Telluride MountainFilm Festival Kicks Off: 6 Must-See Movies

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No better place to be on Memorial Day weekend. Photo: MountainFilm

Telluride MountainFilm Festival kicks off today— always one of the best reasons to decamp to this gorgeous box canyon in southern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. The schedule’s packed with outdoor screenings, panel discussions, power breakfasts with a who’s-who of adventure icons, and a Memorial Day wrap-up picnic. (Not to mention some of the most inspiring environmental, cultural and action flicks of the year, including heart-thumping footage from the usual suspects: Dean Potter, Andy Lewis, aka, “Sketchy Andy,” and Jimmy Chin.)

But adrenaline’s not the only thing on the agenda. Mountainfilm gives lots of love to quieter—though no less aspirational—outdoor pursuits, from a guy who lives his life on his bike to a backcountry nursery school in Scotland to the story of teenage girl ski jumpers and youth activists who are suing the government for global warming and the kid-friendly animated eco-shorts “Do Unto Otter” and “Hi! I’m a Nutria.” Here are our top five picks for the must-see sleepers of the long weekend:

Into the Middle of Nowhere
Ever dream of sending your kid to a preschool where instead of shiny plastic toys, piles of logs and sticks, dirt to dig in, fresh air, and wild imaginations are the only tools little ones need for learning? Director Anna Ewart gives us an evocative, 15-minute look into the Secret Garden Outdoor Nursery, a non-profit nature school in Scotland, where the woods and fields are the classroom and baby rippers are born.

Dudes in spray skirts and playboats hucking huge waterfalls are de rigeur at most outdoor film festivals. So it’s a welcome change of pace to watch two young women (indie filmmakers Liberty Smith and Sophie Clive, of Islands & Rivers) canoeing a mellow stretch of flat water on Ireland’s River Shannon, where their only drama is witnessing a gathering of starlings so phenomenal and surreal that it's almost poetry in motion. Last year, their simple, two-minute film, Murmuration, went viral, inspiring them to create Island is a longer, yet equally compelling, tribute to their unforgettable paddling adventure.

Ready to Fly
With amazing talent and precocious drive, Lindsey Van was a ski-jumping phenomenon as a young girl, resolved to compete in the Olympics. The only hitch? Women’s ski jumping wasn’t an Olympic sport. Ready to Fly follows Van, her U.S. teammates and their families and supporters in their years-long battle to challenge the International Olympic Committee to get the sport on the Olympic roster, proving that age doesn’t matter—tenacity does.

Trust: Youth Sue the Government
When we first met 17-year-old Alec Loorz last fall, he and several other youth activists had just filed suit against the federal government for failing to take action on climate change. This six-minute short is a persuasive call to arms for young people everywhere—the generation that’s inheriting a too-warm world. 

Wild Love: Jake Norton and Wende Valentine
What’s at the core of why we go outside? Love—love for adventure, for wilderness, and for each other. That’s the premise behind the Wild Love project, a website and production company that documents a love for all things wild and natural, as told through the lives of outdoor athletes and adventurers (also starring in Wild Love: climber Timmy O'Neill). This seven-minute episode features Jake Norton, a renowned alpinist, who earlier this week shelved his plans to climb the West Ridge of Mount Everest, and his wife, Wende Valentine, who works with the global non-profit Water For People. The film explores the challenges and rewards of living a high-risk adventurous life while raising two young children.

Living Tiny
File this under “less is more:” Living Tiny takes you on a tour of a small but growing contingent of minimalists who are chucking the American dream and downsizing into houses less than 200 square feet in size. Liberated from their stuff and the dominant consumer culture, they’re free to live simply in their micro homes. Dare to dream small!

Telluride MountainFilm Festival,

—Katie Arnold

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