Mountainfilm 2024: Wade Davis is Guest Director & Featured Speaker, 5/23 – 5/27!

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Mountainfilm 2024: Wade Davis is Guest Director & Featured Speaker, 5/23 – 5/27!

Based in Telluride, Mountainfilm announced late December that Wade Davis is returning to town over Memorial Weekend, not only as a featured speaker but also as Guest Director.

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“Mountainfilm made my life. It’s where I first connected with National Geographic and where I met many of my life-long friends and colleagues. I feel like I am coming home.”  – Wade Davis.

Described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity,” at Mountainfilm in Telluride, simply saying “Wade Davis” is tantamount to incanting “Open Sesame,” the name unlocking doors of the mind. Renaissance man? Well yes, but that moniker is a defensive move: the actual list of accolades and credits that adhere to Wade could fill the Manhattan telephone book.

One of the most celebrated Mountainfilm speakers of all time, in late December, the nonprofit announced that Wade Davis would be its 2024 guest director, clearly a well-deserved honorarium, which also means he has helped retiring Festival Director Suzan Beraza with programming, notably speakers, including a number of his Nat Geo colleagues.

Over Memorial weekend Wade will be speaking on a number of topics, including Colombia. In the preface to his most recent book on the subject, “Magdalena, River of Dreams,” he wrote:

“Travelers often become enchanted with the first country that captures their hearts and gives them license to be free. For me, it was Colombia. The mountains and forests, rivers and wetlands, the mysterious páramos, and the beauty and power of every tropical glen and snow-­ crested equatorial peak opened a doorway to a wider world that I would spend my entire life coming to know. In ways impossible fully to explain, the country allowed me, even as a boy, to imagine and dream. Coming of age in Colombia in the early 1970s, living on the open road, sleeping where my hat fell, I was never afraid. The warmth of the people enveloped a young traveler like a protective cloak, tailor-­made for wonder. The land itself inspired one “to risk,” as I wrote in the frontispiece of an early teenage journal, “discomfort and uncertainty for understanding.” Colombia me dio alas paravolar. Colombia, as a friend once remarked, gave me the wings to fly…”

An impassioned protector of the natural wonders of the world: people, places and things, Wade tackles (and will also share) that subject at Mountainfilm. In the introduction of his latest book, “Beneath the Surface of Things,” a collection of essay on the natural world written at the dawn of the Age of Corona, he said:

“I once asked the poet Gary Snyder to name the single most important thing we could do to support the wild. He replied, ‘Stay put.’ Sure enough, in the early months of 2020, as travel came to an end and the world shut down, nature rebounded in a manner that was both astonishing and profoundly hopeful. Overnight, or so it seemed, caimans once again darkened the sands of Baja, wild boars moved through the streets of Barcelona, flamingos by the thousands gathered in the wetlands of Mumbai, wolves and bears returned to the valley floor at Yosemite. Rivers ran through Medellín and Bogotá as if mountain streams. The canals of Venice were clear for the first time in modern memory. Slum dwellers long shrouded in smoke and industrial haze in Delhi, Lahore, and Kathmandu woke to blue skies and white mountain summits scoring the horizons. In a time of global fear and peril, the resilience of nature unveiled the promise of a new dream of the Earth…”

For the record, Wade is a Professor of Anthropology and the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia.

Between 2000 and 2013 he served as Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society (NGS) and was named by the NGS as one of the “Explorers for the Millennium.”

Ethnographer, writer, photographer and filmmaker, Wade holds degrees in anthropology and biology and he received a Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard.

Largely through the Harvard Botanical Museum, Wade spent over three years in the Amazon and Andes as a plant explorer, living among 15 indigenous groups while making about 6000 botanical collections. Later he traveled to Haiti to investigate folk preparations implicated in the creation of zombies. The assignment led to his writing “The Serpent and the Rainbow,” (1986), an international best-seller later released by Universal as a motion picture.

In recent years Wade’s work has taken him to East Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Mali, Benin, Togo, New Guinea, Australia, Vanuatu, Mongolia and the high Arctic of Nunavut, Greenland and his adopted country, Colombia, where, in 2018, he was made an honorary citizen by Nobel Laureate, President Juan Manuel Santos.

Wade is the author of 385 scientific and popular articles and 24 books, published in 23 languages. His photographs are widely exhibited, appearing in 38 books and 130 magazines, including National Geographic, Time, Geo, People, Men’s Journal, and Outside. His 40 film credits include “Light at the Edge of the World,” an eight-hour documentary series written and produced for the National Geographic. One of only 20 Honorary Members of the Explorers Club, Wade is also Honorary Vice-President of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and the recipient of 12 honorary degrees.

In his deeply thoughtful book about what it really takes to communicate change, “I’m Right and You Are An Idiot,” author James Hoggan postulates: “The driving mechanism behind significant social change is an urgent sense of the moral challenge combined with a credible path forward.”

For the moral challenge, look to the headlines in conventional and social media. For a platform with solutions to burn, turn to Mountainfilm – and to Wade Davis.

For more, check out our podcast with Wade Davis.

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