Mountainfilm: From Humble Beginnings to a Global Film Festival


Photo by Lauren Ellis

Telluride’s “Mountainfilm” is not just your average film festival: it is a celebration of the human spirit, adventure, and the power of storytelling. What started as a small gathering of climbers and outdoor enthusiasts in 1979 has transformed into an internationally renowned event that attracts filmmakers, activists, and artists from all corners of the world.

The story of Telluride’s “Mountainfilm” began in the late 1970s when climber and filmmaker Michael Brown organized a small film festival in Telluride, Colorado. The original purpose of the event was to showcase climbing documentaries and outdoor adventure films to a small group of enthusiasts. The festival’s intimate setting and focus on outdoor pursuits quickly earned it a dedicated following. It became a gathering place for like-minded individuals who shared a passion for exploration, nature, and the power of visual storytelling.

Over the years, Telluride’s “Mountainfilm” outgrew its niche as a climbing-focused event and expanded its horizons. As the festival gained recognition, it started to attract a wider range of filmmakers and films with diverse subject matters. From documentaries about environmental issues and social justice to tales of artistic endeavors and personal triumphs, the festival broadened its scope to encompass a variety of genres and themes.

This expansion not only attracted a more diverse audience but also facilitated important conversations and inspired action beyond the realm of outdoor adventure. The films became a catalyst for change, sparking discussions on pressing global issues and promoting a deeper understanding of the world we inhabit.

What sets Telluride’s “Mountainfilm” apart from other film festivals is its commitment to storytelling that goes beyond entertainment. The festival strives to showcase films that are not only visually stunning but also thought-provoking and transformative. Each film selected for the program possesses a powerful narrative that resonates with the audience long after the credits roll.

Moreover, Telluride’s “Mountainfilm” goes beyond the cinema halls. The festival incorporates interactive panel discussions, workshops, and presentations by filmmakers and experts. These supplementary events encourage engagement and foster a sense of community, as attendees connect with the creators and each other, discussing the issues raised in the films and brainstorming ways to make a positive impact.

As Telluride’s “Mountainfilm” has grown in prominence, its influence has extended far beyond the picturesque town of Telluride. The festival has established partnerships with international organizations, bringing attention to important global causes. This year in particular, the festival was sponsored by big brands such as The NorthFace, YETI, and Osprey to celebrate its 45th festival. It has also spawned offshoot events, including touring shows and community screenings, which make the festival accessible to a broader audience worldwide. 

Through its films and associated initiatives, Telluride’s “Mountainfilm” has become a powerful agent of change, advocating for environmental sustainability, social justice, and cultural understanding. It has inspired countless individuals to take action, whether through supporting local initiatives or raising awareness on a global scale.

Telluride’s “Mountainfilm” has come a long way from its humble beginnings. It has evolved into a transformative film festival that unites people from different backgrounds, educates, entertains, and sparks meaningful conversations. As it continues to grow and expand its global reach, it remains dedicated to its core values: celebrating the human spirit, promoting adventure, and harnessing the power of storytelling for positive change.