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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.


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


With the climate conference Cop15 happening, it seemed a likely place for the Yes Men to to pull something off. Canada took the hit on this one, which seemed to trump many of their other efforts in its elaborateness.

With the UN Climate Summit unfolding in Copenhagen, there is an unusual amount of news out there on climate change. If you want to dig in to it, check out the website, Solve Climate, which provides daily climate news and analysis.

A new report from the Global Carbon Project has just been released saying that we are heading towards six degrees Celsius of global warming. With the Copenhagen conference on climate change fast approaching, the report has been released to put some pressure on negotiators.

The U.S. seems to be unwilling to come to the table with concrete proposals, and have said that the Copenhagen talks, which were supposed to be definitive, are now just setting the table for future talks. This feet-dragging has frustrated a lot of Obama supporters, including Mountainfilm 2009 guest, Bill McKibben, who wrote in Mother Jones recently that Obama was “unwilling to lead” on climate change. The Obama Administration has been regulating as much as they can but they still need 67 votes to ratify any treaty that would come out of Copenhagen and that seems awfully unlikely at this point.

Yet Copenhagen moves forward – to what end, it’s hard to tell at this point but

Good Magazine has a fairly effective guide to what is happening and how to follow it all.


I’m always curious to see what docs are nominated for an Academy Award. The first step is making the short list (from a list of 89 that were eligible) before the actual nominees are announced February 2. We played four of them at Mountainfilm in 2009 and strongly considered some of the others.–David

“The Beaches of Agnes,” Agnès Varda, director (Cine-Tamaris)

“Burma VJ,” Anders Østergaard, director (Magic Hour Films)

“The Cove,” Louie Psihoyos, director (Oceanic Preservation Society)

“Every Little Step,” James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, directors (Endgame Entertainment)

“Facing Ali,” Pete McCormack, director (Network Films Inc.)

“Food, Inc.,” Robert Kenner, director (Robert Kenner Films)

“Garbage Dreams,” Mai Iskander, director (Iskander Films, Inc.)

“Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders,” Mark N. Hopkins, director (Red Floor Pictures LLC)

“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, directors (Kovno Communications)

“Mugabe and the White African,” Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey, directors (Arturi Films Limited)

“Sergio,” Greg Barker, director (Passion Pictures and Silverbridge Productions)

“Soundtrack for a Revolution,” Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, directors (Freedom Song Productions)

“Under Our Skin,” Andy Abrahams Wilson, director (Open Eye Pictures)

“Valentino The Last Emperor,” Matt Tyrnauer, director (Acolyte Films)

“Which Way Home,” Rebecca Cammisa, director (Mr. Mudd)

On Saturday, October 24, there were rallies all over the world to raise awareness about climate change. Of course, Telluride had its own organized by the New Community Coalition. You can check out pictures from Illinois to India at

It was a dreary day in NYC but several thousand people (my very not-scientific estimate) marched over the Brooklyn Bridge with, including the Holbrooke family, pictured below, Sarah, Kitty, Wiley and Bebe. Also in the crowd was Telluride local Virginia Egger who has recently moved to town. The route took us into Brooklyn Bridge park, where we discovered a Survivaball, (which is prominently featured in the film, The Yes Men Fix the World).


Despite the weather, it was a spirited and upbeat group. My 9 year old daughter Kitty asked me, “What does marching do?” I told her it was an excellent question and that hopefully it helps people pay attention to the issue  but that I didn’t really know for sure. She said, “I wish we were doing something more.” So on her suggestion, we cleaned up some of the trash on the beach near the Survivaball.


I often find myself thinking about the work is doing to get an international day of climate action going on October 24 and how we are going to contribute at Mountainfilm. So far, we are working with the New Community Coalition who will be putting on a climate expo of sorts. We will also show the film, No Impact Man at the Nugget that afternoon.

There are a lot of wild climate actions going on that day. One group in NYC is asking people to ride their bikes to Union Square – but in scuba gear to show that we will be underwater if things don’t change. There is also an impressive riders for climate change group that is – of course, doing creative things.

The other climate-entertainment (a whole sub-genre) worth checking out is the new Beds Are Burning video. It’s one of those collages of celebrity sing-a-longs and it works pretty well. Of course, I loved the original Midnight Oil version as well. – David

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