The most ambitious film yet by formed-in-Telluride filmmakers Ben Knight and Travis Rummel won the top prize at Telluride Mountainfilm 2014.
DamNation, produced by Patagonia, was trademark Knight/Rummel writ large, with their Ben’s personality in particular drawing the audience into a consideration of an environmental issue, and specifically the threat to fishing streams and rivers.
Knight and Rummel won the same Audience Choice Award in 2008 for Red Gold, which similarly documented the risk to salmon runs.
Other festival hits, capturing the most votes from the audience, were Virunga, an on-the-edge-your-seat thriller documentary about the threat posed to endangered Mountain Gorillas by war and resource extraction in the Eastern Congo; An Honest Liar, about magician James “the Amazing” Randi’s lifelong crusade to expose scam artists; and Mending the Line, the story of a return by a World War II veteran to a fishing stream he first saw – but was unable to fish – as a young man in Normandy.
As is traditional, Mountainfilm put some cash behind its unofficial motto, “movies that matter,” with the $3,000 Moving Mountains Award going to Tashi and the Monk. The prize actually goes to the nonprofit featured in the film about a remarkable school and orphanage in the Himalaya in remotest India on the border with Bhutan and China. Since it costs the school $1000 per child it takes in, the money will support three students for a year. The film is an affecting story of how the school’s director, a former Buddhist monk, brings a troubled young girl into the fold by practicing compassion, despite her talent for resistance.
Tashi and the Monk also won festival’s Indomitable Spirit award.
High school students in Mountainfilm’s “Making Movies That Matter” program awarded their prize for most inspiring film to E-Team, which chronicles the daring efforts by staff at Human Rights Watch to document abuses in the most dangerous circumstances in the world’s trouble spots.
The Festival Director’s Award went to Katie Lee,a guest of the festival who appears in two of the films that were on the program. Lee, a singer and environmentalist, was one of the last people to see Glen Canyon before it was flooded, and one of the only people to see some of its archeological wonders. She is seen in DamNation, which includes the story of the Glen Canyon dam, and in Wrenched, a portrait of Edward Abbey.
Other awards went to Once Upon a Forest for cinematography and High Tension, which won the Charlie Fowler Award for best climbing film.
Once Upon a Forest is a portrait of French botanist Francis Halle, who laments the destruction and loss of the world’s great tropical forests. High Tension details the conflict experienced by Ueli Steck on a 2013 climb of Everest when a confrontation erupted between he and his partner and Sherpas who were on the route.