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The following article appeared in the New York Times yesterday.

WASHINGTON — There are not many people who can pack a Kennedy Center hall with 1,100 people — including five world leaders — and not only personally know just about every single one of them, but have all of them believe that they have a personal relationship with him.

On Friday afternoon, Richard C. Holbrooke appeared to do just that.

His memorial service drew an array of the world’s brightest diplomatic lights. There was President Obama, sitting next to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who sat next to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who sat next to the former secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, who sat two seats down from Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Also in the audience was Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, who flew halfway around the world to pay homage, as did Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili (whom Mr. Holbrooke affectionately used to call Misha).

They all came to pay homage to the man who, in the words of Mr. Obama, was “the leading light of a generation of American diplomats who came of age in Vietnam.”

It was perhaps Mr. Obama’s misfortune that he, of the 14 people who spoke, knew Mr. Holbrooke the least. As Mr. Obama’s larger-than-life envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr. Holbrooke and Mr. Obama had only two years together before Mr. Holbrooke died last month of an aortic tear.

So Mr. Obama could not sprinkle his remarks with the personal remembrances offered by speakers like Mr. Clinton (“He wanted to interview me to see if I was qualified to be president.”) or Mrs. Clinton (when he wanted something, “he would follow me onto a stage when I was making a speech, into my hotel room, into a ladies’ room — in Pakistan”).

Nor could Mr. Obama offer an anecdote to match that of a lifelong friend of Mr. Holbrooke, Leslie H. Gelb, the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. Gelb said that while Mr. Holbrooke was negotiating the end of the war in Bosnia with Serbia’s president, Slobodan Milosevic, he telephoned Mr. Gelb and said he had just persuaded Mr. Milosevic “to promise you a box of Cuban cigars, but he lies so much you can’t count on it — don’t you, Slobo?”

Mr. Obama did have one story to offer. When the two men first met after the 2008 election, at Mr. Obama’s transition office in Chicago, the president said Mr. Holbrooke “teared up when he began to talk about the importance of restoring America’s place in the world.”

“It was clear,” Mr. Obama said, “that Richard was not comfortable on the sidelines. He belonged in the arena.”

As Mr. Holbrooke’s friend David Rubenstein put it, “Somewhere in heaven, there’s a need for a negotiator in an intergalactic dispute that only Dick can resolve.” No doubt, he said, Mr. Holbrooke “is saying to God, ‘I could negotiate up here even better if you gave me better powers.’ ”

“If only,” Mr. Rubenstein said, imagining Mr. Holbrooke pressing his case, “I could have thunder and lightning.”

Here’s a link to the article.

The Washington Post also posted a thoughtful tribute.


Our festival director David Holbrooke and his family have been on vacation in Australia and are due back this week. But even halfway around the world and on vacation, the issues that we address at Mountainfilm are very present.

The Holbrooke family nearly got stranded in Australia because of the crazy flooding. Here are a few photos David sent from the road.

They ended up having to evacuate by helicopter.

In 2010, the film The Cove won the Academy Award for best documentary (it played at Mountainfilm both before and after the Oscar was given). But how did director Louie Psihoyos first discover the Taiji dolphin slaughter. The story before the story started when journalist Brooke McDonald joined Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as a journalist, with the goal of exposing this horrific practice.

The Adventure Journal interviews “The Girl Who Broke ‘The Cove’ Story in this article.

Out of 101 qualifying documentaries, 15 films have been chosen to advance to the shortlist for the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. A full third of them screened at Mountainfilm in 2010.

Here’s the list, with MF films in bold:
“Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” Alex Gibney, director
“Enemies of the People,” Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, directors
“Exit through the Gift Shop,” Banksy, director
“Gasland,” Josh Fox, director
“Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould,” Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont, directors
“Inside Job,” Charles Ferguson, director
“The Lottery,” Madeleine Sackler, director
“Precious Life,” Shlomi Eldar, director
“Quest for Honor,” Mary Ann Smothers Bruni, director
“Restrepo,” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, directors
“This Way of Life,” Thomas Burstyn, director
“The Tillman Story,” Amir Bar-Lev, director
“Waiting for ‘Superman’”, Davis Guggenheim, director
“Waste Land,” Lucy Walker, director
“William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe,” Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler, directors

(Tillman Story screened at Mountain Summit: Mountainfilm in Aspen in August, the others were in Telluride in May)

The 5 official nominees will be announced in January. Good luck to our good friends!


Read more on indieWIRE

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.”

The Academy has issued a press release announcing 8 films on the shortlist for best documentary short film, and one film from Mountainfilm 2010 made the list.

Congratulations to Jennifer Redfearn, whose film Sun Come Up – about climate refugees in the Carteret Islands – is more than worthy for an Oscar, in our humble opinion.

I just found out today that the kids in the Movies That Matter student program were blogging during the festival this year. Check out the archives here.

The students in the Movies That Matter program: Edgar, Alexi, Geo, Sunny and Shannon from DC with Ana, Ashley and Zach from Colorado.

A week post-festival and we’re still reeling from all the great things that happened over Memorial Day weekend. If you haven’t checked out this year’s award winners yet, you can do so here. A lot of work goes into making award-winning films, but a lot of work also went into making the physical awards that were given out at Mountainfilm 2010. Telluride local and artist Anton Viditz-Ward was the mastermind behind this year’s awards, and we figured we’d share some photos from the creative process with you for some behind the scenes action.

