Wasatch Mountain Film Festival announces winners
Festival goers participate in a screening question-and-answer panel. (Stuart Derman)
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Cottonwood Heights area ski resorts hosted the third annual Wasatch Mountain Film Festival June 19 through 24. The festival is a production of Utah-based nonprofit Wasatch Mountain Arts, started in 2014 by two University of Utah students, Stuart Derman and Shane Baldwin. The festival screens documentaries focusing on outdoor recreation.
According to Derman, co-founder and festival chairman, “The idea for the festival came about because Shane and I saw other mountain film festivals like Banff and Telluride Mountain Film (festivals) come on tour to Salt Lake City, but realized that, despite their high popularity, Utah did not have its own mountain film festival.” Now, having just completed its third year, the event has grown significantly, from a couple hundred attendees in its first year to more than 3,000 this year.
Derman says this year’s festival had a total of “61 films, 13 screening blocks, 3000 attendees from 23 states and 40 special guests (professional outdoor athletes and filmmakers).” Some showings sold out, indicating the growing interest in the film festival. The films, featuring topics ranging from skiing to paragliding, were shown at locations in Salt Lake City and Sandy and at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. The opening night gala was held in Park City.
The film festival is Wasatch Mountain Arts’ first major program and the founders are seeking to expand. This year, the festival paired with Utah’s Adventure Week, which allowed festival goers to participate in a number of activities, clinics and events emphasizing outdoor recreation, in addition to watching films.
This year’s festival attracted author Greg Mortenson, who attended the screening of “3000 Cups of Tea.” The film focuses on the controversy surrounding Mortenson’s alleged inaccuracies in his book “Three Cups of Tea” and its sequel “Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Education in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” and his financial dealings with the Central Asia Institute.
Winners of the five-day event were announced at the Cliff Lodge at the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. Capturing the other top award for Feature Film was “Paul’s Boots,” a documentary produced in conjunction with outdoor retailer REI. The documentary is about a man who prepared for his dream trip of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail but had a heart attack before he could start the journey. Hundreds of people in the outdoor community volunteered to help his widow to fulfill his dream by carrying his boots the entire length of the 2190-mile trail.
The People’s Choice Award and the Shane McConkey Award went to the film “Dodo’s Delight,” a documentary about climbers sailing and singing their way through the Arctic.
Other winning laurels included the Cinematography Award for “Holy”; Environmental Awareness Award to “Monumental”; and the Social Awareness Award to “My Hero Brother.” The George Mallory Award was given posthumously to Ueli Steck, a Swiss mountain climber who recently passed away on Mount Everest. According to the film festival, the award was “created in honor of the great explorer George Mallory. This award is given to an individual who has consistently worked to push the boundaries of exploration and adventure.”
Due to the festival’s limited screening capacity, this year’s festival included a “virtual only” selection of films that were unable to be screened in-person. Each of these films will be available online through the festival’s website portal to both full festival pass holders and virtual attendees. Virtual attendee passes go on sale soon at http://www.wasatchfilmfestival.org/
Festival promoters are already planning 2018’s festival. “Each year our goal is to grow the program exponentially. Next year, attendees can expect about the same number of films, but more people, more giveaways and more special guests,” said Derman.