Countdown to the 33rd Mountainfilm Festival Begins

The festival kicks off on Friday, May 27, 2011 in Telluride, Colorado. For four days we’ll be joining photographers, filmmakers, artists, and activists to talk about ideas, art, and action. Over Memorial Day weekend, Mountainfilm will screen over seventy films—including several that may be of special interest to Orion readers.

If a Tree Falls
In the early 2000s, the Earth Liberation Front was making news by setting fire to various targets, including a Hummer dealership, a logging company, and an expansive, new dining hall at the Vail ski area. The first-rate If a Tree Falls, focusing on the sad story of Daniel McGowan, who committed acts of arson for the Front, takes an incisive look at this shadowy group in the aftermath of a series of arrests and plea bargains. Director Marshall Curry came across the story serendipitously when a member of the Front—a colleague of Curry’s wife’s—was arrested without warning at the office. Comprised of confused but well-intentioned cops and activists, and a snitch who seems nothing but lowdown, this intense and, at times, graphic film will stay with you. It’s at once a compelling and cautionary tale that takes a smart look at the complexity of extreme action.

Chasing Water
In Chasing Water, photojournalist Peter McBride documents the flow of the Colorado River from source to sea. A Colorado native, McBride hails from a ranching family that depends on the river for irrigation, and this is the story of his backyard. While attempting to track where the irrigation water of his youth went after his family used it, his experience becomes analogous to tracking down a special friend from childhood only to find her utterly changed and diminished. Writer John Waterman joins McBride on this fifteen-hundred-mile journey, showing how the thirst of the 30 million people that the river supports takes a heavy toll. Peter McBride’s photographs of the Colorado appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of Orion, with text by James Powell. Read “Calamity on the Colorado,” and watch a slide show of McBride’s images, here.

Mr. Happy Man
Johnny Barnes is one of the happiest people in the world. This humble and lovable Bermudan wakes up at 3 a.m. every morning and heads to one particularly busy intersection to stand, wave, blow kisses and shout, “I love you!” to passersby. Crazy or not, Johnny has a lot to say about what it takes to be optimistic—and he has brought smiles to the faces of thousands during their otherwise dreary morning commute.

Bidder 70
Longtime Mountainfilm filmmakers Beth and George Gage bring us Bidder 70, a work in progress, about climate activist Tim DeChristopher. They began filming him soon after he was first arrested for disrupting a federal oil and gas lease auction in December 2008 and have followed him through his recent conviction this March. Even though DeChristopher’s story has one last twist that the Gages have to film—his sentencing on June 23—they will debut several scenes at Mountainfilm. After forty minutes of rough-cut film, festival guests Terry Tempest Williams and Bill McKibben will join DeChristopher on stage for a conversation about the direction of the climate movement. The Gages will also show the world premiere of their film From the Ground Up. In April, Tim DeChristopher, Wendell Berry, and Teri Blanton joined Orion for a live web discussion of the high stakes of today’s environmental activism. Listen to an audio recording of the discussion.

Check out the full list of films here.