You don’t have to want to climb mountains to enjoy Mountainfilm, although you might just want to strap on your hiking boots afterward. Coming to Fryeburg Academy on Friday, the touring festival features 10 short documentary films, all hand-selected to show attendees a complex and visually striking portrait of the outdoor experience, in all its eye-opening facets.

“The films are all inspiring, but we’ve put together a really good blend of films that range from portraits of everyday athletes, to people triumphing over various obstacles, to just amazing depictions of people engaging in sports like climbing or mountain biking or skiing at the highest level.” That’s Fryeburg teacher Dylan Harry, the faculty member who was instrumental in bringing this annual outdoor showcase to Fryeburg (and the one who did the hand-selecting).

The internationally acclaimed Colorado-based festival consists of some 50 films each year, from which Harry said that he was able to curate an evening of 10 films whose unique windows into the world of outdoor sport and the outdoors in general look to provide something for everyone interested in getting active. “They allow you to flavor your show,” he said of Mountainfilm. “And, for us, I tried to fashion the night into a sort of dialogue.”

Lest the less adventure-curious out there imagine Mountainfilm at Fryeburg will be nothing but what Harry jokingly calls “climbing porn,” the chemistry (and rock-climbing) teacher explained that the festival has broadened its scope dramatically in its 40 years of existence. Starting out as the Telluride Mountain Film Festival in that Colorado ski mecca’s early days, the festival quickly grew to encompass not just (admittedly awesome) footage of people doing improbable things on mountains but a varied selection of films that take the whole “climbing mountains” thing as more of an aspirational metaphor. Inspired to bring Mountainfilm to Fryeburg by his experience seeing the touring festival’s stop during his college days at the University of Vermont, Harry hopes that others will find this year’s festival as animating and life-changing as he did. Said Harry of the two-hour-plus program he’s chosen, “There’s a focus on human stories, and humans doing really important things.”

Included in Harry’s Mountainfilm experience are films as disparate as a portrait of a plus-size woman shattering stereotypes about ultramarathoners, a Nepalese man whose cobbled-together mountain bike led to him being picked up by one of the most prestigious biking teams in the world, and an examination of how the Sherpa people view their role as the traditional guides for rich adventurers who want to scale the most dangerous mountains on earth. And while avid outdoorsman Harry admits he chose some of the more spectacle-based films based on his own preferences for skiing and climbing, he also notes that the night features other shorts on topics like environmentalism and preserving national parks. “I tried to tailor the festival so it suits our local community,” he said.

In keeping with that community focus, Fryeburg Academy will also be hosting 10 to 15 local outdoor, environmental and land trust groups to further the discussion started by the films (and the Mountainfilm moderator). Harry also has reached out to other area schools in hopes of turning this year’s Mountainfilm into an enjoyably educational night for students of all ages.

“Fryeburg’s been working to incorporate outdoor education into the overall curriculum, and this is a way to bring more exciting outdoor programming to our school, while trying to bring in people from all over who are interested in the subject,” Harry said, noting that proceeds from the screening will go toward a planned student desert ecology trip to Arizona.

So, whether you’re in it for a night of thought-provoking environmental activism, inspirational stories of human triumph or, as Harry puts it, “just some fun, lighthearted films about professional athletes doing cool things,” Mountainfilm is just the night at the movies to get you psyched up about getting your chosen sports equipment out of winter storage.

The Mountainfilm short film festival screens at 7 p.m. Friday at Fryeburg Academy’s Leura Hill Eastman Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and $10 for students. For more information and tickets, check out the Arts Center website at fryeburgacademy.org.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

 

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