Festival showcases adventurous short films at Spaulding

by Kate Sullivan | 10/7/12 10:00pm

by Courtesy of the Hopkins Center / The Dartmouth

Mountainfilm, held every Memorial Day weekend in Telluride, Colo., was founded in 1979 and has since become one of America's longest-running film festivals. The festival also came to the College in April for the first time in over 10 years, hosted by executive director Peter Kenworthy '77.

"[Mountainfilm] is dedicated to educating and inspiring audiences about issues that matter, cultures worth exploring, environments worth exploring and conservations worth sustaining," Ludwig said.

In his presentation, Ludwig said that Mountainfilm originally started out as a climbing festival, where individuals would spend a day climbing and watch a film afterward. Over 700 films are initially submitted before the final selections are made, according to Ludwig.

The four-day festival in Telluride screens a wide range of independent documentary films but also plays host to a variety of symposia, events that feature authors and programs geared toward students.

"We touch upon cultural environment films that allude to some larger issue, some bigger than ourselves, something that elicits a response," Ludwig said.

Throughout the presentation of the films, Ludwig said that one of the benefits to a festival like Mountainfilm is that the audience can "dive into these other people's perspectives."

Friday's presentation featured eight short films that previously screened at this year's Mountainfilm in Telluride. Each film was briefly introduced by Ludwig. The first film, "The Nomad" (2012), directed by Ansen Fogel, featured Erik Boomer traveling independently in a kayak, on skis and briefly on foot. Boomer was praised during the Mountainfilm in Telluride for his circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island, an expedition that took him and fellow kayaker John Turk 140 days to complete. The film featured beautiful cinematography that captured the emotion of Boomer's solo descent over a 200-foot waterfall and his ultimate quest to discover his personal limits and define his idea of "home."

"Race for the Nose" (2012) was undoubtedly the most entertaining of the films screened. It chronicled the history of the speed record for climbing Yosemite National Park's El Capitan. The documentary kept the audience laughing throughout its screening, as the rivalries between fellow climbers Hans Florine, Dean Potter and the Heber brothers grew more and more laughable as each man tried to one-up each other in their speed record attempts. The extreme competition between the long-haired, perfectly chiseled athletes was laughable, though the footage of Potter and partner Sean Leary was harrowing to watch as they climbed up to the nose with minimal safety precautions.

"Racing the End" (2012) delved into the underground bike racing circuit that appears on the streets of Los Angeles at 4 a.m. on the morning of the Los Angeles marathon. As the city is normally closed to bikers due to heavy amounts of traffic, the film documented the epic battle of the bikers of L.A.'s "Wolfpack Hustle," with out-of-towners in the race for each other's dog tags. The film's dark, black-and-white aesthetic certainly paralleled the race's illegality and the riders' adrenaline coursing through their veins on the slick streets of L.A.

Although entertaining, the mockumentary "Into Thick Air" (2012), which documented a hodge-podge group of out-of-shape men who set out to summit the seven summits of the Great Plains a riff on the actual seven summits ran a bit long, and the joke exhausted itself after about two summits. The ridiculous, overdramatic narration proved unbearable by the film's end.

"Meet Mr. Toilet" (2012) came as a shocking eye-opener, as it showed some disturbing footage of village conditions without proper toilets or sanitation. Although it certainly detailed an important cause, the film seemed rather out of place for Mountainfilm when surrounded by the wide variety of action-adventure shorts.

"The Freedom Chair" (2012) was probably the most moving of the films screened, Josh Dueck's rise to Paralympic glory in the downhill sit-ski event after severing his spinal cord in a freestyle skiing accident. The final minutes featured Dueck freestyle skiing with the sit-ski technique, pulling off some truly incredible jumps that elicited gasps from audience members.

"Code Red" (2012), a documentary about the few brave surfers who successfully tackled the monstrous 20-foot waves in Teahupo'o, Tahiti, provided distractions for audience members, showcasing both soothing surfing footage and attractive Australian men.

In "The Man Who Lived on His Bike" (2012), Guillaume Blanchet literally lives on his bike for the duration of the short film. He's shown shaving, frying an egg, brushing his teeth, folding his clothes and even changing TV channels while on top of his bike. In an extremely creative sequence that was edited together, Blanchet embodies the various TV channels he flips through while on the bike, showing him dressed as a tennis player and rapper in quick succession.

The final film of the series, a segment from Sherpa Cinemas' "All.I.Can" (2012) was introduced by Ludwig as "one of the most beautiful ski films I've seen," and his sentiment certainly proved true. The stunning short featured freestyle skier J.P. Auclair skiing through the streets, stairs and hanging laundry of a British Columbia neighborhood.