Director Tom Shadyac of “Ace Ventura” fame speaks with students following a director talk during the 2019 festival. This year speaker events will take place virtually. (Photo by Bria Light/Telluride Daily Planet)

For many locals and visitors alike, Memorial Day weekend in Telluride means one thing: Mountainfilm festival. In typical years, it’s a jam-packed weekend filled with thought-provoking films, inspiring guest speakers, social events and hikes with friends in the emerging summer sunshine. This year, due to restrictions on travel and social gatherings, as well as the festival’s commitment to reducing the spread of COVID-19, the festival has moved to an online platform in order to provide a virtual version of the film festival, while upholding physical-distancing practices.

“Even with the move to a virtual festival, we’ve worked hard to retain that Mountainfilm feel,” said festival director Suzan Beraza. “In addition to securing over a hundred films, we’ve put together a symposium that features political innovators, youth climate activists and visionaries with messages of hope for today’s world. We’ll also have meet-the-author events, workshops for filmmakers and live programming. Our goal is to make the virtual experience as inspiring as our in-person festival while bringing some light to folks at home.”

The Mountainfilm festival has long embraced a commitment to presenting a wide-ranging film lineup that brings together both eye-opening films exploring social and environmental issues, as well as adventure films featuring mind-bending feats of outdoor athleticism. This year is no different, according to Beraza.

“We have some great Colorado-centric films and presentations that look at how things like fetal rights and harmful chemicals in drinking water are impacting people and communities around the state,” she said. “On the flipside, we’ve got an adrenaline-inducing roundup of adventure films and shorts to serve up some much-needed levity during this time.”

Given that this year’s festival will entail watching films and attending talks virtually from the comfort of one’s own home, festival organizers have implemented special pass pricing and a longer timeline to encourage those interested to participate. The Bivvy Pass, which costs $75, gives the passholder access to all films, presentations and talks, with films available for viewing during a 10-day window from May 15-25. For those who simply want to dabble by watching a film or two or attending a talk, individual film screenings and virtual events are available for $10 each.

“This year we’re meeting people where they are,” Mountainfilm Executive Director Sage Martin said. “There’s no need to leave your living room or clear your schedule — Mountainfilm is coming to you when and where you want it. Over the course of the 10-day festival, viewers can tune into everything from revolutionary feature films to buzzy adventure shorts at their leisure. Plus, with pass prices lower than ever, we can reach people who may have not had the time or resources to attend previously.”

Despite this year’s changes, the ability of documentary film to educate, enlighten, turn up the stoke and foment action holds as much power as ever, as does its unique capacity to bring people together to think and talk deeply about a wide variety of important subjects.

“It’s a surreal time, and we believe that now, more than ever, people need to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Martin said. “Mountainfilm has always connected audiences to people and places through film, offering a perspective and connection that is now more valuable than ever. For viewers in need of a dose of optimism, we’ve beefed up our short program selection, while those searching for an expert’s outlook on the state of the world, can tune into talks on politics in a post-COVID world or films on environmental stewardship. No matter where you are, we’re dedicated to bringing you the connection, conversation and inspiration Mountainfilm has long been known for.”

For more information and to view a schedule of events, visit