Let’s put together an evening of short films about cool adventures like kayaking in the Mexican jungle, stunt biking in the ’burbs of Barcelona, visiting with Mongolian archers, and tracking down tiny toads in Guyana. Not enough variety, you say? How about we throw in a few carnivorous plants, a little extreme snowboarding, some hyper-technical mountain biking in the Austrian Alps, and footage of folks jumping off cliffs — without parachutes?
Next week, there’s a chance to see all this and more when Mountainfilm on Tour comes to Santa Barbara courtesy of UCSB Arts & Lectures.
Founded in 1979 by a group of climbers in a remote Colorado mining town, Mountainfilm in Telluride has become an internationally renowned festival, drawing thousands of people to the town each May and reaching over 30,000 more audience members annually through its world tour. The festival’s mission is simple: to present films of diverse mountain cultures, environments, and adventures in order to educate, motivate, and inspire audiences.
Each year, nearly 500 films are submitted, and about 75 make the final cut — a list that gets winnowed down further when the show hits the road. When it came to selecting the short list for Santa Barbara, program director Emily Long consulted with Roman Baratiak, UCSB Arts & Lectures associate director, experienced film buff, and longtime Mountainfilm fan — this is the fourth year he’s brought the tour to campus.
“I’m particularly excited about this year’s program as it features a great lineup of short films — 14 of them,” Baratiak enthused. “This promises to be the best year yet!”
Part of what makes the Santa Barbara program special is that Long will be here in person to host the evening. Her passion for these films comes through in the language she uses to describe them: She talks about “magic,” “the wow factor,” and “collective effervescence,” an anthropological term she feels describes the energy of Mountainfilm events. “You can feel the audience being lifted to the ceiling,” she explained.
Among Long’s favorite films on this program are SLOMO (2013), which raises rollerblading to spiritual levels, and The Kyrgyzstan Project (2012), a film that explores a climbing expedition gone very, very wrong.
There are also a number of kid-friendly films in the lineup, among them the animated short The Squeakiest Roar (2010) about a lion cub with a unique voice.
Those seeking serious stoke factor won’t be disappointed — it’s a high-adrenaline program. Yet there’s more to this festival than shots of epic big-wall climbs, vertiginous ridgelines, and screaming descents. Add to all that scenes of stunning natural beauty and examples of indomitable human spirit. You can expect to be seriously moved.
Mountainfilm on Tour comes to UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Wednesday, November 20, at 7:30 p.m. Call (805) 963-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu for tickets. To learn more about the festival, check out mountainfilm.org.