Short film screening highlights nature

by Owen Shepcaro | 10/5/14 4:22pm

A high-adrenaline avalanche encounter, nature’s pristine splendor and warm scenes of community were among the highlights of the 2014 Mountainfilm screening at the Hopkins Center, which presented attendees with a sense of nature’s power and beauty as well as perspective on those who make their home in the world’s most remote locations.

The Mountainfilm festival, which takes place over three days at Telluride, Colorado, each Memorial Day weekend, features about 85 independent documentary films as well as discussions, art and photography exhibits and social events. After the weekend, films from the festival travel around the world to what organizers say totals more than 100 locations and five continents, reaching a total audience of about 40,000.

The Hop screening included nine short films, “Summer Light” (2013), “64 MPH” (2013), “El Sendero Luminoso” (2014), “Walled In” (2013), “Bryan and Kaia” (2014), “Forest Scene form Valhalla” (2013), “Tashi and the Monk” (2014), “A Toy Train In Space” (2012) and “Winter Light” (2014).

Dartmouth’s screening began with “Summer Light” (2013), a four-minute film directed by Max Lowe that captures the importance of enjoying each moment of the summer.

The next film, “64 MPH” (2013), changed the mood, portraying Telluride local Greg Hope’s descent down the famous San Joaquin Couloir, a steep and narrow gully, with an avalanche in fast pursuit. Just three minutes in length, the film captures nature’s immense power and extreme unpredictability, concluding as Hope safely exits the couloir.

The audience’s pulse had little chance to settle, however, as Renan Ozturk’s “El Sendero Luminoso” (2014), portraying Alex Honnold’s unassisted climb up the 2,500-foot El Sendero Luminoso cliff face of El Toro mountain in El Potrero Chico, Mexico, began next. Alternating between drone footage and up-close, real-time frames, the camera recreated the extreme concentration and immense difficulty of Honnold’s climb, which he completed in January in slightly more than three hours. As the camera panned the landscape, audience members were either awestruck or muttering small groans, struck with acrophobia.

Andrew Crutchfield ’18, who attended the Hop screening, said he was on the edge of his seat throughout the six-minute film.

“I knew Honnold would complete the climb safely, but I was anxious the entire time and was in awe of his courage,” Crutchfield said.

In perhaps the film’s most incredible moment, Honnold finds a miniscule ledge where he can place both his feet and lets go of the wall. A simple and joyous grin covers his face when he recognizes that the thin barrier separates him from life and certain death.

The next film, “Tashi and the Monk”(2014), tells the story of Jhamtse Gatsal, a school and community center for 80 children in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Created by former monk Lobsang Phuntsok, who was himself a child without a family, the film tells the story of the youngest member of the Jhamtse community, Tashi, who has difficulties adjusting to her new life.

As her peers treat her with kindness and compassion, Tashi realizes she can be an asset to the community through acting benevolently. The film closes with a statement from Phuntsok, reiterating the importance of the school to the children’s development.

Though the remainder of the screening focused on action sports, Ralf Carestia ’18 said “Tashi and the Monk” was perhaps the most inspirational story.

“It makes you realize that with dedication and compassion anyone can have a positive impact on the world,” he said.

The festival concluded with the counterpoint to “Summer Light,” Lowe’s “Winter Light” (2014). The film portrays Lowe’s arduous hike up and ski run down an unnamed mountain. As Lowe descends, the audience is reminded it cannot indefinitely remain suspended on the mountain.

Allison Carswell ’17 said she enjoyed how the mountain theme pulled together diverse short films.

“I think the festival was unified by the theme of the dedication of humanity to what they love,” she said. “The people in the films set their mind on a goal, and no matter how crazy it seemed to other people, they pursued [it] with their entire being.”

Begun by climbers in 1979, Moutainfilm festival is dedicated to telling stories about mountain life. The festival attracts explorers, environmentalists, artists, photographers and filmmakers, according to the organization’s website.

The festival began to tour its films in 1999. This fall, films have been screened in Boston, Portland, Charlotte and Seattle as well as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.