May 16, 2012

10 Reasons to Go to Mountainfilm in Telluride.

Why I look forward to Mountainfim every year.

I first attended Mountainfilm in Telluride in 2011, at the urging of two filmmaker friends (one of whom is pictured below). “You have to go,” they said, almost jumping out of their seats with excitement, “It’s the most inspiring weekend, anywhere.” They leaned forward. “Really.”

“Most inspiring weekend ever” is a tough label to live up to, but after my first visit to the film festival, I’m already finding myself in my friends’ position—trying to convince other friends to hop on a plane or into my backseat for the weekend of May 25-28. Now I’m the one leaning across the table, my hands excitedly moving in the air, trying to articulate exactly why Mountainfilm feels like summer camp and Christmas rolled into one.

These conversations usually contain one or more of the following points:

1. World Premiers

Mountainfilm is a world class film festival and will be premiering a handful of eagerly anticipated documentaries. This year I’m particularly looking forward to:

Bidder 70, the story of Tim DeChristopher, who disrupted an oil and gas auction in Utah and as a result was recently sentenced to 2 years in prison:

Plastiki, David de Rothschild’s story about his voyage across the Pacific in a boat made entirely from salvaged plastic:

2. Land + Environment.

Sometimes I have a hard time calling myself an environmentalist. The term sounds so nerdy, so wonky to me. But after nine years of living in the Colorado West, I can’t help but care about the natural world and the way we are treating our planet. “The environment” is no longer just a concept to me—it’s something I’ve experienced. It’s home.

I’m reminded of this each year at Mountainfilm, as environmental concerns are explored through the lens of adventure, through art, through science and personal profiles. For example:

Chasing Ice, which documents photographer James Balog’s work to capture the world’s disappearing glaciers via time-lapse photography.

The Way Home: Returning to the National Parks was directed by elefriend Amy Marquis, who runs the blog The Digital Naturalist and edited by elefriends Red Reel Video. The short film follows a group of African-American seniors from LA on a visit to Yosemite National Park.


3. Adventure Sports.

I’m not a skier, a climber, a kayaker, or any kind of adventure athlete. But I have mad respect for people who engage with the power of our natural world on such an intimate, do-or-die level, and I love the adrenalin rush that I get through the films about their adventures.

This year, climber Chris Sharma will be a featured guest at the festival, along with plenty of adventure films including:

Extreme sea kayaking in Soul of the Sea:


Professional slack-lining in elefriends’ Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen’s film, Sketchy Andy:


4. People Obsessed with Making a Difference

The one thing that everyone at Mountainfilm has in common, is that we’re all interested in doing what we can to make the world a better, cleaner, more just, more friendly place for everyone involved.

While pretty much every film at Mountainfilm is created with this goal in mind, I’m especially excited to see the premier of Julio Solis: A MoveShake Story, made by elefriends Allie Bombach and Sarah Menzies at Red Reel Video.

Here’s the trailer for another story in the MoveShake series:


5. Skilled Storytellers.

Mountainfilm brings some of the best filmmakers, journalists, photographers, scientists, writers and activists to one town for one weekend.

Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry profiles the Chinese artist and activist Ai Wei Wei. I got to see the film at Sundance this past winter and loved that way it highlights how an artist’s life can be crafted as critically and consciously as the pieces they produce:


6. Not Just Films. Conversations.

This one is most important to me. At Mountainfilm, it’s not all about sitting in a dark room and watching movies, then going out and getting beers after sunset. The films, the beers, the whole festival is really just a way to get us all talking—to each other, about the stories and causes that inspire us, about our past experiences and future projects.

Each morning, the festival hosts a series of free “Coffeetalks” open to the public. These panel discussions are one of my favorite parts of the weekend, where questions and ideas are often hammered out on the spot.

7. Serious Issues + Fun Stuff Too.

The films, discussions, and topics at Mountainfilm cover the full spectrum of emotions that serve to motivate and inspire us. Serious stories focusing on urgent issues and current events are balanced with the fun, the light, and the purely entertaining.

Sometimes, the serious and the playful are combined to create a particularly moving story, like Baseball in a Time of Cholera:

8. Always a Perspective I Didn’t Consider.

In my opinion, the best stories always plunge me straight into someone else’s shoes. At Mountainfilm, there are so many moments when I walk out of a dark theater into a bright Telluride afternoon and suddenly am seeing everything around me a little differently.

I’m looking forward to Fishing Without Nets, a short documentary about the Somali pirates, told from their perspective:

9. Room for the Pros and Room for Newcomers.

Mountainfilm makes it a point to highlight the stories that everyone has to tell—whether you’re a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, a media mogul, or a pedestrian on Main Steet. This attitude permeates the entire feel of the festival. Unlike other film festivals, which can feel exclusive or obsessed with who-knows-who, everyone at Mountainfilm is curious and approachable.

My fav example of this is Alex Chadwick’s on-the-spot films, “Interviews 50 cents,” in which the NPR correspondent films interviews with random passersby on the street and later screens them at the festival:


10. The Town of Telluride.

Even though I know I’ll be busy watching film, scribbling notes, meeting friends and making new ones—the breathtaking scenery surrounding Telluride offers an easy and enticing break. For example: a free ride up the gondola, a hike on one of the trails surrounding the town, a stroll down Main Street or a quick glance at the huge peaks that surround the town. I hope to see you there!

Convinced yet? Head on over to the Mountainfilm website to check out the full schedule.

 * Prayer flag photo by Melissa Plantz, courtesy Mountainfilm.
* “Mountainfilm Inspired Me…” photos from Mountainfilm’s “Awareness Into Action” album.

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Merete Mueller  |  Contribution: 13,520