But what makes God Loves Uganda so effective, says Festival Director David Holbrooke, is that in the midst of a deeply disheartening story, director Roger Williams recognizes the individuals in Uganda who demonstrate the courage and fortitude to fight back.
Indeed, finding hope in the gloomiest circumstance, and taking action against injustice and seemingly impossible odds, is precisely the spirit that has animated Mountainfilm for the first 35 years of its existence, Holbrooke noted.
And never more so than this year, when the festival’s Moving Mountains symposium on Friday stepped right up to the most daunting challenge of our time – global warming – with the title “Climate Solutions.”
Other awards this year included the Festival Director’s award to Maidentrip, about a 14-year-old girl’s solo sailing expedition around the world; the juried Student Award to The Crash Reel, about snowboarder Kevin Pearce’s recovery from a debilitating brain injury; and the Cinematography Award to Dirty Wars, about an errant drone strike in Yemen.
The festival’s prestigious Moving Mountains Prize went to Dr. Geoff Tabin’s Moran Eye Center, which was featured in Duk County. The film tells the story of Tabin’s collaboration with former “lost boy” John Dau, to restore the sight of more than 200 people in South Sudan.
Filmmakers produced “a bumper crop of great documentaries” this year, according to Holbrooke, which led not only to stiff competition for the awards but contributed to an apparent consensus from those who attended that this may have been the best Mountainfilm yet.
On top of that, the festival was “sold out, for all intents and purposes,” said Mountainfilm Executive Director Peter Kenworthy, leading to full houses at many programs. As a result, looking ahead to next year, festival organizers may for the first time in the festival’s history have to consider imposing limits on the number of festival passes and tickets of various categories that are sold.
Managing festival attendance is a tricky business, Kenworthy explained, because it is not easy to predict how different sorts of access passes – including those awarded to festival sponsors – will translate to queues and full houses at venues.
“We had more supporters this year, and more supporters at higher levels, than we’ve ever had before,” Kenworthy said. Even before final numbers are tabulated, he said, it is clear that adding up the sale of passes – sold in advance and during the event – plus the sale of individual program tickets and increased sponsorship, which creates more sponsor attendance, the festival set an attendance record.
Exhausted on Tuesday from the long weekend, following months of preparation, Holbrooke and Kenworthy were philosophical when asked about the challenges ahead.
“What I want is impact,” Holbrooke said. “We want programs that change the way people think and act. This year, what we set out to do, we achieved.”
“The big concern now will be to manage success,” Kenworthy added.