilm, I know. I walked into The Real Dirt on Farmer John and was incredibly moved by the story of the boa-wearing artist who saved his livelihood through organic agriculture. I saw a screening of Who Killed the Electric Car and was appalled and shocked that I had never been clued in to the story of the revolutionary vehicles untimely death. And I was completely bowled over by Invisible Children: Rough Cut, a gut-wrenching look into human rights abuses at the hands of the Lords Resistance Army in Uganda.
In short, I walked away from Mountainfilm and felt like the world had shifted a little under my feet, that it had cracked open in places that were once just dark smudges on the periphery. My brain sparked with new ideas. My eyes were opened. And my heart filled with the potential of the human spirit.
The next winter, I joined the screening committee. It was the official start of what has become a steadfast commitment to make Mountainfilm part of my life.
I took on more volunteer work as the years ticked by emceeing coffee talks, writing film synopses and penning personality profiles for the website. At my day job at the paper, meanwhile, writing Mountainfilm articles became an annual highlight. Here I was, a reporter at a tiny paper in the mountains, interviewing people like Bill McKibben of 350.org and James Balog from Chasing Ice, individuals propelled by vision, passion and a strong sense of what is right. What good fortune.
Not to mention the experiences I had during the festival.
Among the more unforgettable moments: the tidal wave of community support that suffused the premiere of local film Red Gold, getting lost in the hard-hitting art of Chris Jordan at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art, witnessing the fierce intelligence of Samantha Power at a coffee talk, seeing the charming Sam Berns get Skyped into the Palm after a screening of Life According to Sam and being able to see one of my personal heroes, Nicholas Kristof, speak at the Sheridan Opera House. And of course, there were all the films that left me thunderstruck: Stranded, Waste Land, Conflict Tiger, Sergio, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, The Price of Sugar, Bear Man of Kamchatka, God Loves Uganda, Slomo. The list goes on.
Needless to say, the opportunity to work as program director for Mountainfilm is a dream come true. Its an organization whose mission I believe in wholeheartedly, its staffed by a crew of talented and passionate employees and its a hub of stories, people and causes that make me feel electrified.
Ive got big shoes to fill, for sure; longtime program director Emily Long leaves behind a legacy of meticulous organization, high-grade professionalism and hard work. Her outstanding contributions will not be forgotten.
With film submissions rolling in, guest lineups coming into focus and programming of the 2015 festival ramping up, Ive got a lot of work ahead of me. But with Mountainfilm veterans David Holbrooke, Stash Wislocki and Crystal Geise and the rest of the all-star staff as colleagues, the festival is in capable hands.
Im thrilled at the prospect of providing a platform for the kind of stories that have hooked so deeply into my soul to share the opportunity with others to have that ineffable Mountainfilm experience.
Katie Klingsporn, the new program director