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MOUNTAINFILM KICKS OFF FESTIVAL SEASON IN TELLURIDE

mtnfilm main streetThere are many film festivals around the world but there is only one Mountainfilm.

This “film festival” is the polar opposite of what most people picture a film festival to be. There are no paparazzi; the only cameras flashing are capturing the panoramic mountain views. There is no red carpet; the beige carpet (aka sidewalk) is covered by people waiting in line for the next film striking up thought provoking conversations. Festival-goers are not decked out in sparkly gowns and Louboutins; Patagonia and comfortable shoes are the attire of choice.

Welcome to Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride.  This is a festival that screens films that make you think and ponder “how can I make a difference in our world?” It is inspiring and can be a catalyst for change. It sheds light on really important subjects that often don’t get the attention they deserve. Mountainfilm opens your eyes, heart and mind to the crucial topics-some on the radar, others not-facing our world.

Since 1978, one of Telluride’s most beloved festivals has packed into four exhilarating days documentary films, outdoor movies under the stars, pioneering alpinists and incredible tales of adventure, a vibrant gallery walk, free ice cream social, wildly popular book fair and symposia. Above all, Mountainfilm has served as a one-of-a-kind gathering of artists, activists, change-makers, innovators and individuals.

Mountainfilm marks its 39th year as a documentary film festival this Memorial Day weekend, May 26-29. The symposium of this years festival is The New Normal, which has grown far beyond the symposium theme: It has evolved as a community-wide, grassroots effort to battle climate change and help bring the Telluride region to carbon neutrality. This is no small challenge because Telluride has a carbon footprint twice the national average.

“We believe that The New Normal can be a reset in the way we live our lives here in Telluride,” Festival Director David Holbrooke said. “So for us at Mountainfilm, The New Normal is to work assiduously — and collectively — toward reducing our impact by using the power of story to fuel innovation and community building.”

Mountainfilm staff has been busy all winter working with Durango consultant Rachel Landis to launch this bold initiative. The festival is asking its audience, a variety of local partners (including businesses, nonprofits and individuals) and its own staff and operations to take on five actions: education, reduction, offsets, advocacy and celebration. Mountainfilm has identified specific ways the Telluride community can take these simple, yet impactful, steps and will help track and recognize the entities that participate.

“We felt the first step toward The New Normal was a series of actions that people could take that would be impactful immediately,” Holbrooke said. “When we collectivize this broad array of stories about people who are changing their ways to reduce their carbon footprint, we think it will be extremely inspiring for our audience.”

Mountainfilm is also planning a host of 2017 festival programming in the vein of The New Normal, with an array of films about climate change and special guests, such as former White House Science Adviser John Holdren, environmental writer and thinker Paul Hawken, Climate Interactive’s Drew Jones and cultural anthropologist Alize Carrere, who researches climate adaptation around the world. Mountainfilm is also excited to host Garry Charnock, who spearheaded a citizen-led effort to become carbon neutral in the U.K. village of Ashton Hayes, which has garnered international attention. Holbrooke hopes the local sensibility of Ashton Hayes can provide a road map for Telluride.

As Holbrooke asked, “Can we do this? Can Telluride really go carbon neutral? We don’t know, but given what is clearly happening to our planet, we have to try. We are glad to have a model to follow with the good people of Ashton Hayes, who have had a lot of success. Local solutions have enormous potential, and if it works in Telluride our efforts can be replicable and scalable across the country.”

In that spirit, Mountainfilm is partnering with local experts and nonprofits, such as San Miguel Power Association, the Pinhead Climate Institute and EcoAction Partners, to create actionable steps for The New Normal. And, of course, The New Normal galvanized Mountainfilm to reexamine its own year-round operations and festival practices to identify where it can do more — or less. Since the beginning of the initiative, Mountainfilm has launched a community battery-recycling site, started office-wide composting, become certified as a Green Business through EcoAction Partners, and is offsetting the travel of its festival guests and staff who come from far and wide.

For more information and specific programs and actions related to the initiative, visit The New Normal pages on Mountainfilm’s website, which encourage local citizens and out-of-town visitors to sign up and join the ambitious effort. As Holbrooke pointed out, Telluride has a long, rich history of innovation: “Right now, the town has a chance to come together and lead once again.”

Mountainfilm contributed to this blog.