Inaugural Mountainfilm Commitment Program Provides $25,000

Telluride, Colorado (November 2, 2010) – Five grantees, from a field of 75 filmmakers, photographers and adventurers, will each receive $5,000 and an Apple laptop computer to help with new projects that key into Mountainfilm’s mission of educating and inspiring audiences about issues that matter. The grants will be the first made under the new Mountainfilm Commitment initiative designed to help ensure that important stories are told – and heard.

“The projects we’re supporting with grants cover very diverse ground but we think each are really worthy, compelling and vital,” said Mountainfilm Executive Director Peter Kenworthy. “We were at real pains to narrow the field because we were presented with such outstanding applications. We think our top five choices reflect the kind of breadth, depth and excellence that Mountainfilm strives for in its programming. We couldn’t be more pleased or excited to be partnering with them.”

Kenworthy said the granting initiative was inspired by Mountainfilm Festival Director David Holbrooke’s desire to both give back to the community of filmmakers, artists, and explorers that so generously supports Mountainfilm and to help broaden the impact of new critical stories. “David cooked up the idea and, with the help of staff and our board of directors, we were able to give it structure and make it a reality,” he said. “It’s a really exciting initiative for an organization like ours and we feel very pleased and privileged to have successfully launched it and look forward to continuing it.”

The five winning grantees, and their projects, are:

A child searching for techno ruble from the film Terra Blight

Isaac Brown, director/producer, Terra Blight, a documentary about America’s consumption of computers and the hazardous waste we create in pursuit of the latest technology. The film examines the unseen worlds of one of the most ubiquitous toxic wastes on our planet. Despite the fact that the United States produces the most e-waste of any nation, it currently is the only industrialized country that does not regulate the exportation of that waste. Terra Blight will ensure you never look at your old computer the same way again. Brown previously made Gimme Green, which played at Mountainfilm 2007.

Ruins in the town of Paradox, CO, which is facing a new uranium mine

Richard Linnett, director/producer, Paradox Valley U.S.A., a documentary about how a potential global nuclear renaissance could start in Paradox, Colorado – not far from Telluride – because of a proposed new uranium mill that would be the first in this country since the Cold War. The mill’s outspoken  supporters are people from nearby uranium mining towns who need jobs. Opposition comes from a loose alliance of activists who argue that toxic waste, dust and radioactivity will foul the food chain and water supply, creating personal health hazards while destroying property values. Meanwhile, there has been a worldwide resurgence of support for nuclear power and leading environmentalists are reversing their long held anti-nuclear positions – a core paradox facing opponents of the mill, and a key conflict driving the story. Linnett has been filming in and around Telluride for more than a year.

Mbambu learning to be a mountain guide in the film Mbambu and the Mountains of the Moon

Lucian and Natasa Muntean, directors/producers, Mbambu and the Mountains of the Moon, a documentary about a sixteen-year old girl, Mbambu, from a small village at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda, who wants to be the first in her family to complete secondary school. Because her family is poor, Mbambu earns her high school tuition by guiding foreign trekkers. Her mentor in this work is an ex-poacher who inspires Mbambu to educate Ugandans about the dangers and drawbacks of poaching. Mbambu, in turn, enlists her amateur drama group to take on the cause. Their previous film, Journey of the Red Fridge played at Mountainfilm 2009.

Hayley Shepherd on her solo journey, documented in the upcoming film Soul of the Sea

Katie Mustard, director/producer, Soul of the Sea, a documentary that follows the unrelenting desire of one woman – Hayley Shephard – to solo kayak the most challenging waters on the planet for the sake of saving an animal on the brink of extinction – the world’s largest flying bird, the Albatross. Undeterred by hurricane-force winds and a wildly treacherous sea, wilderness guide and expedition leader Shephard set out in January 2010, set out to make the first ever solo kayak around South Georgia Island. However like Shephard’s hero, Sir Ernest Shackleton – the Antarctic explorer who turned disaster into the most famous lesson in survival, her expedition did not go as planned.

The Sacred Heaadwaters photographed by Paul Colangelo

Paul Colangelo, photographer, Sacred Headwaters, Sacred Journey, a photographic exposition of the shared birthplace of three of British Columbia’s great salmon-bearing rivers, the Stikine, Skeena and Nass, and one of the largest predator-prey ecosystems in North America, now threatened by resource development. Known as the “Serengeti of the North”, it supports large populations of grizzlies, wolves, woodland caribou, moose, mountain goats and stone sheep. This land has come under threat of numerous resource developments including a proposed coalbed methane development that would fracture nearly a million acres of wildlife habitat with wells, pipelines and roads, and a proposed open-pit gold and copper mine that would destroy the most important habitat for stone sheep in the world. There will be a gallery exhibit at Mountainfilm 2011 and longtime friend of the festival Wade
Davis, who is involved in this project will speak about it at the Awareness into Action Symposium.

Holbrooke said he was thrilled that so many worthwhile applications were submitted and gratified that, within just a year, the new program had gone from conception to funding. The hardest part by far, he said, was choosing the grantees. “It was ridiculously difficult – much harder than selecting films for the festival,” he said. “Most of the projects submitted were worth funding.” He also lamented that no grants were being made in the first year to local
Telluride-area applicants and said he looks forward to addressing that next year. “There were a couple of local projects at the conceptual stage that have enormous potential,” he said. “We hope to see those back next year for latter-stage production or post-production funding. There are so many talented local filmmakers and photographers, artists and adventurers and this program was created – partly – with them in mind and I very much hope that next year, we are able to support a project that is homegrown in Telluride.”

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