Rocky Mountain High

Taos Mountain Film Festival

Devin D. O'Leary
3 min read
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Film festivals work best, perhaps, when they reflect the community around them. In the artsy resort enclave of Park City, Utah, for example, you'd expect to find the quirky, homegrown indies of the Sundance Film Festival. In the exotic European destination of Cannes, France, it's a collection of highbrow international art films that rule the Cannes Film Festival.

One reason for the growing success of the Taos Mountain Film Festival could be that it's housed in the middle of northern New Mexico's most beautiful mountain range. What could be more fitting?

Now in its fourth year, the festival is about to scale another towering selection of adventure, sports, mountaineering and mountain culture films from around the globe. The 2004 Taos Mountain Film Festival, taking place Oct. 7-10, promises intrepid audiences more than 50 features, documentaries and short films. Bhutan, Australia, Polynesia, Canada, Tibet, Bolivia, Mexico: These are just a few of the destinations visited by this year's festival.

The Shaman's Apprentice is ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin's tribute to the natural healers of the Amazon Basin. The Man Who Jumped Beneath the Earth documents the adventure of a 66-year-old man who decided to BASE-jump into the legendary “Sotano de las Golondrinas” sinkhole in Mexico. Surfing for Life is an inspirational look at senior surfing legends like Rabbit Kekai, who still jump on their longboards in their 70s, 80s and even 90s. Le Seigneur des Aigles examines the rapidly disappearing tradition of hunting with giant eagles on the Mongolian steppes. Never Ending Thermal follows a group of dedicated paragliders who circle the globe looking for perfect flying conditions. Daughters of Everest documents the first-ever trek up Mount Everest by female sherpas. The list of films goes on and on, each one reveling in an exotic location, an unseen altitude, an adventurous explorer or a heart-pounding activity.

Since this is an action-oriented film festival, it isn't all sitting around and watching movies. There will also be photographic exhibits, book readings and a pub crawl or two. A wide range of well-traveled guest stars will be on hand to interact with attendees and share tales of adventure.

Since becoming the first American to summit Everest in 1963, guest of honor Jim Whittaker has established an enormously successful career. He was president and CEO of the major equipment manufacturer REI. He was mountain guide, confidant and finally pallbearer to Sen. Robert Kennedy. He broke the national curse of K2 by leading the first American ascent in 1978. He is also an accomplished blue water sailor and an award winning author. Whittaker will be joined by a host of famed Yosemite climbers, including Kitty Calhoun (who has been at the forefront of Alpine climbing for two decades), John Bechar (known for his bold solo climbs in the '70s) and Glen Denny (photographer, filmmaker and one of the leading climbers in Yosemite during the Golden Era).

This year also marks the first staging of Taos Mountain Film's quiz show “Who Wants to be a Mountaineer.” Two panels of invited guests, one of which will be sponsored by Rock and Ice magazine, will field questions posed by leading mountaineers and should provide an amusing diversion from the festival's other activities.

So, if you're a seasoned skier, backpacker, ice climber, kayaker, paraglider, BASE jumper or surfer (or if you just love to look at all the pretty scenery), the Taos Mountain Film Festival seems like the perfect opportunity to travel the world without leaving the theater. Trade your PowerBar for some popcorn and pull up a seat!

The Taos Mountain Film Festival takes place Oct. 7-10 at the Taos Community Auditorium, the Plaza Theater and other locations throughout Taos. Tickets and passes are available by calling (505) 751-3658. They range from $10 for individual screenings to $150 for the all-inclusive “Khyber Pass,” which will get you into all screenings, events and parties. Complete schedules can be downloaded at

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