Beth & George Gage visiting Tim in prison


“One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty,” Martin Luther King

Beth & George Gage visiting Tim in prison

Beth & George Gage visiting Tim in prison

In a real-life game of monopoly (of the fossil fuel variety), he played his hand and got sent to jail (without passing “Go”). His conscience saw no alternative. Almost two years later, Tim DeChristopher is about to be a free man again. He exits the Utah federal prison on April 21, 2013, poetically just before Earth Day, Monday, April 22. The day marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. It is also about one month before the national release of “Bidder 70,” made by Telluride locals and filmmakers, George and Beth Gage, the whip-smart, tightly-structured, emotionally astute, and beautifully shot documentary that tells Tim’s moving and important story.

Tim DeChristopher is no stranger to Telluride, especially not to Mountainfilm in Telluride’s tribe. He was a guest of the festival in 2008 and 2009, speaking out about saving the environment, which in his view amounts to saving the world for his and future generations. The challenge in Tim’s words amounts to a “moral imperative.”

Tim DeChristopher’s story began in the last days of the President Bush, when his administration forced through a highly disputed BLM Oil and Gas Auction to lease thousands of acres of pristine Utah land surrounding Arches, Canyonlands, and Dinosaur National Monument to the oil and gas industry. After finishing an economics exam at the University of Utah, Tim headed over to the BLM to join the protests. Countless attempts by environmental coalitions to halt the “midnight sale” had failed, and an air of hopelessness hung over the crowd. So Tim decided to do more than just protest outside. He went inside to join the heavy hitters.

Allowed to register as a bona-fide bidder, Tim took his seat amongst the oil and gas representatives and speculators in the auction room. Paddle #70 rested on his knees as the bidding began. At first, he just wanted to drive up the cost of the parcels, but Tim quickly realized that wasn’t enough and went all in. By the time guards escorted him out, Tim had bid nearly $1.8 million to win 14 parcels or 22,000 acres of pristine Utah wilderness for which he had no intention or ability to pay.

Through his derring-do, Tim had bought enough time for the Obama administration to invalidate the auction. Remarkably, despite the fact that the auction was ruled illegal, the U.S.attorney indicted him on two federal counts for disrupting the auction.  Tim was found guilty on March 3, 2011.

Beth Gage got interested in Tim DeChristopher after reading about him in a local newspaper. One week later, she met him at the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival. Tim and the Gages decided to collaborate on a project that would bring his outrage, actions, hopes, and situation to a global audience. “Bidder 70” premiered at Mountainfilm in May 2012. By then Tim was serving a two-year federal prison term.

The documentary went on to be featured in New York City’s Human Rights Watch Festival. It won “Best American Film” at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival (2012) and raves again at Portland Art Museum’s Northwest Film Center “Voices in Action” series. The list of accolades goes on and on. In all, “Bidder 70” racked up 17 major festival awards, all without Tim’s presence.

And now, Bidder 70, the man, and “Bidder 70”, the film, return to the scene of the “crime”, together for the first time to celebrate Tim’s release with an gala Earth Day screening in Salt Lake City.

The Gages have planned a Telluride event to honor the man who ultimately became the poster boy for Mountainfilm in Telluride, embodying the festival’s motto: “Celebrating Indomitable Spirit.” The Earth Day screening at the Palm Theatre features a panel of local activists (6 p.m.) to talk about the issues and a live-streamed conversation with Tim, his first since leaving prison. (starts after the screening at 8 p.m.)

(Tim returns to town in the flesh in May for Mountainfilm 2013, where he will appear with journalist John Hockenberry and scientists Daniel Nocera and Terry Root, a principal mentor, at the event’s Moving Mountains Symposium on climate solutions. )

Founder and CEO Scott Glosserman of Gathr Films, a distributor of “Bidder 70,” said in a press release:

“Having Tim at the Salt Lake screening to talk about his experience, the day after his release from the federal prison system, is amazing, and being able to stream that discussion to audiences all over the country is truly special.”

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders and led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

And Earth Day 2013, Tim and”Bidder 70″ certainly add heft to the narrative.

To learn more, click the “play”button and listen to my conversation with George and Beth.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.