dZi

Maratika-Halesi, a famous pilgrimage site in Nepal’s Khotang district. Ridgway’s dZi Foundation recently partnered with locals in Jyamire, Khotang, to rebuild the Siddha Primary School. (Photo by Christopher J. Fynn)

It’s a phrase that evokes paucity.

It’s the name of “the first Black-owned outdoor gear shop in the country” in a Texas town better known for rebel flags, not diversity.

It’s a Mountainfilm “short” that screens free of charge this weekend in Ridgway.

What “Slim Pickens” is decidedly not is an even-remotely-accurate description of the rich variety of filmmaking talent, and subject matter, that will be on offer Friday and Saturday in Ridgway’s Town Park. There, over two nights, 18 shorts from Telluride’s beloved, early summer festival will screen in the late-summer twilight.

“One of the things that confuses people about these screenings is, well, ‘What’s the film?’” said Jim Nowak, president of Ridgway’s dZi Foundation.

The Ridgway nonprofit has partnered with Mountainfilm for more than a decade to bring movies to leafy Town Park in summer, and the historic Sherbino Theater in winter. The screenings have raised awareness of dZi’s work, which takes place thousands of miles away in the remote communities of eastern Nepal. These are the places many Sherpas reside with their families — when they aren’t guiding clients on Himalayan ascents. Nowak, an alpinist lucky to have been led by Sherpas numerous times on such ascents, determined that he wanted to give back, and is dZi’s cofounder.

“There are eight films each night,” he said of the shorts that will screen Friday and Saturday, on subjects ranging from the environment to culture to adventure.

The films start around 8:30 p.m. on both nights. Different films screen each night; to preview the complete lineup, visit mountainfilm.org. On Saturday, in advance of the screening, dZi will host a picnic in the park at around 5:30 p.m. (head to the dZi Foundation’s page on Facebook to learn more).

“I’ll do a little presentation before each of the screenings,” Nowak said, a chance for those unfamiliar with the foundation’s work to learn more about it, and to catch attendees up on what dZi has been doing lately (the foundation is named for ancient prayer beads said to confer protection to their wearer). As it happens, much of dZi’s recent focus has been on instilling protection from the novel coronavirus: A recent campaign raised more than $100,000 for the people of Nepal, allowing dZi to deliver 12,500 surgical masks, test kits, masks and gloves, and other life-saving medical supplies to health facilities across our working area,” a news release said. “We also put together hygiene kits for Covid-19 patients with soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb, sanitary pads and other personal items to help those in isolation.”

The foundation has also carried on (as best it can) with its primary mission, assisting partner communities in constructing new buildings — particularly schools — to keep them safe from earthquakes. The foundation recently completed rebuilding the Siddha Primary School in Jyamire, Khotang — its newest partner community, which had identified rebuilding the school as its greatest need.

“Once we finish” distributing medical supplies — and raising awareness of the epidemic through radio announcements, flyers and megaphone announcements — “we will determine the next steps to best support our partner communities,” the news release said. Community members told dZi’s representatives that they were the first to deliver health-care supplies in the coronavirus epidemic.

“It’s pathetic” to hear that, “but satisfying,” Nowak acknowledged. “We wish it wasn’t us; there are certainly bigger organizations” capable of assisting, “but we’re doing what we can do. We’re on the frontlines for sure; we kind of always have been. We’re doing everything they’re asking for” short of delivering vaccines.

To learn more about the dZi Foundation, visit dzi.org.