The Nomading Film Festival goes west

As many Gadling readers probably remember, the first ever Nomading Film Festival took place on June 11, 2011, in New York, celebrating travelers who film and not just filmmakers who travel. The debut was a huge success, with over 200 attendees coming out to enjoy feature travel films, live performances, food, drinks, games, and win over $8,000 in prizes. Now, west coast travelers and film fanatics will be able to experience this unique festival too, as NoFF goes to Portland, Oregon, on January 28.

Winter Recess, as the event is being called, will feature the same films as NoFF 2011 as well as the premier of “One Foot”, which shows NoFF co-founder Bassam Tarazi‘s journey to Everest Base Camp. Not only should you attend Winter Recess to see authentic travel films, but also for the price, as tickets are only $9 and include a round of beer. The event will take place from 12-4 PM at the McMenamins Mission Theater and will be followed by an after party that will benefit various charities, including Teen Living Charities, ProjectExplorer, 100cameras, and the Matador Youth Scholarship Fund.

To buy your ticket, click here. For a preview of what to expect, watch this video from NoFF co-founder Joshua Wolff. And don’t worry east coasters, the Nomading Film Festival will be back in New York on June 23, 2012.

10 film festivals in the United States to check out this winter

When it’s cold outside, nothing beats staying inside with a good movie. Why not make the experience even better by checking out one of these United States film festivals this winter?

Sundance Film Festival
Park City, Utah

The Sundance Film Festival began in 1978 and is now the biggest film festival in the country. This year, the event will take place from January 19-29, 2012, presenting new work from independent filmmakers from around the globe. Program categories in the competition include U.S. Documentary, U.S. Dramatic, World Cinema Documentary, World Cinema Dramatic, Shorts, and Animations. There are also non-competitive categories, which include:

  • Premiers- Some of the most highly anticipated films of the year shown before they hit theaters
  • Documentary Premiers- Powerful new films covering big topics or by master filmmakers
  • Spotlight- A showcase of films that have already been successful at other film festivals around the globe
  • NEXT- These films are hard to categorize and their creativity stretches the limited resources of the filmmaker
  • New Frontier- With a focus on experimentation, these films bring together film, art, and new media technology
  • Park City at Midnight- For hardcore film enthusiasts who don’t even notice they’ve stayed up all night watching movies
  • From the Collection- Indie films from the vault of the Sundance Collection at UCLA

For ticket information, click here.Palm Springs International Film Festival
Palm Springs, California

The 23rd annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, which will take place January 5-16, 2012, is well-known for showing the most foreign Oscar nominees as well as for having A-list celebrities in attendance. Featuring more than 200 films from over 60 countries, special events, gala receptions, and a black tie awards party are all part of the fun. And, big name stars like George Clooney, Glenn Close, and Michelle Williams will all be receiving awards.

For ticket information, click here.

Cinema on the Bayou
Lafayette, Louisiana

The 7th annual Cinema on the Bayou will take place January 25-29, 2012. In their mission statement, it states that the festival is “committed to advancing the understanding of Cajun and Creole cultures through film screenings, film panels and cultural exchanges among French Louisiana, the United States and the Francophone countries of the world”. Attendees will get the chance to sample delicious Cajun cuisine and listen to local music while watching new and innovative fiction and non-fiction films from around the globe.

While the festival is free to attend, donations are appreciated.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival
Santa Barbara, California

The 27th annual Santa Barbara Film Festival will take place January 26-February 5, 2012. This event is known for being able to pick out Academy Award Winners, and will feature award ceremonies, black tie galas, celebrity tributes, and more.

For ticket information, click here. For information on passes, click here.

Trail Dance Film Festival
Duncan, Oklahoma

The 6th annual Trail Dance Film Festival will take place January 27-28, 2012. An open-genre contest for independent filmmakers, the aim of the event is nurture creativity and ingenuity. Panels of film professionals, live entertainment, and vendors will also be part of the event, which will take place at Simmons Center and Chisholm Trail Heritage Center. On Thursday, the festival gets things going with a “Where the Beer and Buffalo Foam” Kickoff Party which will be followed by film screenings on Friday and Saturday. Award ceremonies and an After Party will take place on Saturday evening.

For ticket information, click here.

Portland International Film Festival
Portland, Oregon

The 35th annual Portland International Film Festival will take place February 9-25, 2012. This festival draws more than 35,000 attendees and showcases over 100 international shorts and feature films. Attend parties and chat with the artists while viewing some of the best indepdent films ever created.

For ticket information, click here.

Thin Line Film Festival
Denton, Texas

The 5th annual Thin Line Film Festival will take place February 15-20, 2012. This festival aims to showcase a variety of compelling and creative documentaries that are high quality and relavent. Expect dozens of films from around the world educating about important issues and causes in a vibrant and historical setting.

For ticket information, click here.

