Thursday, August 25, 2016
The Sculptor of Damascus
In the fall of 2015, Telluride native Gabriel Lifton-Zoline was in Eastern Europe reporting on the refugee crisis. While there, he met and befriended a young Syrian refugee named Mehyar Sawas and gave him a phone to document his journey.
Over the next five months, the pair exchanged more than 164 pages of messages online. Mehyar, meanwhile, filmed his life.
The result is The Sculptor of Damascus, a poignant film that puts a powerful face on the refugee situation. In Mehyar, we discover a peaceful young man who is tortured over the abandonment of his family, who has dreams to be an artist and who seeks, more than anything, to survive.
How We choose
2016 USA / Duration: 15 mins
Directed by: Alexandria Bombach
After years of war, concrete blockades, corruption, suicide bombings and the departure of friends and family for safer countries, there are few opportunities left in Kabul, Afghanistan.
How We Choose follows several people as they grapple with the heart-wrenching decision to leave their motherland — some illegally — and start over again in a new country. The optimists who stay do so because of their desire to bring about positive change and to help create a hopeful future where suicide attacks are not part of daily life. Staying and going each present much to be lost, as well as gained.
50 Feet rom syria
2015 USA / Duration: 39 mins
Directed by: Skye Fitzgerald
This short doc begins with a caution: “WARNING: This film contains graphic images of injuries caused by war.” And while the film is disturbing on many levels, it’s important on many more. Syria remains a vexing geopolitical problem for the world community, but this astonishing documentary isn't trying to figure out solutions. Rather, it's focus is on a Syrian-American doctor named Hisham Bismar, who leaves his comfortable practice in the U.S. to work in a Turkish hospital 50 feet from the border of Syria. The horrors he sees, and the humanity we witness, are indelible and essential.
Nascent is proof of how short films can impart big messages. It’s a simple premise: two children, a Christian boy and a Muslim girl, give their perspectives on growing up in the divided and desperately poor Central African Republic. Despite differences in their upbringings and religious backgrounds, the pair share a hopeful vision of peace that would allow them to be friends. This could have been an awkward film or, worse, a treacly one. But in the hands of director Lindsay Branham (who attended school in Telluride in 5th and 6th grade), the result is a thoughtful and powerful documentary that asks the simple question: Why can’t we all just get along?
Friday, August 26, 2016
Ace and the desert dog
Ace Kvale, a veteran photographer, and Ghengis, a blue heeler “dogger” (that’s canine for “blogger”), live together in the Utah desert. Their backyard: 2 million acres of canyons, redrock cliffs, dry washes, empty landscapes and desert wilderness.
For his 60th birthday, Kvale decided to go on a 60-day backpacking trip. Ghengis, naturally, joined him, along with friends who tagged along for sections.
Ace and the Desert Dog proves that while backpacking may not be sexy, what it lacks in glamor it makes up in meaning. Kvale and Genghis are living proof, plodding along to spectacular places only reachable by foot, following the cycles of the season and learning lasting lessons from one another. Namely: Slow down, spend as much time with your best friends as possible and don’t forget to play.
Life After water
2015 USA / Duration: 10 mins
Directed by: Andrew Ellis
Californian farmer Jesus Ramos was born in Mexico City and migrated with his family to the U.S. for a better life. He picked oranges in his youth and worked his way up to owning a 140-acre orange farm. As extreme drought wreaks havoc on the American West, Ramos finds himself on the front lines of a water shortage that threatens the future of his farm, his family and his community. Ramos’ condition mirrors that of many farmers in California’s once-fertile Central Valley. “Water — it makes life. Water disappears; the labor disappears. Water disappears; my farming disappears,” Ramos says. “Do you question your faith, your belief in God when you see these things? I try not to, but your tone changes whenever you talk to him. ‘Hey, you’re pushing a little hard, no?’”
As agricultural communities struggle while big coastal urban centers boom, farmers are cutting their losses and beginning to think about life after the fields.
She survived being thrown through her windshield in a car crash at the age of 80 and then a major stroke at the age of 85. And still, at the age of 90 years young, Yvonne Dowlen continues to ice skate almost every day. Dowlen insists it’s easier to skate than walk at her age. Her elegance on ice reflects the decades she spent traveling the world as a performer in the Ice Capades and sharing her love of dancing on ice as a teacher. Indeed, skating has helped her recover and rehabilitate from the most challenging times in her life. She spends every day pursuing what makes her happy — and that is the true wisdom in her story.
Growing up in East Baltimore surrounded by poverty and violence is hard enough, and Coffin Nachtmahr had the added challenge of being different. He stutters. He never quite fit in, and he was picked on. Then he discovered a lifeline in the unlikeliest of pursuits: yo-yoing. In the subculture of “throwers,” he found purpose, acceptance and community. Today, Coffin is the city’s best, transforming the simple activity of yo-yoing into a transfixing dance of creativity, innovation and connection.
