4 of our favorite Mountainfilm documentaries

Mountainfilm has built a reputation for over 42 years for broadcasting some of the best nature documentaries and for significantly increasing the number of puff jackets per square mile in Telluride, Colorado for a week each May. This time last year, for obvious reasons, there was hardly a down feather on the streets of Telluride outside of town. But there will be a slight return to normal in 2021, with a hybrid festival with a limited capacity in-person event from May 28th to 31st and a virtual event from May 31st to June 6th. The festival is offering all-inclusive passes for the online screeners for $ 150-250 or goes to individual screeners for $ 15; In-person attendees can purchase $ 20 tickets to each show and also have the opportunity to see speakers like ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson. Filmmaker Renan Ozturk, polar explorer Will Steger and writer Justin Farrell. Whichever experience appeals to you, some of the festival’s biggest draws are exciting new full-length documentaries. Here are some highlights from the list.

“Wall of Shadows”

(Photo: Courtesy Mountainfilm)

Many films about mountain expeditions show the uneven force dynamics between climbers and guides. But in the Wall of Shadows This is the subject instead of the sub-text. Polish director and climber Eliza Kubarska revolves around a family living in Nepal: professional guide Ngada Sherpa, his wife Jomdoe and son Dawa. Early on, the family started talking about the mountain at the center of the film, Kumbhakarna. “Is Everest easier than Kumbhakarna?” Dawa asks his father, who has climbed Everest, Ama Dablum and many other great peaks several times. “Oh, Everest is a lot easier,” says Ngada. “Kumbhakarna is much more challenging … Sherpa people won’t climb it because the mountain is sacred. It is also very likely that you will die in the process. “In fact, it doesn’t take long to learn that Ngada has been hired to lead a team of Russian and Bosnian clients on Kumbhakarna. Wall of Shadows completely flips the usual perspective of climbing films by focusing on the family’s doubts as they escort the team to base camp, and Ngada struggles to decide whether or not to get the climbers to the summit safely – if he doesn’t, nobody gets paid. “You only listen to yourself,” Ngada once complained about the customers. “That’s not good in the mountains.” Kubarska manages to follow the growing tensions between the intrusive climbers and the conflicted local guides so closely that the dramatic peaks feel almost irrelevant.

“Playing with Sharks”

Playing with sharks film_h.jpg(Photo: Courtesy Mountainfilm)

Scuba diver Valerie Taylor has a shark tooth under her chin, friends who survived shark attacks, and helped shoot footage for the iconic scary shark movie Jaws. Even so, does she refer to the fish as her friends and approaches shark encounters with nonchalance and even … moody? At the beginning of the documentary, she packs up for a trip to Fiji to visit an intimate group of Bull sharks. “I’ll be wearing a pink wetsuit,” she says. “I used to do it. And then I was told not to do it because it made me stand out and the bull sharks noticed. Well, I thought that was fine, but apparently it isn’t. “The shark game, played on Mountainfilm before it is available for streaming on National Geographic, follows the many twists and turns of Taylor’s career from champion spearfishing to seedy open-water shark diver and filmmaker. She has lived most of her life as a staunch advocate for understanding sharks without fear of them. “There are hundreds of species of shark in the ocean,” she says at one point. “Maybe five or six are potentially dangerous.” The documentary makes a good case that you can take your word for it; There is almost no one in the world who has spent so much time with him these Creatures.

“To bury”

buried-film-inline_h.jpg(Photo: Courtesy Mountainfilm)

In the 1980s, California’s Alpine Meadows ski resort had one of the most advanced avalanche safety programs in the country, thanks to avalanche forecaster Jim Plehn and loads of explosives. But by March 31, 1982 it had a series of spring snowstorms Creating the conditions for the worst tragedy in the resort’s history. At 5 p.m. that day, a massive avalanche hit the parking lot, destroyed buildings at the base and killed seven people. Directors Jared Drake and Steven Siig live in Alpine Meadows and in Buried (premiered on Mountainfilm) they re-enact the disaster by interviewing locals who were part of the five-day search for the avalanche. Many Alpine Meadows employees already knew the area was a high risk. As Lanny Johnson, a former ski patrol, says, “There is nowhere in the world where you can work as an avalanche-related ski patrol that is more dangerous than Alpine Meadows.” Larry Heywood, then assistant patrol director, explains that any elevator, resort access road, base and parking lot can be affected by avalanches. Of course, the avalanche game speaks for itself. Those involved are still so affected by what they have seen that several respondents freeze in mid-sentence as they describe that day.

“The River Runner”

the-River-Runner-Inline_h.jpg(Photo: Courtesy Mountainfilm)

Scott Lindgren has achieved a lot as a professional kayaker: he has farmed some of the toughest rivers in the world (and graced an exterior cover or two). But The River Runner, which premieres at Mountainfilm, is focused on the accomplishments that stayed just out of reach. For Lindgren, that means operating all four major rivers that spring from the Tibetan Mount Kailash, a task he pursued for over 20 years, with one last river, the Indus, only remaining inaccessible. But the film is also about Lindgren’s frightening 2014 diagnosis of a baseball-sized brain tumor that challenged his at all costs dedicated commitment to a high-adrenaline career. In 2017, in In the run-up to an Indus experiment, his doctor wants to treat the tumor with radiation. Lindgren cancels all of his appointments to rush into travel planning instead, and breaks up with girlfriend Patricia, who feels helpless that either his brain tumor or kayaking could kill him. Since everything else in his life falls by the wayside, the feel-good character of the rest of the film depends on whether Lindgren succeeds in his Indus attempt or not. But what intrigues The River Runner is its honest portrayal of the never-entirely-satisfied nature of the extreme athlete’s brain.

Main Photo: Courtesy of Mountainfilm

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