Boulder International Film Festival
Boulder, Colorado

The 8th annual Boulder International Film Festival will take place February 16-19, 2012. This festival is renowned for showcasing undiscovered shorts, feature films, and documentaries that tend to go on and do well in theaters (many have even received Oscar nominations). Guests can expect a big turnout, as well. In fact, in 2010, the festival had over 16,000 attendees.

For ticket information, click here.

Sedona International Film Festival
Sedona, Arizona

The 18th annual Sedona International Film Festival will take place this winter from February 18-26, 2012. Attendees will get the chance to see over 145 independent films including features, shorts, foreign films, documentaries, student films, animation, and more. For those who don’t want to just watch film but learn more about the craft, free workshops are offered to everyone regardless of skill level.

For ticket information, click here.

Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
Chilmark, Massachusetts

The 12th annual Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival will take place March 16-18, 2012. On their website it states that the mission of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival is “to produce community events that celebrate all genres of film and spark discussion, debate and action”. After spending his childhood watching television that gave no real contribution to society, film festival Founder and Artistic Director Thomas Bena decided to create a movement of new ideas and inspiration. For those who don’t want to wait until March for the festival, there is also a Winter Film Series on the first Saturday of each month that includes:

  • 5PM: Dinner and snacks followed by short films for children
  • 6:30PM: Live music and community dinner cooked using fresh, local ingredients
  • 7:30PM: Feature film

For ticket information, click here.

A brief history of Telluride and its surrounding ghost towns

Telluride. The name alone conjures a variety of associations, from the debaucherous (Glenn Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues”) to the elite (Tom Cruise is the other inevitable mention). But this isolated little town in Southwestern Colorado’s craggy San Juan range has a truly wild past and a lot to offer. It’s not the only mining-town-turned-ski-resort in the Rockies, but I think it’s the most well-preserved, photogenic, and in touch with its history. Apparently I’m not alone, because the town core (all three blocks of it) was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1964.

Located in a remote box canyon (waterfall included) at 8,750 feet, Telluride and its “down valley” population totals just over 2,000 people. I’ve lived in Telluride off-and-on since 2005, and there’s something to be said about a place where dogs outnumber residents, and you can’t leave home without running into people you know. Longtime residents burn out on the small town thing, but I still get a kick out of it after years of city living.

Today the former brothels of “Popcorn Alley” are ski shanties, but they’re still painted eye-catching, Crayola-bright colors, and the old ice house is a much-loved French country restaurant. Early fall is a great time to visit because the weather is usually mild, the aspens are turning, and there’s the acclaimed Telluride Film Fest, brutal Imogene Pass Run (Sept. 10) and Blues & Brews Festival (Sept. 16-18) to look forward to. The summer hordes are gone, but the deathly quiet of the October/early-November off-season hasn’t begun.

According to the Telluride Historical Museum, the town was established in 1878. It was originally called Columbia, and had a reputation as a rough-and-tumble mining town following the opening of the Sheridan Mine in the mid-1870’s. The mine proved to be rich in gold, silver, zinc, lead, copper, and iron, and with the 1890 arrival of the Rio Grande Southern railroad, Telluride grew into a full-fledged boomtown of 5,000. Immigrants–primarily from Scandinavia, Italy, France, Germany, Cornwall, and China–arrived in droves to seek their fortunes. Many succumbed to disease or occupational mishaps; the tombstones in the beautiful Lone Tree Cemetery on the east end of town bear homage to lots of Svens, Lars’, and Giovannis.


[Photo credit: Flickr user hubs]

The mining resulted in 350 miles of tunnels that run beneath the mountains at the east end of the valley; you can see remnants of mine shafts and flumes throughout the region. If paddling is your thing, you’ll see gold dredges runnning on the San Miguel, San Juan, and Dolores Rivers.

Telluride’s wealth attracted the attention of Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch, who famously robbed the town’s San Miguel National Bank in 1889 (trivia: I used to live in an upstairs apartment in that very building). But in 1893, the silver crash burst the money bubble, and almost overnight Telluride’s population plummeted. By the end of World War II, only 600 people remained.

Telluride is a part of the 223-mile San Juan Scenic Highway, which connects to the historic towns of Durango, Ouray, and Silverton. There’s only one paved road in and out of Telluride, and that’s Hwy. 145. The only other options are two high, extremely rugged mountain passes (which require 4WD and experienced drivers). There are also a handful of ghost towns in the area. Some, like Alta (11,800 feet) make for a great, not too-strenuous hike; you’ll see the trailhead four miles south on Hwy 145. There are a number of buildings still standing, and two miles up the road lie the turquoise Alta Lakes.

If you want to check out the ghost town of Tomboy, it’s five miles up Imogene Pass (13,114 feet). Don’t underestimate just how tough it is if you’re hiking; you’ll gain 2,650 feet in altitude; otherwise it’s an hour’s drive. The trail begins on the north end of Oak Street; hang a right onto Tomboy Road. Unless you’re physically fit and acclimated to the altitude, the best way to see these ghost towns is by 4WD tour with an outfitter like Telluride Outside. Another bit of trivia: every July, the “Lunar Cup” ski race is held on a slope up on Imogene Pass, clothing optional.

