MOUNTAINFILM32 … Artist “Sister” Corita Kent gave a few of us seminarian scholastics a crash course in “nowness” back in the Sixties, and one of her many insights still rings true as intaglio on my 3-D’d eyes – “film is the poetry of the age” … We had proof of that with our Memorial Day kickoff event of the summer – MtnFilmFest. This year was an almost-too-full sampler of mountain culture, politics, social justice & the outdoors that hit a watermark high. But then I’m just a newcomer. The third MtnFilm was my first (1981). Still, it was memorable that year for me sitting next to Gov. Dick Lamm and his wife Dottie for one of the showings. It was one of the early charms of Colorado for me … Of course, I have a bias. Lito Tejada-Flores, Bill Kees, Rick Silverman – the list of MtnFilm movers & shapers would have to be a long one, but several have become triple-decade friends … If the 21st century Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s about a lot more than bluegrass, the 21st century MtnFilmFest also likes to leap chasms and span genres … What began primarily as a three-day weekend eye orgy of extreme sports, particularly climbing (a la Aldous Huxley & Dolores LaChapelle), has over the years morphed into a cultural and political showcase for Telluride’s Green Democracy, as well as regional champion of xsportsflicks, with their incredible feats of derring-do & sometimes death. This year’s ace movies ranged from Suzan Beraza & Jeb Berrier’s Bag It (a sold-out local production) to Monte Thompson & Chera Van Burg’s Call of Life (a feature-length that best addressed MtnFilm’s theme this year – the Sixth Extinction), from Josh Fox’s Gasland (a shocking detective odyssey investigating the U.S. natural gas industry) to Jonathan Kalafer’s We Love You (an excellent counter-cultural documentary on the Rainbow Family movement), from Jeff Daniels’ The 10 Conditions of Love (about the sovereignty struggles of the Uyghur people of Chinese-controlled Turkistan) and Roger Williams’ Academy-Award winning Music by Prudence (a handicapped Zimbabwean who formed her own band) to Tim Hetherington & Sebastian Junger’s Sundance Grand Prize winner Restrepo (embedded with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan) and Alicia Nogueria’s delightful short Woodsy (another local production) … And even that list misses dozens of amazing films that I didn’t see and didn’t hear about. I wish MtnFilm would consider a service where they would initiate their own year-round Netflickish rentals of their once-a-year showings … One final bias – I emceed at the Masons’ Theatre this year (the hall of Telluride’s long-hiberating Masonic Lodge) and so I wanted to share why the narrow sampling I saw was so striking.
WIPE OUT … I took my youngest son (he’s only broken a thumb – my older son broke an arm on the snow) to see Lionel Goddard’s documentary about three young men who sustained severe brain injuries doing extreme sports – in their cases snowboarding, skateboarding, motorcycle riding. All three become advocates for helmet use and this Canadian story charms even as it warns. It’s the kind of film that ought to be shown in every middle and high school in the country.
SOUNDTRACKER … What a sleeper this documentary was. In the festival brochure write-up, the main character sounded quirky. And the title kind of prepared you for raw sound footage with about as much melody as a New York art happening …Wrong … Nick Sherman did a brilliant job mixing (indeed) a very eccentric expert/obsessive, who loves natural sound, together with great music as well as raw sound footage as well as iconic images – I found the editing superb and the overall effect, as a well-made film, to be my favorite of the festival … Added Bonus … After alternately being intrigued by (and annoyed with) Soundtracker Gordon Hempton’s pursuit of the perfect meadowlark’s-trill and locomotive-whistle sample, I can’t walk my dog on Wright’s Mesa without tuning into the meadowlarks, blackbirds, Wilson snipes. To the sound of the wind in the phone wires. Distant cars on the highway. Coyote. Bellowing cows. Sheriff’s gun practice over in the gravel pit … The sound palette of each landscape harbors a rich patina of timbre and gravitas. I have to thank Sherman & Hempton for re-enchanting the world of sound for me.
MUCH MORE … James Byrne’s film about the amazing work one man (Greg Carr) is doing in Mozambique to stem the tide of extinction, Africa’s Lost Eden, was quite moving. As was Tom Dusenbery & Will Parrinello’s portrait of one of this year’s Goldman Prize winners, Randall Arauz of Costa Rica and his crusade to end shark-finning, Global Focus … Gregg Helvey’s dramatization of the Indian slave trade, Kavi, was heart-breaking, while Jonathan Browning’s short Going Green followed in the golden footsteps of last year’s super-short, The Job … Kathy Kasic’s snappy portrait of hubby Mike as Fishman was superb as was Peter Mortimer & Nick Rosen’s Brother’s Wild about climber/comedian Timmy O’Neill and his wheelchair-bound brother in their climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan and attempt on Alaska’s Ruth Gorge. More tragic was the same filmmakers’ Point of No Return – about the death of three Boulder-based climbers in an avalanche on China’s Mt. Edgar (Jonny Copp, Micah Dash and Wade Johnson) … Jennifer Redfearn’s Sun Come Up tracked the predicament of Carteret Islanders in the South Pacific as climate change threatens to flood their homeland and forever change their lives and Bastien Dubois’ Madagascar: A Journey Diary, was a most amazing animated tour of a most amazing place … And there were more that I have no room to write about. A wonderful event.