From Adrenaline to ‘Issues That Matter’
TELLURIDE – Mountainfilm always presents a filmic mix: of pure-sports adrenaline and crucial issues, from stunning beauty to social responsibility.
This year, the festival’s 35th, is no different. In fact, Festival Director David Holbrooke describes this year’s line up as “extraordinarily diverse and high quality.
"Our films are really strong this year across the board,” he said. “Whether they are climbing, environmental or just general interest films, we have been struck by how well-made they are. While there are always lots of compelling subjects for us to choose from, it’s very unusual to see such consistent high quality up and down the playlist."
At the heart of Mountainfilm’s mission, and reflected clearly throughout the final list of some 90 films, are “issues that matter,” films that take, in the words of festival Executive Director Peter Kenworthy, “a penetrating look at critical contemporary matters.”
“For instance,” Holbrooke said, “there is a strong group of films about the environment, particularly about how we get our energy (including Gasland II and Uranium Drive-in). Then, we have three films that look at combat, in Dirty Wars, Manhunt and Which Way is the Front Line from Here? Together they are a commentary on America's perpetual state of war.”
Dirty Wars is a disturbing story about American military might gone bad that weaves together the tragic effects of a drone strike intended for a cabal of terrorists that instead hits a Yemeni wedding party.
Manhunt tells of the CIA’s tracking of Osama bin Laden for over a decade prior to 9/11 and the painful mix of ignorance and incompetence that left that intelligence largely unheeded.
Which Way is the Front Line from Here? is author Sebastian Yunger’s tribute to fellow journalist, photographer and activist Tim Hetherington, who was killed covering the Libyan civil war.
On the sport and adventure side of the ledger, this year’s festival is loaded with beauties.
Black-and-white filming is used to its most exquisite effect in two shorts about skiing (The Black Line) and the freedom that comes with leaving the bounds of earth – on skis, snowboards, bikes or kayaks (Joy of Air).
Maidentrip tells the enchanting story of a 14-year-old Dutch girl who insists on sailing solo around the world, in spite of her country’s attempts to stop her.
Genius film editor, and master of super slow motion Anson Fogel returns to Telluride with a mesmerizing, over-the-falls kayak adventure in a steaming Mexican jungle (Cascada).
At the other end of the world, two irrepressible young Norwegians set out to survive a full year on their own in a remote cove in this gorgeous video journal of surfing (and garbage cleanup) north of the Arctic Circle (North of the Sun).
Director Holbrooke offered the following further examples of this year’s powerful and varied line up:
The Crash Reel – An unflinching film by Oscar-nominated director Lucy Walker that chronicles the traumatic brain injury suffered by Olympics-bound snowboarder Kevin Pearce and his arduous road to recovery. This project was helped along by a 2012 Mountainfilm Commitment Grant.
Gasland II – Director Josh Fox takes us all around the world to show what is happening to the landscapes that are being fracked for natural gas. And he introduces us to the people – many of them reluctant environmentalists – who are organizing and fighting against fracking.
God Loves Uganda – After introducing Music by Prudence to Mountainfilm in 2009, Director Roger Ross Williams returns with a different look at Africa – virulent anti-gay legislation in Uganda that is systemically supported by American Christian missionaries.
High and Hallowed – a World Premier. In May of 1963, a team of brave Americans assembled on Mt. Everest in an effort to be the first from the U.S. to stand atop the world’s tallest mountain. This is primarily the story of those first Americans on Everest 50 years ago, but it also incorporates a modern-day attempt on the West Ridge in 2012.
Life According to Sam – Sixteen year-old Sam Berns is older than his years because he has progeria, a rare disease that ages the heart rapidly and kills most by age 13. Despite the challenges, he doesn’t stop trying to live the life of a normal teenager and, in the process, achieves extraordinary success.
Lunarcy! – This film follows several characters who have gone completely bonkers for the moon: Alan Bean is one of the 12 men who have walked on the moon and is now creating moon art; Dennis Hope discovered a loophole in the 1967 U.N. Outer Space Treaty that would seem to allow individual ownership of extra-terrestrial bodies; and, Christopher Carson aims to be the first citizen of a colonized moon.
Pandora's Promise – A film that questions much of what we accept as fact about the negative side of nuclear as an alternative to fossil fuels. Surprising, given that the director’s first film was an anti-nuclear weapons documentary called Radio Bikini, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1988.
Rising from Ashes – In a year when cycling has suffered with the disgrace of Lance Armstrong, it’s a relief to see racers who recognize that it’s not all about the bike. This film relates the remarkable story of the Rwandan race team, cyclists who are pedaling away from the horror of genocide.
Uranium Drive-In – World Premier. Another Mountainfilm Commitment Grant recipient, Suzan Beraza follows up her Bag It triumph with this look at a nuclear conundrum just 50 miles from Telluride in the economically depressed West End of Montrose and San Miguel counties.
The complete program is available online at: mountainfilm.org.