Tuesday, October 18, 2011

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"Mountain Climbing, Micro-Brews, and Mandolins"

My year is joyfully punctuated by a few choice events around the country: an international adventure with Mama Chihuahua, dressing up in feathers and sequins for Santa Barbara's raucous, pagan Carnival-like Summer Solstice Celebration in June, venturing back to Southern Indiana in the late summer to commune with friends and family, and a return to Arizona for the Flagstaff Film Festival in the delicious month of Aspen-turning October.

There are quite a few good reasons to go to the Film Festival (like the fact that it's one of the few places you can drink wine and watch a documentary on base jumping in the Arctic and then hob nob with some of the country's best photographers and documentary filmmakers over fajitas and a local micro-brew).

Mostly I go because the Flag Mountain Film Festival simply ROCKS.

As a few of my close friends know, it's been a challenging year in a few respects (and very fortunate in many ways as well) and this recent trip to Arizona was a tonic for my heart and spirit.

Over the years (and by virtue of the sheer number of hours we've spent in the theatre eagerly absorbing every adventure documentary we can) Mom and I have become friends with three of the festival directors--Ron Tuckman, John Tveten, and Kristi Frazier--all of whom are accomplished peeps and travelers in their own right. I only get to see my Flagstaff friends once a year but it feels like a community I slip right into effortlessly and with great affection!

This past year I had the great privilege of singing and playing my ukulele (pushing my comfort zone a little with my new instrument!) with John's band "Spontaneous Combustion." You know there are few film festivals which offer both the quality of documentaries you would expect to see at Telluride and Banff Film Festivals... as well as feature musical events where you can see the festival directors doing their music thang on stage in the after-hours. Late Friday night at one of the festival events, director John Tveten's band "Spontaneous Combustion" (Tom O'Hara on guitar/vocals and James Frazier on bass) took the stage...with exec director Ron Tuckman playing harmonica and visiting filmmaker Peter McBride (see his film below) on mandolin. The band lived up to its name that night. :)

That's truly the thing that I love about music. Wherever I go in the world, I seem to find a community of brothers and sister among fellow musicians. We're the underdog artists who have been infected with a total love for playing and celebrating music in as many ways possible during our short time here on earth. And music is a bit like dancing, it's a heck of a lot more fun to do with other people.

In short, it was a pretty good dang week. I had the blessed opportunity to play music, hang out with some truly cool folks, watch a few very powerful films about happiness, adventure, and our responsibilities as world citizens.

Mostly, it was a good reminder that I'm on the right path...that this life I've chosen as a writer, photographer, musician and adventurer is the right one. And that as long as I continue to follow the pursuits which bring me joy, I can't go too wrong. :)

After many hours spent in the theatre during the festival, Mom and I both agreed there were four top films for us this year. I recommend checking them all out when they come out in DVD, if they come to a town near you, or if they're available in the near future online:

"Family Of The Wa'a"
USA, 2011, 81 min.
Director: Alyssa Fedele
Producer: David Cumming
This one was an "11" for me. A truly beautiful tribute to the cultural and spiritual legacy of outrigger canoeing in Hawai'i. Hawaiian mover and shaker Kimokeo Kapahulehua sets out to fulfill his uncle's lifelong dream: to paddle the length of the Hawaiian islands via outrigger canoe. Beautifully shot and powerful cultural story for anyone who has felt a connection to the water or to the Pacific Island Culture.

"Chasing Water"
USA, 2011, 19 min.
Director/Producer: Peter McBride
Photojournalist and Colorado Native goes on a personal journey documenting the flow of the Colorado River from source to where it should run into the Sea of Cortez, but sadly no longer reaches. Beautifully edited and paced, the movie combines McBride's still photography along with video clips in a seamless tribute to one of the West's greatest arteries.

Watch the Trailer for "Cold" at Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/23336972

USA, 2011, 20 min.
Director: Anson Fogel
Producers: Julie Kennedy and David Burden
Okay, so I've seen A LOT of climbing and mountaineering docs over the years but this is the first one I've seen to truly address the morbid inner monologue of a climber attempting an 8,000 meter peak (from the point of view of American Climber Cory Richards in a bid with two others to be the first to summit one of Pakistan's giants mid-winter). So often climbing movies glorify and sugarcoat the experiences of climbers merely touching on the sheer misery of cold temperatures, hypoxia, and numbness that dogs climbers minute by minute.

USA, 2011, 80 min.
Director: Roko Belic
Producers: Eiji Han Shimizu and Frances Reid
Feature-length documentary that leads views on a journey across five continents in search of the keys to happiness. Definitely makes you think about what you're doing in your life to cultivate more of that much sought after Vitamin-H! ;)