Clinica de Migrantes
2016 USA / Duration: 40 mins
Directed by: Maxim Pozdorovkin
Puentes de Salud is a volunteer-run clinic that provides free medical care to undocumented immigrants in south Philadelphia. Here, doctors and nurses work for free to serve people who would otherwise fall through the cracks.
Clinica de Migrantes, a potent film by Maxim Pozdorovkin, follows the workers and patients of Puentes through months of routine care and growth. Along the way, the film puts a face to the millions of people who exist on the margins of society: people displaced from their homelands, separated from their families, unfamiliar with the customs, unable to obtain health insurance and terrified to come forward to seek medical help.
Along with revealing these patient stories, Clinica is also a look at the heroic doctors and nurses who work pro bono to ensure these people receive care, offering a deeply moving look at the limitless potential of humanity.
Across the Sky
Walking 500 meters — the length of nearly five football fields — is no big deal. But when you walk it on a slackline, suspended between the great towers of Utah’s Castleton Valley, like Théo Sanson did in November of 2015, it becomes a mega-feat of endurance, exposure and courage.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
2015 USA / Duration: 8 mins
Directed by: Skip Armstrong
The vision came to Krystle Wright in a dream: a bird’s-eye view of BASE jumpers in flight over a stark desert landscape. When she awoke, the adventure photographer resolved to make that vision into reality. And with that, the dream turned into an obsession — one that led her on a four-and-a-half-year journey of failed attempts, uncooperative weather, disappointments and inward examination. The Mysteries follows a tenacious, and perhaps crazy, quest to chase down an elusive image and provides a glimpse into the kind of singular passion that drives people to reach their goals, regardless of what stands in the way.
For Sandor Katz, the food writer and queer farmer who spurred the recent fermentation revival with his best-selling book The Art of Fermentation, fermentation goes beyond the sublime tastes and beneficial health effects of bread, sauerkraut, tempeh, meads and misos. The transformative action of microorganisms has also transformed his relationship with life and death.
Iceland. Proven Here
2016 USA / Duration: 12 mins
Directed by: Anson Fogel
Understanding that his life was threaded with risk, climber and BASE jumper Matt Blank embarked on a project: writing letters to his closest friends and family to let them know how much they meant to him. That way, he figured, if his life were cut short he’d leave something behind to express his affection.
What he didn’t expect was that one of the recipients — his best friend and longtime climbing partner Ian Flanders — would go first.
When We Were Knights, an elegiac film by Anson Fogel, explores friendship, partnership, adventure and the many iterations of love that give meaning to our lives.
2016 USA / Duration: 10 mins
Directed by: Vincent DeLuca
Since the inception of the Los Angeles marathon in 1986, 178 runners have completed every race. They’re called “Legacy Runners.” Johnnie Jameson is a member of this special group, but he’s not an elite runner: He’s a working man, a postal employee. But what he lacks in speed, he makes up in creativity. He ran his first marathon backward, finishing in last place. He dribbled a basketball the next year. Each race, wearing his signature Payless shoes, he stops and talks and takes his sweet time.
And over the years, the marathon has become a form of therapy for Jameson, who was scarred deeply from serving as an infantryman in Vietnam. The annual challenge of running 26.2 miles has helped him cope, grow and recover from those traumatic experiences. “It’s not about how long you out there, it’s about completing the race,” he says. “You gotta grind it out, because life ain’t nothing but a grind.”
This poignant film from Vincent DeLuca conveys a lifetime of lessons in 10 short minutes, spinning a powerful story of resilience, humor and healing.
The super salmon
2016 USA / Duration: 25 mins
Directed by: Ryan Peterson
Proponents of a plan to construct a $5.2-billion mega-dam on Alaska’s Susitna River say it wouldn’t affect the watershed’s famous salmon runs because the site would be 184 miles upstream from where fish usually swim. Tell that to Super Salmon, one particularly determined king salmon that swam more than 300 miles, dodging hungry seals from Cook Inlet to the Susitna’s icy headwaters. The Super Salmonhighlights the tale of one fish to illustrate the importance of the river to the area’s wildlife, tourism, economy and lifestyle. Told by passionate and animated Talkeetna fisherman and activist Mike Wood, the story examines the potential consequences of constructing an enormous and outdated technology to meet Alaska’s need for renewable energy.
Angel Collinson Annihilates Alaska
2015 USA / Duration: 4 mins
Directed by: Teton Gravity Research
In 2015, Angel Collinson won the award for the Best Female Freeride Performance at the International Freeskiing Film Festival. It’s not hard to see why: She’s fast, fierce and can send it with the best of them. The spines of Alaska don’t stand a chance against her.