As the name implies, there are plenty of mountains at the heart of the annual Telluride Mountainfilm series, which was founded 30 years ago and was first brought on tour to UCSB in 2007. But the collection of short films also sheds insight into the changing state of documentaries, with this year’s slate revealing a trend toward slick graphics, jumpy-but-crystal-clear hi-def camera work, and creative means of telling tales that might not otherwise be so compelling. In addition, most of the six films—which show at Campbell Hall on Tuesday, October 26—depict heartfelt journeys into some of the world’s odder places. What follow are brief descriptions of each flick, and all get The Indy’s stamp of approval as being worth your attention.
11 Degrees (8 mins.)
Grab your skis and head for—wait, Scotland?!? Who knew that the land of whiskey and shepherds was also home to a certified ski resort, albeit one battling the sunnier, snowless effects of global warming. Shot in an artistic, occasionally still-life fashion and following the travails of the resort’s lonely manager, 11 Degrees highlights a land and culture in flux, complete with ice trails through the Highlands.
As It Happens (16 mins.)
Concerned that documentaries usually represent a version of events not exactly tied to the way things went down, climbers Renan Ozturk and Corey Bradshaw tackled Nepal’s skyscraping Tawoche Himal peak in 2010 while blogging about it in real-time. This film is the chronicle of that experimental experience, which involved solar-powered satellite feeds, Tibetan traders, Kathmandu craziness, cracked cameras, frightening lack of mid-mountain water, and tasty tuna-in-a-bag.
Eastern Rises (37 mins.)
By far the standout selection in this year’s slate for everything from deep travel and wilderness feel to poignant story development and cutting-edge filmmaking, Eastern Rises is not your run-of-the-mill fly-fishing story. It traces the journey of American fishermen to the heart of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, the most untouched place on the planet and generally unexplored mecca for trout fishermen. Along the way, our two main protagonists search for Sasquatch, monster fish, and serenity, also finding vodka, grizzlies, and old-school choppers in their path. The entire evening is worth attending for just this film alone.
Facing the Waves (15 mins.)
A few years ago, the Von Dutch brand became a style all its own, and this is a rough, in-your-face look at the rough, in-your-face entrepreneur who helped make that happen: Bobby Vaughn, a tattoo-sporting, surfing former gangbanger from L.A. who was charged and cleared in the murder of his best friend and then moved to Rockaway Park in New York City to start a new brand called FTW, which stands for any number of mottos. It’s a story about rising up from a bad life start, and it leaves you wanting to know more.
Nico’s Challenge (15 mins.)
Nico Calabria is a particularly articulate 13-year-old, and a rather brave one, too. He and his dad decided to embrace the teenager’s initiation into manhood with an expedition for the ages: a climb up Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro. One other thing: Nico was born with only one leg. So with the summit and a fundraising quest to buy tons of wheelchairs as their goal, the father-son team embarks on a life-changing quest that forces a boy to make adult decisions and tallies some pretty cool nature footage, too. It is easily the most inspiring entry this year.
Point of No Return (25 mins.)
[SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t know how this movie ends, don’t read UCSB’s description or search the Web for the info. The surprises make it all the more compelling.] For Boulder, Colorado, expert climbers Jonny Copp and Micah Dash, far western China’s 22,368-foot Mt. Edgar—only summitted by two-dozen people, none of whom did it from the eastern slopes—dominated their psyches for too long, so they took off with cameraman Wade Johnson to bag the peak and calm their needs. The film that ensues is a testament to patience, dedication, training, friendship, community, and knowing when to say when. And even then, sometimes you have indeed already passed the point of no return, whether you know it or not.
Arts and Lectures brings the Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour series to UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Tuesday, October 26, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 for UCSB students and people 18 and under, and $10 for everyone else. Call 893-3535 or see artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.