June 10, 2023

2023 Awards and Festival Recap

Telluride, Colorado (June 10, 2023) – Audiences gathered in Telluride’s box canyon this Memorial weekend to screen films that spanned the spectrum of environmentalism, social justice and adventure, and celebrate Mountainfilm’s indomitable spirit and 45th annual festival. 

On Monday, May 29, Mountainfilm awarded cash prizes to eight films from eight juried film categories. These winners include: Greener Pastures for Best Documentary Feature ($5,000); Nina & Irena for Best Short Film ($1,000); The Grab for Audience Choice Feature ($4,000); The Orchestra Chuck Built for Audience Choice Short ($1,000); The Grab and its associated nonprofit The Center for Investigative Reporting for Moving Mountains ($2,500); Full Circle for Student Choice ($1,000); Reel Rock: Resistance Climbing for the Charlie Fowler Best Adventure Film ($2,500) and The Herricanes for Women in Film ($2,500). 

Special jury mentions include Sophia, Bad Press, Patrol, Direcciones and The Nine Wheels.

Best Documentary Feature jury included Emmy-Award winning POV Shorts producer Opal H. Bennett; executive producer behind the 2023 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short The Elephant Whisperers, Doug Blush; Netflix Documentary Director, Zana Lawrence; and foremother of documentary films known for her work at HBO and MTV Studios, Sheila Nevins

Jury members for Best Short Documentary included Oscar-winning documentary director and entrepreneur Ben Proudfoot; filmmaker, community organizer and storyteller supporting Indigenous governance Tracy Rector; and artistic director at Aspen Film and Oscar-winning producer Susan Wrubel

Judges for the Charlie Fowler Best Adventure Film include Slovakian climber and director of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, Alan Formanek; dedicated desert rat and longtime friend of Mountainfilm, Ace Kvale; and alpinist, filmmaker and advocate with Protect Our Winters Dani Reyes-Acosta.

“With filmmaker support being at the core of Mountainfilm’s ethos, we are proud that we are able to offer cash awards to our jury and audience-choice winning films. One doesn’t get into documentary filmmaking as a money-making venture, so fiscal support is vital,” said Festival Director Suzan Beraza.

Passholders, jury members and students cast their votes, and award winners were announced at the festival’s Closing Picnic and Awards Ceremony in Telluride’s Town Park. The award winners also took home a one-of-a-kind piece of art by renowned Alaskan sculptor R. Nelson Parrish. A brief synopses of this year’s winning films: 

Audience Choice: The Grab: Filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite tells the story of tenacious investigative reporter Nate Halverson as he and his team follow the trail of money and power to reveal who is seizing the world’s most precious resources, made all the more scarce by population growth and climate change: land, water and food. This global thriller takes audiences from Arizona to Zambia to reveal one of the world’s biggest and least-known threats.

Best Documentary Feature: Greener Pastures: This film from Samuel-Ali Mirpoorian captures the daily lives of four small, multi-generational family farms over four years. Through an intimate and personal lens, the film is a story about the connection between mental health, industrialization, food production and climate change, and tackles the future of farming in America.

Best Short Film: Nina & Irena: From The New Yorker filmmaker Daniel Lombroso comes an equally heartbreaking and heartwarming portrait of his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. On the eve of her 90th birthday, Nina reveals the painful story of her sister’s disappearance and shares the realities of war and human nature.

Charlie Fowler Best Adventure Film: Reel Rock: Resistance Climbing: In war-torn Palestine, a tight-knit group of rock climbers embraces the sport as a respite from the burdens of the occupation. This film explores the beautiful limestone cliffs of their homeland and the power of climbing to transform lives.

Moving Mountains: The Grab and its associated nonprofit organization, The Center for Investigative Journalism.

Student Choice: Full Circle: The film follows both Trevor Kennison and Barry Corbet in their parallel journeys with spinal cord injuries. The film weaves together their narratives as they redefine what’s possible and reinvent themselves after trauma. 

Women in Film: The Herricanes: This film tells the little-known but inspirational story of the first women’s full-tackle football league in the 1970s. Their underdog story is one of commitment, strength and community as they helped usher in an era of equality in women’s sports. 

Last but not least, the Guest Director medallion was presented to author, activist and climate change thought leader Bill McKibben, who kicked off the official start to this year’s festival with the first installment of the Minds Moving Mountains Speaker Series on Friday afternoon.

"We were elated by the turnout and the energy around the festival this year,” said Senior Programmer & Festival Manager Lucy Lerner. "You could really feel it around town. The feedback from filmmakers, guests, and attendees has been nothing less than stellar. We were so honored to host so many amazing folks and are looking forward to 2024!"