Mountainfilm Festival announces full line-up of guests and films

The Mountainfilm Festival will take place in Telluride on Memorial Day WeekendThe 2011 edition of the Mountainfilm Festival is now just a week and a half away, and to celebrate the big event, organizers have launched a newly designed website. Perhaps more importantly however, they’ve also shared the complete line-up of films that will be shown, as well as the guests that will be on hand.

Held annually in Telluride, Colorado, Mountainfilm is now in its 32nd year. The event has become one of the top adventure and outdoor film festivals in the world, drawing top filmmakers on a yearly basis. This year’s line-up includes a dizzying array of films ranging from the critically acclaimed Buck, which profiles real-life horse whisperer Buck Brannaman, to Swiss Machine, a 25-minute documentary on climbing phenom Ueli Steck. Other titles include A Perfect Soldier, which tells the tale of a man who was conscripted into the Khmer Rouge army at a young age, and Into Darkness, a short film that explores amazing cave systems. There are literally dozens of films scheduled to be shown, with topics ranging from the environment, exploration, travel, culture, and more. To view the entire line-up, click here.

Mountainfilm will also play host to a number of great guests once again this year, with the likes of actor/director Harry Shearer and environmentalist/writer Terry Tempest Williams. They’re joined by a host of adventure athletes such as climber Renan Ozturk and paddler Chris Korbulic, amongst others. For the complete run down of the special guests, click here.

This year’s festival is set to take place over the Memorial Day weekend, running from May 27-30. Passes are still available and can be purchased online here.

VIDEO: Many steps around the world


A new video by Japanese filmmaker Takayuki Akachi shows people taking steps all around the world. Sounds simplistic, because it is, but the video shows a beautiful slice-of-life from around the globe. His concept is described as “collecting the steps from all over the world and playing a music with the steps.” The artist specializes in a “lone backpacker” style of filming that allows him to travel without a film crew. This isn’t his first round-the-world video effort: last year he made the stop-motion Traveling Denim, documenting a pair of jeans over two years and 50 countries. Check out all of his videos on Vimeo.

Music by Dulo, video sponsored by Onitsuka Tiger sneakers. MANY STEPS from Takayuki Akachi on Vimeo.

National Geographic Student Expeditions expand for 2010

The popular and successful National Geographic Student Expeditions program is gearing up for another outstanding year, adding new options for high school students looking for an adventurous and educational escape this summer. The lucky travelers have their journeys enhanced further by the inclusion of National Geographic experts and trip leaders designed to deliver travel experiences unlike any other.

Of course, many students spend their summer traveling, but the Student Expeditions program offers some unique options that aren’t available elsewhere. While on their journey, each student will select an “On Assignment” project in the area of interest that includes photography, travel writing, filmmaking, exploration, archaeology and ancient culture, climate and geology, marine biology and conservation, Earth science, and wildlife and conservation. Those projects can take such forms as a photo portfolio, a travel film, or a short story, with a focus on capturing the culture and natural wonders of the locations visited.

The students are guided in their assignments by handpicked experts, such as National Geographic photographers, writers, or researchers who join their expeditions for anywhere from three to seven days. These experts are generally well known in their field and offer years of experience and expertise to the next generation of explorers on the trip. For example, when traveling through Tanzania, the students will be joined by Anna Estes, a wildlife ecologist who has conducted research in the Ngorongoro Crater, while those selecting Australia as their destination of choice, will see the country with photojournalist and filmmaker Ulla Lohmann.As if that wasn’t enough all of National Geographic’s trip leaders are college graduates who are working in journalism, photography, science, and similar fields. Each has insightful and extensive knowledge of the destination the students will be visiting, and in order to ensure the best experience possible, the ratio of trip leaders to students is roughly six or eight to one.

The 2010 schedule offers 15 exciting trips, lasting three weeks in length, to such destinations as Costa Rica, Iceland, Peru, China, India, and more. New to the schedule this year are expeditions to Alaska, Hawaii, and Tuscany. You can check out the entire list by clicking here, and high school students interested in joining one of these trips can fill out an online application here.

For a great look at what one of these trips is like, check out this wonderful video from a student expedition to Peru. Why couldn’t this have been an option when I was in high school?!?

