Into the slump that follows the busy pace of summer season rides the film series Mountainfilm on Tour. It pulls into Mammoth Sept. 13-14, with two nights of handcrafted movies culled from the 2013 Telluride Mountainfilm Festival.
“Our films are really strong this year across the board,” said David Holbrooke, Festival Director. “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 this year’s list of films, are “issues that matter.” Holbrooke said there are plenty of fun films, and thrilling adventure and adrenaline ones. Films that take a penetrating look at critical contemporary matters are at the forefront of his programming.
When the Mountainfilm Festival was started in Telluride by Lito Tejada-Flores and Bill Kees (1979), filmmakers were the folks who lived in the mountains and made films about mountain sports, mountain cultures, mountain issues.
Festival founders and audiences “took to the mountains themselves, climbing the peaks with skis on their backs; kayaking the river swollen with snowmelt,” says the website. Spirited people, they also engaged “in spirited dialogue about the importance of wild places, adventure, art and action …
“Mountains soon became as much a metaphorical theme as a literal one and, as the festival expanded in size and recognition, its programming readily stretched to the leading edges of critical contemporary issues.”
According to Mountainfilm on Tour director Henry C. Lystad, “Today’s filmmakers are truly an international bunch. No longer a North American dominated field … The boundaries have certainly expanded beyond the classic Yosemite Valley or ski area focus.”
Mountainfilm has been on tour since 1999 and visits cities as well as other mountain communities. In 2010 and 2011 Mammothite and Mountainfilm host David Page brought it to the outdoor venue of the Whoa Nellie Deli, where people raved about the films. Weather in September is fickle and rain washed out the movies on the second night of the 2011 presentation. This year the film series is indoors, at the Mammoth Lakes Arts Center, where the only wetness encountered should be refreshments from Mammoth Brewing Company.
This year’s films run the gamut from climbing, skiing, biking and snowboarding to biodiversity and chasing butterflies — to Uganda where one man monitors the movements and habits of animals within the scope of climate change; to hunting for big waterfalls in Mexico; to a world-class climber who has changed the rates of curable blindness in Nepal and Rwanda; to character profiles of National Geographic Adventurer Gregg Treinish and pro skier/farmer Alison Gannett; to Ireland and the traditional and disappearing extraction of heating fuel from ancient peat bogs; to Alex Honnold’s bold routes up Yosemite walls; to the unique style of Kilian Martin’s snowboarding; to two young men and their surfboards living for nine months above the Arctic Circle testing the hypothesis of living off the waste of others; to the birds of New Guinea; to mountain bikers’ threading a route through wicked terrain in the Austrian Alps; to an avalanche survivor’s return to ski the Slot Couloir at Snoqualmie Pass; to climber John Dickey’s harrowing escape from violent militants in Kyrgyzstan; to the challenges in the face of climate change of a vast watershed beneath Mount Kenya. And so much more.
Reactions to Mountainfilm are as monumental as the films themselves: “I thought this was simply the best blend of art and thought I have had the pleasure of experiencing… so much that has affected me deeply that I will never quite be the same again.” — Chris Riley, manager, strategic planning, Apple Computer, Inc.
“It’s a couple of evenings when we can see the inspiring things that people are doing all over the globe,” Page said.
Take a look at the film series’ sponsors in Mammoth: MLTPA, which has crafted trails out of the morass of wilderness and politics; Mammoth Brewing Company, which crafts artisanal beer using local ingredients; Community Skis, which handcrafts skis for groomed and backcountry slopes; and Mammoth Medical Missions, which takes local physicians to a rural mountain community in Chiapas, Mexico, to bring residents lifesaving surgeries.
These businesses are the stuff of which mountain communities are made. Populated by those who understand and respect challenges like those encountered in rural and rugged places.
Taking a cue from Telluride Mountainfilm, it makes sense to add the dimension of conversation to the movie experience. The films are inspiring and raise all sorts of ideas and issues to talk about that are relevant to mountain communities, of which Mammoth is one. The vision of Mountainfilm’s founders Tejado-Flores and Kees of exploring the world of films and issues has the ability to infuse the mountain/recreation culture of Mammoth, and nurture its sense of community as it explores and develops Mammoth Lakes Recreation, a venture that could create a true culture and community of the outdoors.
Films screen Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13 and 14, from 7-10 p.m. at the Mammoth Lakes Arts Center on Old Mammoth Road. Tickets are available at Mammoth Brewing and Community Skis: $12 for one night, $20 for two nights. Tickets are entered into a raffle to win a pair of custom-made skis.
For more information, http://www.sierrasurvey.com/mountainfilm
Photo: The Water Tower