How to get there
Telluride is a six-and-a-half-hour drive from Denver, but it also boasts the world’s second highest commercial airport (9,078 feet) with daily non-stop connections from Denver and Phoenix. It’s closed in sketchy weather (if you’re flight phobic, just say “hell, no”), and it’s often easier and usually cheaper to fly into Montrose Regional Airport, 70 miles away. From there, take Telluride Express airport shuttle; you don’t need a car in town. Go to for all trip-planning details. For more information on the region’s numerous ghost towns, click here.

When to go
Telluride is beautiful any time of year, but avoid mid-April through mid-May and October through before Thanksgiving, as those are off-season and most businesses are closed. Spring is also mud season, and that’s no fun. Late spring, summer, and early fall mean gorgeous foliage, and more temperate weather, but be aware it can snow as late as early July. August is monsoon season, so expect brief, daily thunderstorms. July and winter are the most reliably sunny times; that said, Telluride averages 300 days of sunshine a year. If you want to explore either pass, you’ll need to visit in summer.

Telluride tips
The air is thin up there. Drink lots of water, and then drink some more. Go easy on the alcohol, too. Take aspirin if you’re suffering altitude-related symptoms like headache or insomnia, and go easy for a couple of days until you acclimate. Wear broad-spectrum, high SPF sunblock, and reapply often on any exposed skin or under t-shirts. Wear a hat and sunglasses, as well.

[Photo credits: Tomboy, Flickr user Rob Lee; Mahr building, Laurel Miller; winter, Flickr user rtadlock]

Mountainfilm Festival announces guest speakers

Organizers of the Mountainfilm Festival, held annually in Telluride, Colorado, have announced the list of this year’s special guests which will be on hand for the event. That list includes an impressive array of activists, artists, and adventurers who will share their stories and experiences, while also discussing some of the pressing topics of the day.

This year’s fest will take place from May 27th to the 30th, and will kick off with the Moving Mountains Symposium, a full day event that includes lectures and panel discussions focused on the theme of “awareness into action .” The three days that follow will be filled with guest lectures, art displays, social events, and some of the most amazing adventure films you’ll ever see.

Amongst the guest lecturers this year will be Dan Austin, one of the co-founders of 88Bikes, an organization dedicated to providing bicycles to needy children around the world. He’ll be joined by wildlife and nature photographer Paul Colangelo and National Geographic Explorer in Residence Wade Davis, as well as Geoff Tabin, a doctor who works tirelessly to cure people with preventable blindness in developing countries. To check out the entire list of guest speakers, click here.

Take advantage of early bird discounts on passes for the Mountainfilm Festival if you purchase before May 1st. Click here to order your passes now and start making your plans for Telluride this spring.

Mountainfilm Festival unveils 2010 line-up

Organizers for this year’s Mountainfilm Festival, scheduled to take place from May 28th through the 31st in Telluride, Colorado, have announced the line-up of films scheduled to be screened during the event. The list of films deal with some very diverse, and often provocative, subject matter, with topics ranging from the war in Afghanistan to the impact of plastic on our lives and the environment to the looming extinction crisis, and beyond. Whether you’re a budding climber, an active environmentalist, or just have a love of good cinema, you’re sure to find something in the line-up that well peak your interest.

The most well known film on the list is, without a doubt, The Cove, which made the rounds on the film festival circuit last year before going on to win the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary. The movie struck a chord with viewers and critics alike for its no nonsense, and often graphic, portrayal of the annual dolphin slaughter in Japan. The Cove returns for an encore showing at the Mountainfilm Festival this year after having a single, surprise screening last year.

Other intriguing films to make the cut include an intense and personal look at life on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan entitled Restrepo and a climbing film called Point of No Return that follows mountaineers Jonny Copp and Micah Dash on what would ultimately be their final climb. The festival will also mark the U.S. debut of The 10 Conditions of Love, a documentary about Rebiya Kadeer, an activist from the Chinese province of Xinjiang. Kadeer has been very vocal in her criticisms of the Chinese government, and as a result she was thrown in prison for more than six years. The film explores her activist lifestlyle and the toll it has taken on her family.

The films being screened at Mountainfilm are just one element of a very active weekend in Telluride. In addition to the movies, there is the Moving Mountains Symposium on the opening day of the festival. This year’s topic is the Extinction Crisis, and there will be a number of speakers on hand to discuss this very important subject. In fact, there will be great speakers attending the festival all weekend long, with the likes of Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and Ed Viesturs, America’s preeminent mountaineer, on hand to share tales of their adventures.

Passes are still available for the film festival in a variety of packages. Click here to check out the details. And for a complete list of the films that will be screened at Mountainfilm, click here.