Three years ago, Telluride Mountainfilm director David Holbrooke decided that Mountainfilm could do more. He created the Commitment Grant, a program that ensures important stories are not only told, but also heard. Since its inception, the grant has offered $5000 and a new Mac Book Pro to five artists every year.

“Grant applicants must have a direct connection to Mountainfilm or be personally referred by someone directly connected such as current or past filmmakers, photographers or other special guest presenters,” says Executive Director Peter Kenworthy. “In addition to the importance of the story being told, capacity is a critical consideration for us. We want to be sure that the applicant has the experience, skill and resources to complete the project. And, of course, we’re looking for passion.”

The projects grants support are diverse. Commitment grants have funded everything from a biographical film about a living legend of Himalayan mountaineering to a photographic exploration of art and activism in the aftermath of Japan’s recent tsunami.

Three films showing this year as a result of the grants are “Soul of the Sea“, “Terra Blight“, and “Picture the Leviathan.”

“Soul of the Sea” tracks a woman’s attempt to solo kayak around South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic, while “Terra Blight” examines computer recycling and the impacts of our used electronics in places like Ghana. “Picture the Leviathon” takes a closer look at James Prosek’s work, an artist who paints endangered species before they go extinct.

Mountainfilm received over 100 applicants for the grant for the 2012 cycle.

“We were deeply impressed by the quality of this year’s submissions,” said Mountainfilm Program Director Emily Long who manages the granting initiative. “We receive letters of interest from all over the world,” she said. “And this year, it just happened that three of the strongest were from locals who are very well known to us and whose outstanding work we have had the pleasure of presenting to Mountainfilm audiences. It’s wonderful to be able to deepen the relationship with these tremendously talented people and help them move their next projects ahead.”

In “Uranium Drive-In.,” “Bag It” director Suzan Beraza takes a closer look at the boom-bust uranium cycle in rural Colorado and at the controversial mill proposed in Paradox Valley. Other locals who won a grant are Ben Knight and Travis Rummel for a film tentatively titled “Amend,” about a national movement to bring down dams. Drew Ludwig received funding for a photography project that tracks the aftermath of Japan’s tsunami.

No doubt it is challenging trying to decide who should receive a Commitment Grant.

“This was an enormously tough decision for the judges,” said Festival Director David Holbrooke. “It was even tougher than last year as there were so many compelling projects that we had to look closely at multiple factors, including artistic ability, budget, vision and not unimportantly, feasibility. It was a challenging process but we are thrilled with the projects that we are granting.”

Although the commitment grants process is hard, the end result is worth it. Says Kenworthy of the grants, “It’s a way for us to give back to the community that supports us so generously.”


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