Imagine the power of film…

October 2, 2007

More than a hundred years ago, visionary scientists and engineers like Thomas Edison were inventing devices that did something extraordinary: they projected moving pictures onto a screen.

Nowadays, we mostly take movies for granted. But imagine the impact that this new technology must have had a hundred years ago, in a time when people traveled by horse and buggy (or more often on foot), the moon was made of cheese, and images had to be meticulously painted to render an indelible picture. Film must have been considered something magical, and moving images on screen an impossible wonder.

However, when film was still being born, it was already seen by some as a parlor trick, a mere vaudeville show act. Two of the earliest inventors of film technologies, brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere, declared that “the cinema is an invention without any future.”

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The world’s first movie poster, for the Lumiere brother’s 1895 film L’Arroseur Arrose

Sometimes, as we search Wikipedia for obscure information about early film pioneers, video conference with someone in Scotland, sit in a dark theater watching a documentary film from India, or slack on the job by watching YouTube clips about Charlie the Unicorn, we forget that information used to flow at a much slower pace.

The inevitable and exponential movement of technology into the future is highlighted in a YouTube video of a powerpoint presentation, called “Did You Know,” by Karl Fisch, a teacher in Littlefield, Colorado. Fisch had no idea that his presentation, which was created for a teacher training seminar, would get nearly 2 million hits in the months following its posting. “Did You Know” (see the updated version here) offers some phenomenal statistics about the pace of our current technological activity (for example: the number of text messages sent today alone exceeds the entire population of the planet).

THE FUTURE OF FILM FESTIVALS
The Lumiere brothers might have been the first people to poo-poo the importance of film, but they certainly weren’t the last. As medias shift to encompass new technologies, someone out there is habitually claiming the death of the older form. Film to TV, TV to video, video to streaming online on-demand content…there is always a new vehicle for “movies” to be delivered to hungry watching eyes. But what stays consistent throughout this process is the incredible power of the moving image itself, regardless of format, to educate and inspire audiences.

As a film festival in general, and specifically as a festival that prides itself on its ability to give rise to a domino effect that does actively change the world in positive ways, we at Mountainfilm are constantly thinking about the impact the films we chose have on our audience.

The credits roll, the lights go up, but the experience isn’t over. Regardless of whatever media people chose to use the most to watch moving pictures—be it Tivo, YouTube, podcasts, or some crazy new technology that hasn’t even been invented yet—film festivals will always offer the special and priceless moments after a film screening where the audience comes face-to-face with the actual people they just saw up on screen. At a festival, the audience is given the opportunity to ask questions and engage with the film subjects and filmmakers in ways that significantly deepen the experience of watching a film.

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A panel of experts at Mountainfilm’s Moving Mountains Symposium on Energy in 2007

Mountainfilm is turning 30 this year—we’ve been around for a quarter of the complete life of moving pictures—and we are both proud to look back on our history and excited for the future.

Posted by Emily Long

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