Telluride Mountainfilm is one of our favorite film festivals because it offers such a great overall experience. Are you a film buff? Of course you’ll like it. Do you want to have meaningful conversations about conservation and the refugee crisis? This is your place. Do you just wear a lot of puffy jackets? Get in your Toyota Tacoma and see what you’re missing.
Whether or not you can make it out this weekend to the 2017 festival, you can watch some great featured films, many of which will premiere there. We’re anticipating these most.
‘The Last Honey Hunter’
In Nepal, Mauli Dhan Rai climbs rope ladders up cliffs to collect poisonous honey from the world’s largest honeybee. Who doesn’t want to watch that? Plus, it’s directed by Ben Knight, who you probably know from Denali, DamNation, and a great many fish-related films.
‘Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey’
If you know climbing, you know Fred Beckey, the now nonagenarian legend who’s both a controversial figure and veritable encyclopedia of the sport. Director Dave O’Leske spent ten years making the film—watching the trailer, you may gather that it has something to do with Beck’s independent and ornery nature. (Expect many variations of, “I don’t care.”)
“Fewer people have been up Lunag Ri than have been on the moon,” says Conrad Anker in the most romantic description of a first ascent we’ve heard in a while. In this documentary, the 54-year-old mountaineer and 26-year-old Austrian sport climber David Lama attempt the 22,661-foot peak together. You may remember the emergency that befell their trip, but you’ll also see Lama’s return to his fatherland (his Nepalese father trained as a trekking guide here) and Anker’s signature mentorship storyline, which never really gets old.
‘Freedom of the Wheels: For Matt and Will Every Adventure Is a No Brainer’
Pro climbers Matt Segal and Will Stanhope have created another labor-intensive buddy comedy to follow Boys in the Bugs, which made the rounds in festivals earlier this year. This one’s brand new and it takes place on a scooter. Specifically, Segal and Stanhope riding tandem on a scooter for 200 miles to Aspen, Colorado, as an homage to Dumb and Dumber. Our expert analysis predicts that the goofiness of Boys in the Bugs will pale in comparison to this.
You might know Midway Island as the remote piece of land in the North Pacific Ocean that’s become an accidental garbage dump. And you might know Chris Jordan as the creator of a disturbing series of photos showing dead seabirds on the island, their stomachs cut open to reveal a tangle of plastic items. Together, they make for a unique take on the nature documentary. Jordan spent several years traveling to the island to film the tens of thousands of albatross that have died on the island.
Director Cedar Wright spends a lot of time with Alex Honnold, as many will remember from his Sufferfest series. In Safety Third he spends some time with another astonishingly talented free soloist, Brad Gobright—who has, in fact, been compared to Honnold. The 30-minute edit draws attention to an underrecognized climbing star (with accompanying dirtbag lifestyle quirks, like a diet of sprinkled donuts and scraps from work) and should be crammed with as much humor as any of Cedar Wright’s film.
‘A Field Guide to Losing Your Friends’
This documentary has a devastating start: Tyler Dunning loses his best friend to terror-related bombings in Uganda in 2010. But things take a hopeful turn when Dunning sets out to visit all 59 U.S. national parks, hoping to find a way to cope. The mission isn’t entirely original, but the parks really do provide touching backdrops for a tough narrative on dealing with grief.
Gregory Crichlow is a striking character, not only for the fact that he’s always seen wearing a bow tie but also for his commitment to the bikers of Denver, Colorado's Five Points neighborhood—a historically black and Hispanic neighborhood in the midst of gentrification. Chocolate Spokes is a look at Crichlow’s bike shop of the same name. It is both character study and meditation on the role one custom bike store can play in a community. The director, multihyphenate Brendan Leonard, continues his record of bringing endearing amounts of enthusiasm to any subject he tackles.
‘No Man’s Land’
No Man’s Land takes on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation just a year after the fact, which could explain why director David Byars makes a point of keeping things “rigorously nonjudgmental.” We’re eager to see how the Mountainfilm grant-winner tackles the much-discussed events.
‘HAFE: The Story Behind’
The syndrome known as HAFE is an anomaly in the field of emergency medicine—a high-altitude stomach problem with symptoms that sound so tongue-in-cheek, it’s surprising that the Western Journal of Medicine published a serious study about it in 1981. Similarly, HAFE: The Story Behind is a bit of a wildcard at Telluride—six minutes of strange, silly fun. All you need to know of the plot: two medical school grads take a trip into Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and make a very unexpected discovery that we won't spoil here.