A “Downton Abbey” character recently sneered about the outdoors: “That’s the thing about nature: There’s so much of it.” MountainFilm, a film festival started in Telluride, Colo., in 1979, is designed for those with a warmer outlook on the great outdoors.
The festival began simply as evening of entertainment for climbers working their way up the rocks around Telluride by day. In the years since, it has expanded and brought in filmmakers and artists who also work as environmentalists, activists, explorers and daredevils. The themes of the films shown at MountainFilm tend to be environmental in nature with the goal of inspiring viewers.
For the second year, a selection of MountainFilm entries will screen in Houston Friday and Saturday at the Asia Society as part of an international tour. Here are a few of the films and shorts that will be shown.
“Chasing Ice”: James Balog is a photographer whose breathtaking work has long appeared in National Geographic. In “Chasing Ice,” a film crew follows him to Montana, Alaska, Iceland and Greenland where he installs 24 time-lapse cameras to document the erosion of major glaciers. Referring to the glaciers as “the canary in the global coal mine,” Balog hopes to provide visual proof of climate change. The visuals — both Balog’s photography and director Jeff Orlowski’s film — are beautiful throughout, though Balog’s photo records also are distressing, particularly when one glacier melts so quickly that repeated camera movement is required to document its recession. Balog calls his documentation “memory of a landscape that will never be seen again.” Composer J. Ralph’s music also earned the film an Academy Award nomination. The song “Before My Time,” which is sung by Scarlett Johansson, is up for best original song.
“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”: First-time director Alison Klayman has created a portrait of the uncompromising Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, whose criticism of the Chinese government over human-rights issues has, on multiple occasions, cost him his freedom.
“My Toxic Reality”: This short follows Hilton Kelley, a Port Arthur native who worked in Los Angeles as an actor and stunt man for nearly 20 years before coming home to fight industrial pollution through his organization Community in Power and Development.
“Baseball in the Time of Cholera”: This short film shows some of the healing effects baseball has had on Haitian culture following the devastating 2011 earthquake.
“Right to Play”: Director Frank Marshall’s film follows Johann Olav Koss, a gold-medal-winning Olympic speed skater from Norway who runs an international humanitarian agency. The film follows Koss as he assists children in refugee camps in Uganda.
A full list of films playing in Houston can be found at www.mountainfilm.org.
When: 7-11:30 p.m. Friday and 6-11:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Asia Society, 1370 Southmore; Tickets: $35 per day or $60 for both.