Mountainfilm: Catching Lightning In A Bottle

2015 judge and documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker on the power of documentary film as a medium

Lucy Walker

Lucy Walker

“Beautiful but not showy…” 

That’s the phrase survivors used to describe their cherished cherry blossoms in director Lucy Walker’s Oscar-nominated “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.”

“Beautiful but not showy” also sums up Walker: the person and her films.

In 2010, audiences at Telluride Mountainfilm were treated to “Waste Land,” an uplifting feature-length documentary that follows art star Vik Muniz on an emotional journal that takes him from New York to Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest garbage dump on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, where the native Brazilian collaborates with “catadores,” garbage pickers, to create portraits of reluctant artists.

In “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom,” which also screened at Mountainfilm (in 2011), survivors explore the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and somehow find the courage to re-imagine and rebuild their lives when cherry blossom season begins anew. 

“Waste Land” and “Tsunami” are ultimately about the transformative power of art – man-made and in the natural world– and the beauty and resiliency of the human spirit. 

The beauty and resiliency of the human spirit. 

How we deal with the lemons life inevitably hands us.

Those are among the leitmotifs that unite Walker’s apparently disparate body of work, including “The Crash Reel,” which revisits the idea that with hard work and perseverance anything is possible.

This year, Lucy Walker returns to Telluride as a Mountainfilm judge. Below is an excerpt from a conversation with   Mountainfilm program director Katie Klingsporn about the power of documentary film. 

For tickets/passes, go here.

KK: You are the director of several award-winning documentaries. Can you talk about the power of documentary film as a medium?

LW: Documentary is so powerful because you get to experience things through the full power of this big screen medium. But it’s powerful not only in the kind of film experience but also in terms of enlarging yourself in terms of seeing the world through a pair of eyes that isn’t yours.

This incredibly vivid medium of film makes you feel like you’re there with somebody in these incredibly important moments in their life. We may see people through a film better than we can even in real life if the filmmaker has done a good job. You can see their world in a very deep way…

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