Traveling the globe with Nat Geo Student Expeditions

In the summer of 2008, National Geographic launched a fascinating and inspiring project called Student Expeditions, which aimed to send high school students to a variety of exotic locals around the globe, immersing them in that location through unique, special projects that give them the opportunity to experience the culture and landscapes of the place, while learning something special in the process. The program is now in its second year, and even more students are getting the opportunity to take part in this amazing travel experience.

The students can choose to travel to Australia, Belize, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galápagos, Iceland, India, Mexico’s Yucatan, Peru, Rome and Greece, Spain and Tanzania. Each of the trips is three weeks in length, and along the way, the students, and their trip leaders, are joined by National Geographic experts, who share their insights and unique perspectives on each of the countries. These experts are generally writers, photographers, explorers, and so on, and they typically spend between four to eight days traveling with the high schoolers.

While traveling in their selected country, each of the students adopts an On Assignment Project, which are specially designed to teach them something about the country, while offering an experience that only National Geographic can deliver. The projects focus on photography, filmmaking, wildlife and conservation, and more. The trip leaders and experts work closely with the young travelers to help complete the assignments, and create a lasting travel experience unlike any other.

Many of the studens have been blogging their travels all summer long, and you can read all about the Student Expedtioins experience by clicking here. You’ll find thoughts on trekking glaciers in Iceland, exploring Inca culture in Peru, and visiting the sites of ancient empires in Rome and Greece, amongst many others.

And if there are any students out there that are interested in joining future Student Expeditions, click here to begin the application process.

One Day in Africa: Lives of six ordinary Africans

When I watched the trailer of One Day in Africa, the latest documentary of Brook Silva-Braga, the resonance of village and city life in most African countries was immediately evident. It’s a resonance that often doesn’t make headline news. It resides in the pattern of each day that starts before the sun comes up when Africans, in particular women, get busy.

The shot of women pounding grain comes to mind. When I lived in a Gambian village for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, the thwack of a wooden pestle against a mortar as it removed husks from grain was like a heartbeat.

What Silva-Braga shows about African life is that it has rhythm and cadence and is not totally embroiled with AIDS and poverty. There is another theme to explore, one that involves the complex melding of African traditions with the modern world.

Sure AIDS, poverty and violence do exist, but they are not what Brook Silva-Braga set out to show in his second film project. His first film, A Map for Saturday, was a documentary about around the world travel–his and others. That film included every continent except Africa.

One Day in Africa is a companion project in a way, but the focus is different. In this latest project, Silva-Braga got up close and personal with his subjects– six Africans, both men and women, whose stories are typical of the stories of others who live in this vast continent. [For the trailer, keep reading.]

These six could be like any other six, but in their typicality, their uniqueness also comes through. Athough their lives may not look anything like ours, the essence of what they are after is recognizable. How they resonate in their own lives is an alluring tale.

  • Titus, a store owner in Kisumu, Kenya has just reopened his store after it was ransacked during the presidential election. For him, life is about moving forward.
  • Howa, a young woman in Farge-Fundu, Niger starts her household chores at dawn in a place where it’s hard to imagine that anything could grow in the dry landscape.
  • Bridgete, a pregnant woman in Lilongwe, Malawi is hoping for a son and is unsure how she will get to the hospital since her husband is a bit lackluster about the idea of driving her to the hospital in his taxi.
  • Sali, a university educated woman in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, has high expectations despite living in a mostly male dominated culture
  • Osman, a merchant in Fez, Morocco, has many “brothers” who help him sell his goods to tourists.
  • Brahim, a farmer in N-8, Mali, feeds a family of fourteen from his efforts

From the snippet I saw, part of the film’s charm and interest lies with Silva-Braga’s questioning of the subjects. As they go about their day, his voice is heard asking them questions about how they see their lives. Through the interactions, the viewer is led into the intimacy of conversations that are similar to the swirl of dialogue that happens around us every day. Conversations about life, hairstyles, work and the mundane.

Look for the film’s screening schedule on March 1 at the One Day in Africa website. It will be making the rounds at various film festivals.

Brook Silva-Braga graced Gadling with a stint as a guest blogger in 2007. His posts, grouped together as the series “Across Northern Europe,” are a thinking person’s missives about aspects of travel. Reading them is also a look into Silva-Braga’s head, not a bad place from which to view the world.