Mountainfilm & Oscar Shortlist

Mountainfilm & Oscar Shortlist

Mountainfilm 2019 is scheduled for May 24 – May 27 in Telluride. Cheryl Strayed is guest director. (More on the celebrated author and her role here.) The Symposium theme is “Equity.” (More on that program here.) Early Bird passes have sold out, but regular passes and tickets can be purchased here. And based on director Suzan Beraza’s track record, a snapshot of which is below, you snooze, you lose. Visit for more information.

A still image from Lifeboat. The film made the Oscar shortlist in the category of Best Documentary Short. Photo courtesy of Skye Fitzgerald.

On Monday, January 7 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled its shortlist of films under consideration for the 2019 Oscar awards. Among the documentaries singled out as the year’s best were several that played in Telluride at Mountainfilm’s 2018 festival. Of the 15 feature documentaries singled out for excellence, five appeared in Mountainfilm’s theaters over Memorial Day weekend. They include “Dark Money,” “On Her Shoulders,” “RBG,” “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and Mountainfilm’s 2018 Audience Choice and Best Documentary Feature Award-winner, “Minding the Gap.”

In the Short category, meanwhile, two of the 10 films shortlisted for Oscars played at Mountainfilm. They include Marshall Curry’s haunting short “A Night at the Garden,” as well as Skye Fitzgerald’s harrowing look at migration, “Lifeboat,” which had its world premiere in Telluride.
Mountainfilm Festival Director Suzan Beraza said it’s exciting news that reflects the caliber of documentaries Mountainfilm hosted last year.

“2018 was a remarkable year for documentary storytelling, and Mountainfilm is so honored that seven films we programmed ended up on the Academy’s Oscar shortlist,” Beraza said.

Now that the shortlists have been announced, members of the Academy have until Monday to vote for their favorites. This round of voting will determine the finalists — narrowing each documentary category down to five. Those finalists will be announced January 21.

When reached on Tuesday, Fitzgerald said it feels great to have “Lifeboat” make the shortlist.

“It always feels good to see your work recognized in some form or fashion,”  he said. “Making the shortlist,” he added, “signals that.”

“Lifeboat” has been seen and acknowledged by some highly respectable people in the film industry — a reward in itself.

“Lifeboat” hones in on migrants making the dangerous water passage from North Africa to Europe – a desperate journey via crowded and flimsy rafts that too often ends in tragedy — by embedding viewers onto the boats carrying migrants, as well as a rescue vessel operated by a German non-profit that fishes exhausted and depleted passengers out of the ocean.

Unlike video sound bites or news blips about the migration crisis, Beraza said, “Lifeboat” places the viewer into the issue in a visceral and unsettling way. The result is an outstanding piece of storytelling.

“It’s just visually stunning, heart-wrenching and an incredibly important issue,” she said.

Premiering the film at Mountainfilm was a no-brainer, Fitzgerald said. He had such a great experience screening the 2015 short film, “50 Feet From Syria,” at Mountainfilm, that he knew he would strive to return with his next film. (“50 Feet” and “Lifeboat” are the first two in a trilogy the director is working on.)

“Mountainfilm feels like my festival,” Fitzgerald said. “I made a concerted effort (with ‘Lifeboat’) to make Mountainfilm. It was my target.”

The project was also awarded a 2017 Commitment Grant, which Fitzgerald said indicated Mountainfilm’s belief in his work. If he finishes the third in the trilogy, he says, he knows where he’ll bring it to Telluride.

“Lifeboat” is currently available to screen on The New Yorker’s website.


More 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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