This past Memorial Day weekend Telluride, Colorado hosted its 32nd Mountain Film festival. This huge event always kicks off the busy Telluride festival season and the town was jumping with filmgoers and the first summer visitors. My trip up country was quick and mixed with some old pal socializing but I managed to see a few films.
New for this year was the addition of Town Park as a free late night venue for a number of films. The “adrenaline” short program on Saturday night served up action sport footage as the title would suggest. Most notable (and not a “short”) was the mountain bike film “Life Cycles”. While utilizing somewhat conventional story lines (change of seasons, grandfather’s wisdom) the cinematography was flat out amazing. Coming out of Canada and mixing B.C. forest locations with some crazy shots from the Saskatchewan prairie, this film is a good one for any dirt rider.
Sunday afternoon found me in the Masons’ hall downtown for another short program grouped under the heading of “adventure”. The film that got me in there was “In the Shadow of the Mountain.” This film (trailer embedded above), by New Zealand climber Hugh Barnard and director Max Segal, has been noticed by a number of other festivals.
Mammoth Mountain film festival awarded Shadow with “best director” just a few weeks back. The premise is the open soul searching by Barnard after he lost a friend in a climbing accident some years ago. The questions he raises are nothing revelatory in that many of us routinely ask them ourselves: Who deliberately puts themselves in harm’s way for something like a summit (or a ski line)? Shadow delves into this question by interviewing a psychologist (who happens to also be a climber).
The psychologist details some of the personality traits that make up a risk taker and also reveals that a number of the climbers in his study group died over the course of his research. I wouldn’t say that this film really helps answer the questions it raises. If anything, it leaves those answers up to us. Perhaps that is how it has to be. The footage of the New Zealand alpine is beautiful and the filmmakers deserve credit for taking on the biggest issue in high-risk sport.
Mountain film is a giant production with a ton of films for all types of people. Environmental topics, social issues, and the action (I refuse to call it “extreme”) sport scene all share the multiple venues. The organizers have it down after 32 years and I’d encourage anyone whose idea of film goes beyond the standard multi-plex fare to attend. Telluride is still a bit of a trek for most folks but it’s always interesting, indoors and out.
(WildSnow guest blogger Brian Hessling lives in Durango, CO with wife and two sons. A life in Colorado has resulted in repeated episodes of OCD.)