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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Up Bear Creek / 31may25012

Photo by Melissa Plantz

Kicking off the festival season


MF33 … Lito Tejada-Flores. Rick Silverman. Arlene Burns. David Holbrooke, Peter Kensworthy, Emily Long, Ellen Shelton – my Mountainfilm list is a long one (and hopelessly incomplete, because this festival is a uniquely Telluride event, involving hundreds of local volunteers and boardmembers plus a small but passionate staff) … It’s been the spring gem in the mountains of our festival season since the year I came to town, back in the summer of ‘79, when MF started – two years before Shroomfest .... What local wouldn’t relish the caliber of MF patrons & passholders -- people who love mountain life, mountain sports, mountain quests. And as a liberal bastion in a purple state’s deep red Western fringe, San Miguel County appreciates the conscience that the Symposium has added to our four-day orgy of action cinematography … In global politics, MF has aligned our mountain town with Tibet and against China (“one of the most brutal regimes on the planet”). This year it brought Ai Weiwei : Never Sorry by Alison Klayman – one of the many films I only heard about … And in the national conversation, the Moving Mountains Symposium took on a taboo issue – population. I remember reading Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb in a small cabin in Mendocino that someone had let me stay in for the weekend on one of my weekly hitchhikes north from San Francisco. Must have been 1969 or ’70. It had a big influence on me, as I moved from the strict Roman Catholicism of my youth to the earth-based spirituality that informs my life these days. To have him here, all these years later, trying to tell us the same message – it’s inspiring. And disappointing … My teacher, Dolores LaChapelle of Silverton always called “population” the 900-lb. gorilla in the room that nobody wants to acknowledge. “It’s hopeless,” she’d sigh. And then proceed to suggest myriad courses of action that could lead us into accepting reasonable limits for our impacts as a species. But she knew that animal behavior and human behavior are part of a continuum, for all our beliefs in our own species exceptionalism. And the urge to procreate, feast & multiply is probably beyond the powers of human consciousness to control … In biological terms, Homo sapiens (or, as I prefer, Humus ludens) is a crash population headed for a fall. What the Hopi call, Koyaanisqatsi … From climate change to environmental disasters, MF covered the symposium field with fine films this year.

MASONS THEATER … I love the grammatical push to simplify our written language. “Masons” used to have an apostrophe somewhere, correctly or incorrectly, in the vicinity of “s”. And I remember seeing “theater” as “theatre” for the Masons, as the Nugget has always done. But MF’s program cut to the quick. Gone were apostrophes. Gone the Frenchy spellings for the halls. It was Masons Theater. Nugget Theater. I think it’s the same impulse that leads to Twitter’s abbreviated scripts. And, like it or not, it’s how language works … For the last several years, I’ve had the honor to emcee the Masons, with a wonderful crew of folks, like Brad and Rhoda Green. It’s a lovely venue. Many folks call it their favorite, with its intimate seating, pressed tin ceilings and Masonic drapes … Of course, I get a distorted view of the festival in just seeing a slice of the film offerings – mornings and early afternoons this year … Memorial Day weekend is right in the middle of spud prep and planting season at Cloud Acre, and so I have to get back to my Wright’s Mesa homestead every afternoon to irrigate the potato patch, feed the cats and (this year) clean up the wind damage from those fierce dust storm gusts that hammered the San Miguel Basin

SOME FAVORITESFambul Tok – perhaps the most important film of the festival for me. A poignantly told look-see into a local grassroots reconciliation process in Sierra Leone following their terrible 12-year civil war. If you believe in Nobel Prizes for Peace, one of them ought to go to John Caulker, founder of the Fambul Tok reconciliation process. This film has so much to teach us about the power of forgiveness and mutual healing on a community level. As well as, about the money colonial powers spent on sending 11 men to prison at 200 times the cost of reaching 20,000 villagers in 50 some victimized communities, while having 700 perpetrators apologize and be forgiven. It’s a concept we in the Industrialized nations might seek to explore -- working to bring the wounded and wounders together in a healing community process, whether for physical wars or for the war of words we substitute for violence in the West … Darwin – perhaps the most charming film I saw. By a Swiss filmmaker, Nick Brandestini. It’s been out a year or so to critical praise here and abroad. A climbing into the lives of some dozen or so Death Valley ghost town hermits for an intimate look at all kinds of surprising human issues like marriage, divorce, religion, trans-gender children, a son lost to meth, bigotry, art, the post office. Incredibly sensitively done, In chapters. Nicely edited with a great score by Michael Brook … Terra Blight – This deeply disturbing film, made possible in part by a Mountainfilm Commitment Grant, chronicles the destination of 80% of our “recycled” computer parts in this country – African nations like Ghana, where young children in rubber sandals smash monitors with big rocks to fish out a few spools of metal from a former wildlife lagoon that’s become a toxic dump. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn’t prohibit the export of its e-waste. It’s an international disgrace, and the computer industry ought to clean up its act, before the government acts in the next swing of the federal pendulum … The inspiring Marine Col. Eric Hastings in Not Yet Begun To Fight … Ken Burns’ Dust Bowl … That seriously comedic wizard of the viral and Valley Floor lynchpin, Tom Shadyak, preaching in the Palm about the need for each of us as world citizens to start paying attention to earth’s operating instructions (Yes!)  … And great trailers for local movies-in-progress DamNation and Uranium Drive-In.

THE TALKING GOURD

Fambul Tok

Welcome filmsters
to Telluride

where we showcase
movies that matter

like these mountains
walking round us

hidden only by the wings
of our theater walls

Come to Sierra Leone
my fellow beneficiaries

of American
Exceptionalism

Only our daughters
& sons in the military

have had to survive war
We read about it

See frames or films
Allow our leaders

Democrat or Republican
to use it

as what my leftish friends
would call

“a tool of empire”
And so

we’ve never had to
forgive atrocities

to our loved ones
Come watch & learn

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