Mountainfilm on Tour Brings Inspirational Telluride Festival to Southampton
By Michelle Trauring
Watching as many documentaries as she can at Telluride’s annual Mountainfilm festival isn’t enough for Elyn Kronemeyer.
“I probably watch at least eight to 10 hours of films a day, and then I stand in line and I talk to everybody I meet about every film that they’ve seen,” the Water Mill resident laughed. “My daughters both come, and we sometimes divide and conquer to see as many as possible.”
This has been a tradition for the last seven years — one that she immediately dreamt of bringing to Southampton and, in 2015, finally became a reality.
Keeping in line with Mountainfilm’s mission, which is “using the power of film, art and ideas to inspire audiences to create a better world,” Ms. Kronemeyer selected 16 films to screen on Friday and Saturday at the Southampton Arts Center.
She suspects they will each resonate with the East End in some way, even though they often explore topics and lands a world away — from rehabilitating turtles in Canada and seed saving in Norway to free-skiing across glaciers in France and exploring science with Neil deGrasse Tyson, which made Kronemeyer want to stand up in the theater and cheer, she said.
“[This is not] the country I remember growing up in, not that we didn’t have challenges,” deGrasse Tyson says in the film, “Science in America.” “I’m old enough to remember the ’60s and ’70s, we had a hot war and a cold war, the civil rights movement, all of this was going on. But I don’t remember any time where people were standing in denial of what science was.”
Political and environmental issues ripple throughout the two-day festival, most notably in “American Psychosis,” which explores the concept of totalitarianism — and features scenes from a Fourth of July parade in Southampton — and most timely in “Adaptation Bangladesh,” following flood devastation that left a third of the country underwater, affecting 8.6 million people.
“This year, when I’m looking at this program, I’m thinking, ‘Hmm, if they’re coming to see all skiing films, this isn’t gonna be what they see,’” Kronemeyer said. “But I still think they’re going to be very jazzed by these films. I think it’s really important. It’s one place you can go and see films that really make you think. They can be inspiring, they can be informative, sometimes they’re depressing. Some aspects of life are depressing.”
But the majority are uplifting and inspiring, she said, including “Ascend,” which follows the story of Jon Wilson, who had his left leg fully amputated following a rare cancer diagnosis. It wasn’t a death sentence for him, or his favorite pastime: mountain biking.
“It’s really a story about resilience and the human spirit and giving a message to all of us to get out there and do what we want to do and make the most of our lives, no matter what the roadblocks are,” Kronemeyer said.
At the heart of each film are their subjects, Kronemeyer said. Organic famer Will Harris in “One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts” is her personal favorite, though the young boy in “Zain’s Summer” reduced her to tears.
“It’s about this amazing Pakistani boy who arrives in America, can’t speak a word of English, and he goes to this six-week-long summer language program in New York,” she said. “He just, he comes out a shining star. That’s a feel-good film. That’s a really good one.
“What’s been so incredible is, this film festival has brought people together who didn’t know they were all interested in so many similar things, whether it be charter schools in inner cities or Africa or mountain biking or the environment,” she added. “It’s amazed me how many people have come up and thanked me or said, ‘Wow, this is so inspiring’—people I never would have thought would be interested. To me, it’s opened up the heart of Southampton a bit.”
Mountainfilm on Tour will kick off with a slate of short films pertaining to land and nature on Friday, September 15, at 7 p.m. at the Southampton Arts Center. The festival will continue on Saturday, September 16, with a family program at 1 p.m., a filmmaker’s party from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by a selection of short films about inspiring people. Tickets for each night are $15. Admission to the party is $75, or $45 for age 35 and under, which includes entry to Saturday night’s films. The Family Film program is $5, and a student film program will be held on Friday at 1 p.m. at the Southampton High School, which is free and open to the public.
For more information, visit southamptonartscenter.org.