Mountainfilm

“Buried” will make its world debut at Mountainfilm this weekend, including a free screening Thursday night at Base Camp in Town Park. The film relives the events leading up to and following the massive avalanche that tore into Alpine Meadows Ski Resort in 1982, as told by the people who were there. (Courtesy image)

Mountainfilm is gloriously, even giddily, poised to haul our film-hungry eyes, minds and hearts back to some semblance of normal. In so doing, festival organizers have racked up a high-powered trio of films that will be available at either the Base Camp (Telluride Town Park) or the Lawson Hill field outdoor cinemas — and one of them, “Buried,” will be a world premiere. With capacity restrictions now lifted it means that anyone can see any or all of these provocative films absolutely free. In fact, this festival has numerous opportunities to participate sans pass.

But first, a sneak peek at three of the weekend’s provocative movies that will screen for free.

“Buried” is a thrilling look back at the massive avalanche that pummeled the Alpine Meadows ski resort in 1982, a monster of a slide that claimed seven lives. The story is told by its key players, who, decades after the catastrophe, often become emotional, so devastating was that snowy and deadly afternoon. It’s a crackling film directed by Jared Drake and Steven Siig, and despite the fact we know how it ends, the tension is gripping. The avalanche took the resort’s forecaster and patrollers off-guard, despite the team’s state of the art mitigation strategies. For any skier, lift operator or ski patroller, the film is a somber reminder of the inherent risks of a beloved outdoor sport.

The roar of a river churning is the first thing heard in director Rush Sturges’s film “The River Runner,” the story of one man’s epic quest to run the four great rivers that originate from Tibet’s sacred Mount Kailash. Scott Lindgren, as a friend says, has “a chip on his shoulder” and is described as “an emotionally stunted athlete,” on the path to a breakthrough following a life crisis. Lindgren’s 20-year odyssey is chronicled in frank detail as the accomplished expedition kayaker and whitewater filmmaker takes life, and rivers, straight on, learning something about himself in the process. The word thrilling is, again, apropos.

Water, or more specifically, the lack thereof, is at the heart of “The Ants and the Grasshopper,” a film directed by Raj Patel and Zak Piper that highlights the drought in Malawi and its impacts on its central figures’ ability to survive. Anita Chitaya and her mentor, Esther Lupafya, are forces to be reckoned with, as they work to upend gender norms and attitudes, as well as reimaging how farming and cooking are approached in their communities. When they decide to embark on a journey through the U.S. in an effort to convince Americans that climate change is real, the story deepens as they get a close-hand look at American life and politics. Along the way, they visit Midwest farms and urban food cooperatives, witnessing national divisions in their quest to save their home from drought. The film is subtly engrossing and brings home the global concern that is climate change.

Each of the films exemplifies the Mountainfilm tag line — celebrating indomitable spirit. It’s impossible to walk away from these engrossing stories without feeling changed, or at least moved, in some way. That these premieres are free is a bonus.

What Mountainfilm strives to do is to make the festival as inclusive as possible. To that end, there are always plenty of free programs that one can attend.

Tonight (Thursday), there’s a special Mountainfilm edition of ArtWalk, a celebrated stroll through Telluride’s numerous art galleries and other venues. Look for the ArtWalk flags fluttering outside participating venues from 5-8 p.m.

Tonight’s free films take place at Base Camp at Telluride Town Park and at the festival’s newest outdoor venue at the playing field in Lawson Hill. Bring your own chair, dress warmly and give your neighbors plenty of space.

At Lawson Hill, two short films “Joseba Cruz” and “Bug Farm,” precede the feature, “The Ants and the Grasshopper.”

In Town Park tonight, also at 8:30 p.m., “Buried” will screen and will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s directors.

Friday the official mural unveiling will take place at Ghost Town from 5:30-6:30 p.m. Mountainfilm’s gallery and mural manager Drew Ludwig will lead a behind-the-scenes exploration of Telluride’s new street art. The piece was created by JR, a French photographer and street artist, and is based on a photograph by Gordon Parks, a renowned Black photographer, musician, artist and director, under special permission from the Gordon Parks Foundation.

At the Lawson Hill outdoor venue, “Spaceship Earth” offers a thrilling peek into the story behind the iconic Biosphere 2 project, what went on behind the scenes and what the outcome tells us about man’s relationship with Earth. A Q&A will follow. The show begins at 8:30 p.m.

Adventure is on the menu at Base Camp in Town Park Friday at 8:30 p.m. with “A Conversation,” and Commitment Grant recipient, “Godspeed, Los Polacos!” There will also be a Q&A following the screenings.

Saturday is a day packed with free programming, beginning with a hike with local ski mountaineer badass Hilaree Nelson. Nelson is the captain of The North Face global athletic team and is this year’s Mountainfilm guest director. She has more than 40 expeditions under her belt, including the first-ever ski descent off Lhotse, the fourth-highest mountain in the world, and a 24-hour summit of both Everest and Lhotse. Meet at Elks Park at 11 a.m. for a hike around Telluride. You’ll be back in time for another hike, this time with indie singer-songwriter Kayla Marque. Meet her at 1 p.m. at Elks Park. This hike will culminate with a concert in nature.

Saturday at Lawson Hill, “The River Runner” will screen at 8:30 p.m. as the mighty San Miguel flows alongside the venue. A Q&A will follow.

At Base Camp, the Dirt and Rock Shorts Program is on tap, a collection of short, outdoorsy films, plus a Q&A. Showtime is 8:30 p.m.

Hiking is once again scheduled, and on Sunday, join Nelson at Elks Park at 11 a.m., with the 1 p.m. hike and concert, also starting from Elks Park, featuring Colorado singer-songwriter Daniel Rodriguez. The concert hile was organized in collaboration with Sustain Music & Nature.

Sunday’s free films at Lawson Hill feature forms of water with the Water & Ice Shorts program at 8:30 p.m.

At Base Camp, also at 8:30 p.m., gear up for adventure with “On Falling,” “Running the Roof “and “Reel Rock 15: Black Ice.” A Q&A will follow.

And, yes, it’s a holiday weekend! Monday at 7 p.m. at the Transfer Warehouse, be sure to attend The Downlow, a curated evening of stories organized around the theme “Comebacks.” Storytellers will be Mountainfilm special guests and beloved Telluride locals. Be sure to reserve your free spot.

According to festival officials pre-reserved tickets for paid programming ($20 per program) are still available online and a percentage of seats are being held for people in the stand-by line.

For more information and a complete schedule, go to mountainfilm.org.