After a beautiful drive through Colorado yesterday, the famous Mountainfilm banner and waving Tibetan prayer flags welcomed us into the picturesque town of Telluride and into the excitement of one of America’s longest-running film festivals. In its evolution, Mountainfilm has grown beyond a love for the outdoors to become a place for activists and pioneers to discuss critical contemporary issues and artists to share the stories of our world.
But when preparing to go to a festival in a tiny mountain town, you need to pack more than a video camera and your ideals. Here are a few essentials for mountainfilming like a veteran:
Sunscreen – Telluride is at 8750 feet. It is both sunny and windy. Make sure to keep your skin happy.
Mug, bowl, spoon – Last year Mountainfilm decreased its waste by over 80 percent by eliminating all to go containers. Bring your own unless you’re cool eating soup out of your cupped palms or forgoing coffee for the weekend.
Pen and notebook – with so many brilliant ideas floating around, you’ll want to record every last bit. Something that fits in your pocket and supports your efforts of scribbling in the dark is a wise choice.
Day pack – Personally, I think fanny packs are making a comeback. Weather you choose a backpack, messenger bag, purse or cooler, you’ll need something to carry your snacks and layers throughout the day.
Camp chair – You’ll want one for the outdoor screenings. Trust me, you do not want to be that jealous person, staring at those around you all happy with their backs and bums supported while you struggle to get comfortable on the cold grass.
Bandana – A true veteran shared this secret with me. We’re talking about some incredibly moving films here. You’re bound to shed a tear of joy, pain, fear, passion–you’ll want to have that bandana handy.
So far I have eaten what locals say is the best Thai food in town, sipped a bit of whiskey and seen an award-winning film at the Horny Toad outdoor theater. Not even two minutes into the festival trailer and I was already moved–feeling the pain, exhaustion, excitement, failure and success of the people and places in the images in front of me. Sitting there beneath the stars, bundled up in layers of down and tucked into the mountains, I was absolutely stoked for a weekend of inspiration.
And Chasing Ice was a great way to begin it all. Director Jeff Orlowski spent five years following photographer, James Balog to put together this shocking, horrifying and magical film that makes it difficult for anyone to argue the effects of global warming. Balog goes beyond sane limits to capture calving glaciers around the world–often times this means standing barefoot in freezing waist-high waters, dangling himself over fragile ice ledges and fighting extreme winds to set up his photo contraptions. The film was a great indication of what’s ahead for the weekend.
The Moving Mountains Symposium starts today so the streets will feel pretty quiet while activists explore the implications of population growth and discuss how we can all contribute to a livable future. Mountainfilmers will continue to trickle in throughout the day to make it for the first batch of screenings tonight. First on my list is Bidder 70, the film that chronicles activist Tim DeChristopher’s disruption of a land and oil auction and the events that followed to eventually land him in prison for civil disobedience–a sentence he is currently serving.
I’m told the best way to experience Mountainfilm is free from expectations. Many of these films are making their world premiere this weekend and others have already gained popularity on the festival circuit–so the theaters will no doubt get full. The good news is that if you miss out on one showing there is bound to be something inspiring happening in a theater, gallery or coffee shop down the street. The trick is keeping an open mind and following the conversations around you.
There’s still plenty of time to get here. Hop a plane, hitch a ride, pack up your bike–whatever you gotta do. I’m just one day in and I can already tell you it’s worth it.