Mountainfilm short film festival screened at Spaulding

Telluride, Colo. is home to one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. The well-known Telluride Film Festival tends to overshadow the other festivals held in Telluride, including the Mountainfilm Festival, which primarily spotlights films featuring the outdoors and extreme sports. The festival’s traveling program, “Mountainfilm on Tour,” made a stop last Friday at Spaulding Auditorium at the Hopkins Center with a program hosted by Mountainfilm executive director Peter Kenworthy ’77.

Mountainfilm was founded in 1979 to focus primarily on the adventurous spirit. Held every Memorial Day weekend in Telluride, the festival has grown more and more popular over the years, according to the festival’s website. Kenworthy moved to Telluride in 1979, and among the many festivals hosted there, the Mountainfilm Festival stood out in particular, he said.

“It was in a town where there are quite a few festivals throughout the summer,” Kenworthy said. “I loved the people that it brought together. I loved the films they were very content rich and issue-based films. I loved the adventure part of it.”

Kenworthy then involved himself with the festival on a small basis by contributing photos he took of his trips to Asia, writing small blurbs for the festival and volunteering during the actual event, he said. Around 2004, Kenworthy’s passion eventually became his career.

“I had dropped out of banking for the third and final time a career that I was never really all that excited about,” Kenworthy said. “I was sort of just figuring out what to do back in Telluride, writing for the local paper, and the executive director position became available at Mountainfilm became available and I thought, That would be perfect.'”

Since then, Kenworthy has run the festival and accompanies the tour wherever it goes. Despite being led by a Dartmouth alumnus, this is Moutainfilm’s first trip to Dartmouth in over 10 years, and it is the first visit to the College in which Kenworthy has headed the program.

While on tour, Mountainfilm chooses from eight films that played in the previous year’s festival to be screened at each location. The show at Spaulding featured the eight films in addition to two bonus shorts, which played as an addendum to the main show. Each film was briefly introduced by Kenworthy.

The first film, “Seasons: Winter” (2011), showcased kayaker Brian Ward and his love of traversing frozen rivers and waterways. “Wildwater: North Fork of the Payette” (2011), directed by Ansen Fogel, was another screened film that was similar to the first. Co-directed with mountain climber Cory Richards, the film depicts Richards and his teammates attempting the Herculean task of climbing the Himalayan mountain Gasherbrum II in the middle of the winter. With the spirit of “Touching the Void” (2003) in its veins, the film was a harrowing and nail-biting tale.

“Cold” would have been the best of the shorts had it not been for “Yosemite Falls High-Line” (2011). The short profiles professional slackliner Dean Potter as he attempts to walk across Yosemite Falls in California. The film is made all the more awe-inspiring when one learns that the feat involves essentially tightrope walking across a raging waterfall with nothing but a harness on the line. Potter’s laid-back attitude is in stark contrast to his nerves of steel when on the line.

Unfortunately, not all the films were good. “Chasing Water” (2011) by Peter McBride ’93 details McBride’s travels along the Colorado River as he traces its path. The film, though it raises environmental concerns, was uninspiring.

Mountainfilm would have been stale if it only focused on sports and the outdoors, however. “Mr. Happy Man” (2011) profiles Johnny Barnes, a Bermudan man who stands on the median of a busy traffic roundabout every day to greet passing motorists, while “Yelp, With Apologies to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl'” (2011) was a spoken word poem set to an animation urging people to unplug from their electronics and enjoy the world around them.

“Waiting for a Train” (2011) was the final film of the regular program. Along with being the most original of the shorts, it was the one out of which I wished they would make a full-length movie the most. The documentary short tells the story of Toshio Hirano, a Japanese immigrant who came to the United States to play bluegrass music.

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