Text by Keith Rutowski
The 31st annual Mountainfilm festival in Telluride, Colorado, will take place on May 22-25. What began as an event for mountain climbers to watch movies about mountains has since evolved into a four-day tour de force of documentaries, gallery exhibits, and high-profile lectures evaluating some of society’s most pressing issues, from world water and energy issues to access to food. And if testimonies from last year’s festival-goers are any indication, Mountainfilm is sure to inspire once again.
About a decade ago, in the face of a number of growing global concerns, the festival board decided it was time to expand beyond the parameters of showcasing only adventure films. Thus, a concerted effort was made to transform Mountainfilm into a venue for openly evaluating environmental and cultural issues through a broad range of artistic mediums. The concept would be anchored each year by a themed symposium. In 2007, the festival’s topic was energy; in 2008, it was water. This year, Mountainfilm is focusing on the crucial role that food plays in our society. The festival's directors have sought out an array of experts to lead discussions, such as author Bill McKibben and National Geographic Magazine executive editor Dennis Dimnick.
The result is an atmosphere which festival director David Holbrooke describes as “electric.” And that’s not just because the town of Telluride sits high in the San Juans and is prone to lightning storms, but because this “part film festival, part think tank, part jamboree” draws together a group of individuals all primed to make a contribution—and in the word’s of Gandhi—to be the difference they wish to see in the world.
And this is what executive director Peter Kentworthy and David Holbrooke had hoped for by continuing to lead Mountainfilm through the largely uncharted territory of philanthropic adventure film festivals. And no matter if patrons choose to fully immerse themselves or just come for the free breakfast talks and gallery walks, Holbrooke hopes that they are changed in some way by the experience. “We hope that people come away with a sense of commitment to have a positive impact on the planet and a better understanding of what they can do to help,” Holbrooke says.