Mountainfilm In Telluride, 2010 : Art's View

by Art Goodtimes

Worshiping bouncelight in our alpine cathedral of peaks & clouds

IMG_5178 MOUNTAIN CULTURE … It does seem that high mountain cultures are more about freedoms and ecological sanity than American culture at large, at least if we are to believe TV. Fox News. NBC. CNN.

Luckily, I don’t own one – but only because I’m addicted. At hotels I can’t control myself. Stay up into the wee hours channelling pop culture.

Mountainfilm 32, this year’s spring festival kickoff to Telluride’s summer season, proved far more diverse than its niche origin in climbing and extreme sports. It offered a four-day international immersion in mountain culture.

It’s been a delightful evolution and ripening of an event that I have enjoyed from the start. Although I must confess I missed the first one in 1979, but had the good fortune to sit next to Gov. Dick Lamm and his wife Dottie in year two – my first in this dazzling mining camp turned ski resort in the San Juans.

This past Memorial Day weekend – without forgetting the national holiday for honoring all the dead who’ve given their lives in a world perpetually at war – Mountainfilm took us in dozens of fascinating directions. Director David Holbrooke outdid himself with relevant and crafted flicks. From mass extinctions to the worldwide slave trade, from National Geo to the Goldman Prize winners, from plastic bags to scrambled brains, from fracking fluids to shark fins, it was, as always, almost too much to take in.

As emcee at the lovely Masonic Hall above the hardware store, I got to see a slice of the dozens and dozens of movies featured. So, while not definitive, here’s a representative sample of what I saw and liked, or heard about from others.

The one thing I will say – I didn’t see one film that I found ho-hum. This year all were engaging – whether brilliantly made or on a subject worthy of interest. As a long-time Mountainfilmeer, I must say that’s not always been the case.

LOCAL FAVS … I missed the two showings of Bag It, Susan Beraza and Jeb Berrier’s locally produced feature premiere on the plastics glut that’s gumming up the works of the world, but every report I had raved in its favor. It’s one of those missionary pieces that makes you want to change your life, or at least the life corporate America’s pied piper of cheap prices has led us into. I know I’ve started to carry cloth bags in my car (although I still forget to bring them into stores, and have to run out to the vehicle when I get to the checkout counter).

But I got to see the world premiere of Alicia Nogueira’s polished gem of a short, Woodsy, starring Telluriders Angela Mallard and David Brankley. It makes you wonder whom the Forest Service is really protecting in letting elites from all over the world recreate on public land for beaucoup bucks but outlawing local working class folks from choosing a life of voluntary simplicity in the woods. Certainly, seen through the sensitive Brazilian lens of Nogueira’s film artistry, woodsies come out looking like more appealing neighbors than that Houston millionaires jetting into town twice a year to entertain at their trophy home monuments to local construction.

Confession: I came to town and started my land tenure as a woodsy, squatting on Kirk Alexander land (as I now understand it) at the bottom of Keystone Falls. So, perhaps, my bias colors my opinions here.

THE SIXTH EXTINCTION … That was the theme of this year’s Friday Symposium, and the festival’s best film about the biological crisis was hands-down Monte Thompson and Chera Van Burg’s Call of Life — a well-reasoned balance of distinguished interviews with leading scientists, cut with powerful images and graphics and interspersed with the iconic movements of a sensitive troupe of dancers. If you aren’t convinced that we are in the middle of an explosion of specie (and even genus) deaths far and away over the normal rate of extinction, than you clearly haven’t examined the facts.

If ever a movie should move you, this film should: The web of life is ripping, and we are witnesses to the largest change to earth’s biological world since a giant asteroid smashed into the Gulf of Mexico and eliminated the dinosaurs. It’s a silent crisis. One happening at accelerating speed as human population pressures gobble up habitat, introduce weed invaders, snuff out the life of creatures interwoven into the pathways of local ecological niches in ways we don’t even begin to understand. This is the film millions should be flocking to, but in a culture out of balance, entertainment distractions Shrek 3 and Sex in the City 2 are the first of mainstream culture’s summer blockbusters. How utterly backwards.

Buy this movie and show it to everyone you know. 

I missed the Symposium myself, but I did touch bases with my old buddy, Dave Foreman – who founded Earth First! and for many years edited the Earth First! Journal under whom I served as poetry editor for ten years.

GASLAND … Even closer to our own county, if more about identifying just one human-impacting symptom of what my teacher, Dolores LaChapelle, would call “industrial growth society” and the deeper biological catastrophe underway, Josh Fox’s very appealing home-movie-writ-large takes documentary out of the strictly “objective” mode and makes it a detective story of one man, a modern-day Everyman, searching for truth and finding huge lies, in exploring the continent-wide oil&gas practice of fractional drilling, or “fracking”. This was a movie that will make you cry, as you watch homeowner after homeowner around the country turn on their taps and light their water on fire. It’s a movie in which Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) shines as a fearless advocate of environmental sanity and Dr. Theo Colburn as a fearless scientist uncovering corporate shenanigans – the same kind of unscientific risk-taking that led to BP’s oil spill in the Gulf.

Dem governor candidate John Hickenlooper is clearly out of his mind, if he thinks Colorado went too far in reining in the oil&gas industry with its latest Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission rulemaking. Until we get a handle on fracking and the damage this kind of drilling does to subsurface groundwater, we need more rules on the oil&gas industry. Not less. 

Buy this movie and show it to everyone you know.

MORE TO COME … Mountainfilm does more than just dish out bad news, it gives you hope in the form of films about folks doing great work in their local areas, or even whole regions of other nations. More about those films and some other movies that you ought to buy and show everyone you know in my next column for TIO .

Mountainfilm is like the Idarado mine – its films are bouncelight veins that can yield riches for a long long time.

El Gourdito


his last words
on the answer machine

but in a dream
that’s boss of our egos
I heard Gance whisper

a window
& toss out a text”

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