Mountainfilm 2018: “Minding the Gap” & “The Interpreters” Win Big

Mountainfilm 2018: “Minding the Gap” & “The Interpreters” Win Big

Audiences at Mountainfilm’s 40th Anniversary Festival saw movies about incredible feats of climbing; remarkable young pinheads competing at the world’s premiere science fair; elite athletes fueled by a plant-based diet; a one-of-a-kind Supreme Court Justice and a delta teeming with wildlife in Botswana.

“In all aspects, ‘Science Fair’ was an engaging and comedic story,” wrote Ali Bottari, a first-time Mountainfilm guest and student in the School of Communication at Quinnipiac University. “While the technology being developed by these brilliant teens may have been slightly out of my intellectual reach, their character and personality were captivating. The film expertly portrayed how the spirit of youth prevails, even in the most intense of environments, and how their drive and determination was a crucial factor in their success. The film cultivated the inspiration to work hard for your dream, no matter how big, and the amazement at how far dedication and support can go. As a young adult, seeing these high schoolers accomplish their goals was incredibly compelling, and the structure and style of the film only elevated the storyline that much more.”

But in the end, it was a film about a handful of young skater boys confronting the cycles of violence they grew up in that won the audience over. “Minding the Gap,” a masterful documentary by young filmmaker Bing Liu, won both the Audience Choice Award and the prize for Best Documentary Feature at Monday’s closing awards picnic in Town Park.

Liu’s film follows a group of friends coming of age in Rockford, Illinois — a city wracked with unemployment, low wages, a population exodus and violent crime. And what begins as a tale of the salvation of skateboarding turns into something much deeper as its characters experience their own reckonings with family, trauma, race, repression and the consequences of adulthood. It is Liu’s first feature.

Filmmaker Jeff Orlowski, who served as a Best Feature judge, said Liu’s film blew the jury away with its depth, meaning, vulnerability and artistry.

“‘Minding the Gap’ was by far my favorite film at the festival. The intimacy the director was able to achieve with his characters during their interviews was essential to the impact of their stories. Watching the film it was as if they were my friends too, and that aspect alone allowed the audience to connect with them and the movie on a much deeper level. The director also did an incredible job capturing his shots of Kiere and Zack while they were skateboarding. I voted this film for the Audience Choice Award because of the how overwhelmingly raw the footage and story were. Everything was on display for these three guys – the hardest parts of their lives were shaping the narrative. Being able to feel so immersed in such a moving and emotionally authentic film, excellently shot, was why I thought it deserved to win. It was terrific to hear that the film  won over the crowd, along with being selected Best Documentary Feature,” added Bottari.

Another film that was double lauded at this year’s festival was “The Interpreters,” which examines the individuals who worked for the U.S. military as interpreters in conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan — an extremely perilous position that left them exposed to anger from both sides of war and often in danger once troops left their countries. The film by Andrés Caballero and Sofian Khan won the Student Award, which is given by a jury of young people to the film they feel will most inspire their generation. The nonprofit associated with the film, No One Left Behind, also received the $3,000 Moving Mountains prize, which is given to a nonprofit connected to a festival film and is based on the mission, scope, impact and need of the nonprofit’s work.

Those were only a few of the awards handed out on Memorial Day at a closing picnic in Town Park that featured a vegetarian feast prepared by La Cocina, dance music by film subject DJ JaBig, and a final send-off to the festival’s landmark 40th anniversary festival.

The full list of festival awards is below:

Audience Choice Award: “Minding the Gap”

Best Documentary Feature: “Minding the Gap”

Special Jury Award, Best Documentary Feature: “When Lambs Become Lions”

Best Short Film: “Lifeboat”

Moving Mountains Prize: No One Left Behind (“The Interpreters”)

Charlie Fowler Award: “Life Coach”

Norman Vaughan Indomitable Spirit Award: Tie: $500 to Lacey Studnicka and the Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska; $500 to filmmakers Beth and George Gage for their work-in-progress, “A Home Called Nebraska.”

Student Award: “The Interpreters”

All told, the sold-out audience at the 2018 festival was treated to more than 120 films in eight theaters, as well as a host of panels, gallery exhibits, parties and special guest presenters that ranged from climbing icon Conrad Anker to renowned thinker Pico Iyer. Participants danced at Mountainfilm’s 40th Bash, walked back in time with a special retrospective program of archival films at the library, petted rescued wolves at the gondola plaza and gave tearful standing ovations to films like “Science Fair.”

Now, the Mountainfilm staff is taking a well-deserved breather before it begins the process of planning festival No. 41.

About Mountainfilm:

Established in 1979, Mountainfilm is dedicated to using film, art and ideas to inspire audiences to create a better world. Working at the nexus of filmmaking and action, its flagship program is the legendary Mountainfilm festival in Telluride, Colorado, a one-of-a-kind combination of films, conversations and inspiration. Mountainfilm also reaches audiences year-round through its worldwide tour and Mountainfilm for Students, an educational outreach initiative for youth. Mountainfilm has the power to change lives.

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