Great piece from Mountainfilm Festival Director David Holbrooke on the evolution of Mountainfilm and the sacrifices we make to live a sensible life.

From Huffington Post:

Last January, I traveled to Salt Lake City for both the Sundance Film Festival and the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show (OR) (which brings together companies that make gear and clothes for skiers, climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts). The events overlapped, so it was a chance to connect with two distinct groups: outdoor people and film folk.

In my world, these two groups are very much related as I program a film and ideas festival in Telluride, Colorado, called Mountainfilm. It takes place every Memorial Day weekend (May 28-31 2010). The festival started in 1979 as a gathering of mountaineers who wanted to climb during the day and watch mountaineering movies night. It has since evolved into a vibrant intersection of artists and activists, filmmakers and philosophers, go-getters and game changers. This year, we’re bringing to Telluride a diverse group of people, such as Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea; New Yorker writer George Packer; mountaineer Ed Viesturs; and the actress and playwright Anna Deveare Smith.

Another one of our guests will be Tim DeChristopher, a young man who I consider to be the Rosa Parks of the climate movement. In December 2008, the Bush Administration was hastily auctioning off oil and natural gas leases on 150,000 acres of land right near Arches National Park in Utah. DeChristopher went to protest, but he wanted to do something more than stand outside the BLM building and shout into the wind. He ended up walking into the building and was asked if he was there to bid. Surprised, he said yes and was handed paddle number 70, which he used for what is arguably, the most significant and effective act of civil disobedience in the history of the climate movement. DeChistopher, a 27-year-old economics major at the time, snapped up 22,000 acres of land for $1.7 million, a tab he had no intention or capability of paying. Soon after, the auction was declared null and void, and the land was saved, but DeChristopher is facing a federal trial in Salt Lake City this summer that could send him to prison for ten years.

DeChristopher was one of the few people I saw both at Sundance and OR. He was at the film festival to take in movies about the environment, which included the important film Gasland, which we will also play at Mountainfilm this year. Additionally, he went to a showing of Freedom Riders (which Mountainfilm will also screen) about civil rights activists who bravely challenged Jim Crow laws throughout the Deep South. He’d gone to the film because he wanted to see what the climate movement could learn from the civil rights movement. What struck him was how the Freedom Riders were so willing to sacrifice their own personal safety and well-being in comparison to our current refusal–even among ardent environmentalists–to make real sacrifices that could stave off the imminent apocalypse of climate change.

DeChristopher was at OR to talk about his latest climate action, which revolves around Dick Bass, an amateur alpinist who was the first man to climb the Seven Summits (the highest peaks on each continent) and the owner of the famed Snowbird ski resort outside of Salt Lake City. Bass–a hugely successful businessman–is also the lead investor in a massive coalmine in Alaska, called the Chuitna Coal Project that had inspired DeChristopher and his group, Peaceful Uprising, to start a boycott called “Don’t Ski Coalbird.”

Frankly, this boycott was a tough sell at OR because many of the people there–including myself–love to ski, and Snowbird is a particularly renowned mountain. DeChristopher spoke to one famed mountaineer at O.R. who has been to the Himalayas dozens of times and has personally seen the recession of the glaciers. This talented and charismatic alpinist also knows Bass, yet he awkwardly dismissed attempting to influence him by mumbling banalities about how everyone has to work within their own comfort zone.

As it happened, OR coincided with a major winter storm, so a lot of folks at the tradeshow made plans to ski (to hell with business, it’s a powder day!). Of course, the place to be, according to all of the well-meaning locals, was Snowbird.

I thought I was down with sacrifice, having given up tuna (because of its imminent extinction), shrimp (because of the environmental impact) and Jamba Juice (because of styrofoam cups). I miss these treats, but giving up a powder day–and perhaps an epic one–at Snowbird was a different sort of sacrifice that cut to my core.

Of course, as I wrestled with this moral dilemma, I knew that my sacrifices were small potatoes and largely irrelevant to the bigger issues we face as a planet. I also knew that forgoing a powder day was laughable compared to what DeChristopher was giving up: his liberty.

Nevertheless, it deepened my realization of how bloody hard it is to live a sensible way of life. Thanks to the films and people that come through Mountainfilm (last year, writer Bill McKibben spoke about his important work at; this year, artist Maya Lin will talk about her essential project about extinction titled “What is Missing?”) I am well aware of the nightmares that await us if we don’t change our ways and make sacrifices that will hurt.

So I started by honoring Tim DeChristopher’s boycott of Snowbird. My buddy and I skied Solitude, which doesn’t have the vertical of Snowbird but is still pretty great. I know–it wasn’t such of a sacrifice, but if we don’t all start making real and sustained changes in the way we live, powder days on any mountain are going to be a thing of the past.

Mieraf, the 11 year old Ethiopian girl that Rick Hodes (Making the Crooked Straight) treated with money from the Moving Mountain Prize, has returned home to Ghana with a straightened spine. Her surgery and recovery was a particular ordeal but as you can see from the picture below (Mieraf is second from the left in the front row), she is well and smiling.–David


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