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Telluride Mountain Film Festival

Intense week at the Telluride Mountain Film Festival!

Wow, I feel like have to apologize for taking such a long time off from the blog! Unlike last year which afforded me lots of time by myself in the wilderness, this year I have been going from one event and/or visit to another. So over the next couple of weeks, I’ll try and get you caught up.

Telluride Mountain Film - Photo by Kerry O'Brien

After only 1 day to decompress, camped north of Flagstaff I hit Telluride ground running as a volunteer for the Mountain Film Festival. Intense week of friends, films and LOTS of input. My head exploded. The highlight for me definitely was meeting Ben Masters, the guy behind Unbranded. Unbranded is the true story of four friends and sixteen mustangs who make an epic trip, horse packing from Mexico to Canada. Visually stunning, with lots of laughs, it also manages to convey some shocking facts about America’s wild horses and their overpopulation issues.

Kerry O'Brien and Ben Masters, Unbranded

Thank dog I made Ben’s acquaintance before the film showed. In a six hundred seat theater I was still about two hundred from getting a seat. Ben showed his big heart and enormous generosity by coming out to collect me and seat me in the front row with the crew. This gave me a unique opportunity for a great talk with producer Dennis Aig, Director of the School of Film and Photography at Montana State University and its MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking.

Not surprisingly, Unbranded won the Audience Favorite Award (at Hot Docs as well) and was shown again the following week, so I got to see it again, taking in all the stuff I missed the first time. Boy, there was a lot going on! It also showed again July 5th.

As far as I know it has not got distribution yet, which is a bummer since it’s a stunning film that can inspire the whole family. There is also a beautiful companion book by the same name. You can decide for yourself by viewing the trailer here: Unbranded

Telluride Mountain Film Festival-Kerry O'Brien

Though I got to see all the films I “worked” checking tickets and passes, while also enjoying my omnificent power (Urban Dictionary: having unlimited awesomeness, being all-awesome), there were dozens of great films I did not get to see. Sigh. Here’s a few of the favorites I actually did see. (Yes, cold and rainy was the order of the week.)

Racing Extinction a film by Oscar®-winner Louie Psihoyos (who also directed The Cove), is a life changer. The ominous title and shocking undercover footage is offset by hope in the things we can do to alter our course, along with amazing art and technology. Mind-blowing and encompassing, you won’t look at our world the same way. Racing Extinction was picked up by Discovery Channel who plans a theatrical run in the United States and video-on-demand release. In the Q&A, Phihoyos said it will be available to screen for free in schools. If you have kids in school, I highly recommend looking into getting a screening for your school. View the trailer here: Racing Extinction

Rolling Papers was a humorous look at the Denver Post’s award winning coverage of Colorado’s first year of legalized marijuana. Lots of laughs, but also raising questions that are mostly unanswered as Colorado (and Washington) find their way through the maze of this ground breaking legislation. Which by the way, has put to rest the hysteria about increased crime and drug addiction. DUI and criminal arrests for drug use are down. A lot. I don’t have hard stats, but I’m sure it’s put a dent in the Cartel biz as well. In addition it showed how an award winning but declining newspaper has adapted to new readership and media outlets. Did I mention funny? View the trailer here: Rolling Papers

In Afghanistan under the Taliban photography was a crime until 2001. Frame by Frame was a difficult, inspiring film about four Afghani photojournalists, three men and a woman, Farzana Wahidy, who risk their lives working to rebuild a free press in Afghanistan. Farzana has won numerous humanitarian awards for her work for women’s rights and immolation victims. I had the honor of meeting her and the other journalists. Really puts things in perspective when you meet people who are doing such difficult, heartbreaking and important work. I strongly recommend seeking out this courageous film. The trailer and screening schedule are here: Frame by Frame

There were so many fantastic films. I expect Academy Award nominations for Unbranded, Racing Extinction and Frame by Frame so see them if you can.

After the Telluride marathon the next stop is the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Loveland, CO. Stay tuned! The rig made it over Vail Pass, elevation 10,662′.

Vail Pass-Photography by Kerry O'Brien

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