Even if you can’t see these premieres in person at Mountainfilm, watch out for them in the coming year.
Even if you can’t see these premieres in person at Mountainfilm, watch out for them in the coming year. (Photo: Telluride Mountainfilm)

Your Guide to Telluride Mountainfilm 2019

Everything we're keeping an eye on at the Colorado festival and beyond

Even if you can’t see these premieres in person at Mountainfilm, watch out for them in the coming year.

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Mountainfilm, the Memorial Day festival at Telluride that’s been running since 1979, is a glut of movies, conversations, parties, and more. This year’s theme is equity, so many of the films, daily coffee talks, and lectures will touch on topics like racism in land-use policy and equality in mountaineering. The mix of activities can be overwhelming, so we’ve decided to give you a schedule to maximize your time here over the long weekend. If you’re not going to the festival, keep an eye on all of these films and names, because they’re on the leading edge of the film-festival circuit.


9:30 A.M. Wild Shorts

Ease into festival life with a batch of short films about people’s relationships with wild animals, including the world premiere of The Wild Inside, which shows what Arizona State Prison’s Wild Horse Inmate Program does for the animals and the inmates.

1:30 P.M. ‘When I Look Back,’ ‘Feel of Vision,’ ‘Ascending Afghanistan’

These three films show how action sports can bridge different communities, from Afghanistan’s first female mountaineers to a kayaker who lost his eyesight. Plus the premiere of When I Look Back, a subtly beautiful film about mountain-biking connections through a group of friends.

3:30 P.M. Gallery Walk

Scope Sarah Uhl and Anna Brones’s interactive exhibit “In Our Hands,” which is about the ripple effect of actions. Then look at Oskar Enander’s starkly beautiful ski photos, and check out Douglas Miles Sr.’s images, which crosshatch modern street art and traditional Apache art—as he says, “fusing the traumas of the past, the resilience of the present, and the hope of the future.”

6 P.M. Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison

Nelson, a 2018 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and all-around mountain badass, and her partner, Morrison, will discuss their past few years of pioneering ski adventures, including a first ski descent of Lhotse. It’s followed by a showing of Queen Maud Landwhich follows Conrad Anker, Alex Honnold, and Jimmy Chin on a trip to Antarctica.

8:45 P.M. ‘Life of Pie,’ ‘The Weight of Water’

We’ve written about these films before, both of which just won awards at the 5Point Film Festival, but here’s another reminder that they are very worth your time. The joyful, funny, slightly subversive Life of Pie introduces us to the gay couple who run the Hot Tomato pizza place in the mountain-bike mecca of Fruita, Colorado. The Weight of Water follows two blind kayakers on an intense journey through the Grand Canyon.


8 A.M. Coffee Talks

Take your pick of panels on various modern-day subjects, ranging from justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the outdoors to the problems with charity work in Nepal.

9 A.M. Adventure Shorts

Adrenaline eye candy with some intellectual bite, from a film about finding climbing in Memphis, Tennessee, to one about ultrarunner Rob Krar’s ongoing battle with depression—and how he uses running as a coping method.

12 P.M. Doug Peacock and ‘Grizzly Country’

Peacock would be fascinating if he were just the inspiration for Ed Abbey’s monkeywrenching Hayduke, but he’s also a longtime grizzly-bear chronicler and advocate, as well as a hardcore conservationist. He’ll speak and show the film Grizzly Country, which is about his transition from a Green Beret in Vietnam to a bear lover the wilds of northern Montana.

2 P.M. Ice Cream Social or a Run/Ride

Whatever gets your sitting-in-a-theater-all-day ya-yas out.

3:30 P.M. ‘King of the Manhattan Lap,’ ‘Finding Home in Boomtown’

We love a good boondoggle urban adventure, and King of the Manhattan Lap, which chronicles Kenny Unser’s kayak laps around the city, is just that. It’s paired with Finding Home in Boomtown, about John-Mark Echols, who built a tiny home village for chronically homeless folks in the boom-and-bust town of Midland, Texas.

5 P.M. Happy Hour and a Half

Probably time for a beverage, huh?

6:30 P.M. ‘Spectre Expedition,’ ‘Ice and Palms,’ ‘Surface’

Here’s your dose of nail-biting adventures. Go to the most remote mountain on earth in the U.S. premiere of Spectre Expedition, bikepack looking for ski lines in Ice and Palms, and try to find the perfect compression of waves, weather, and views in Surface.

9 P.M. ‘Akuna,’ ‘Fire on the Hill’

These two films touch on who has access to the outdoor space and why. Will Robinson, whose trail name is Akuna, got on the Appalachian Trail to fight PTSD, and the urban cowboys of Compton, California, break down myths of the wild West.


8 A.M. Coffee Talks

Again, a plethora of options, but we would probably hit the Native Voices in Conservation session, where some of the most interesting people working in land management and conservation will talk about why it’s important to bring in Native perspective.

9:15 A.M. ‘The River and the Wall,’ ‘Wave Hands Like Clouds’

The River and the Wall is an incredibly well-balanced look at what a wall would do to the ecosystem and culture of the U.S.-Mexico border, and Wave Hands Like Clouds gets into the physical and emotional balance of highlining.

12:30 P.M. ‘Grit,’ ‘Earth on Fire’

Two films that take a beautiful look at the toll, human and otherwise, of large-scale natural disasters.

3:15 P.M. ‘Bonington: Mountaineer’

Pioneering British mountaineer Sir Chris Bonnington will be on hand for the U.S. premiere of the film that catalogs his climbs, and he’ll tell stories about first ascents in the Alps and Himalayas during the wild-man days of the sixties and seventies.

6 P.M. Adrenaline Program

Shorties about and by some of the most impressive adrenaline junkies out there, including grown-up wunderkind kayaker Dane Jackson, potentially crazy mountain biker Casey Brown, and always beloved clown Shane McConkey.

9 P.M. ‘Artifishal,’ ‘Hunting the Helmeted Hornbill’

Two stories about the drive to conserve endangered species. Both ask tricky questions about why we get attached to species, how we can protect them, and what we stand to lose if they disappear.

Lead Photo: Telluride Mountainfilm