Beauty and thrills: David Holbrooke’s Mountainfilm in Telluride on Tour film fest returns to UCSB with some local flavor

In "The Balloon Highline" slacklining no longer seems to need the expanse of trees, crevasses or other earthbound objects — only some kind of helium and a cool buzz. Montaz-Rosset Film
In “The Balloon Highline” slacklining no longer seems to need the expanse of trees, crevasses or other earthbound objects — only some kind of helium and a cool buzz.
Montaz-Rosset Film

David Holbrooke, the director of the “Mountainfilm in Telluride Festival,” appropriately enough lives high on a steep mountain in the town of the same name. When we talk on the phone he’s bouncing back and forth from this interview to the hordes of trick-or-treaters making their way to his door, and he’s convincing them that the climb is worth it. Much in the same way, his festival — a selection of which comes to UCSB on Wednesday — sets out to convince people to get outside and enjoy life.

“Get up and out!” he says. “I don’t mean that in a bad way. I want people to enjoy.”

In "The Karsts of China" climbers explore other-worldly formations and unclimbed routes. UCSB Arts & Lectures
In “The Karsts of China” climbers explore other-worldly formations and unclimbed routes.
UCSB Arts & Lectures
In "Desert Ice" a pair of ice climbers enjoy a rowdy adventure before finally finding ice. Keith Ladzinski
In “Desert Ice” a pair of ice climbers enjoy a rowdy adventure before finally finding ice.
Keith Ladzinski
For seven years he’s been the head of this film festival and its touring component, which whittles the three-day fest to a dozen of the best films from the year, and for our Santa Barbara stop he throws in some local talent as well.

“Santa Barbara is a simpatico community for mountain films, people who see the world in a different way,” Mr. Holbrooke says. “They want to see people who are pushing the boundaries of the human experience.”

This year’s curated selection shows that, from free climbing footage that will make your palms sweat (“El Sendero Luminoso”) to dropping into a steep wave off of Newport Beach in winter (“Wedge”). There’s a story about cowboys herding buffalo (“Duke and the Buffalo”) that shows quite immediately their vast difference from cows. There’s a documentary about a female surfer whose main spot is a freezing cold, unfriendly sea in Northern Norway (“Catch It”). And “The Record Breaker” follows Ashrita Furman, who has set 400 or so world records in extreme challenges, some silly, others deadly.

“There’s this giant world with all these people who are odd, peculiar and just like us,” Mr. Holbrooke says. “It’s an affirmation of this way of life. It’s not for everybody. But for two weeks a year at our fest, it is.” The festival started in Telluride, but tours all over the world from Brazil to Bhutan. Mr. Holbrooke says that each country has its own particular reactions.

“It’s a tricky thing, environmentalism,” he says. “But beauty, natural beauty is universal. Beauty is Esperanto, the universal language! I also like to think everybody can just marvel at what humans can do.”

Like in “64 MPH” Brett Schreckengost’s film of Greg Hopes downhill ski through one of Telluride’s most iconic backhill lines, the San Joaquin Couloir.

“It blows people away, the sheer human force of it. That’s the thing that transcends borders.”

Every year the festival finds films of higher and higher quality. That doesn’t mean all these filmmakers make a good living. “But they love what they do, and that comes through in the storytelling,” says Mr. Holbrooke.

Santa Barbara gets a look in with “Tyler Howell,” Jack Boston’s four-minute short of the skateboarder, who rockets down our steepest streets at high speed.

The invention of GoPro cameras has succeeded in placing viewers as close to a person’s point-of-view as possible. And that’s increased the amount of amazing footage coming straight from the daredevils themselves. It’s brought us back in a way to the spectacle from the beginning of cinema.

“The Santa Barbara audience will not just find the show worthwhile, but they’ll be talking about it the next day. And the next.”

“Mountainfilm in Telluride on Tour”
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: UCSB Campbell Hall
Cost: $15 general, $10 UCSB students/youth
Information: 893-3535, www.artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu

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