The aspen leaves are turning more golden by the day, which means it’s time for the 13th annual Crested Butte Film Festival. This year the festival will run from Wednesday, September 27 through Sunday, October 1, showing an eclectic array of films varying in style, length and topics from all over the world. The CB Film Fest aims to inspire creativity, cultural awareness and social action—and this year, there is a strong connection to local Crested Butte culture in several ways.
One program within the festival is a series of films representing something dear to the hearts of many Buttians—mountain biking. Some of the biking narratives are based in Crested Butte, such as the stories found in Born from Junk: Trailblazers, while In the Dirt takes place on a Navajo Reservation in the southwestern United States and Café Americano is set among the Dolomites in Italy. The biking program shows films on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with all three screened back-to-back on Friday, September 29.
The festival also includes a “local films showcase” with numerous short and full-length films from filmmakers who are based in or are from the Gunnison Valley. This collection will air on Wednesday with a variety of genres and stories to tell and will also honor the late Mark Reeb with two films in which he starred.
Mountain Biking Program: Italy, CB and the Navajo Nation
This year’s programming includes three films about mountain biking, with themes varying from light comedy to the profound, from the power of riding to heal multi-generational trauma, to the pioneering spirit of early trail bikers and the satisfaction of pursuing one’s dreams.
“It’s an opportunity to put three films together that will appeal to the outdoor enthusiast audience on Friday night,” says film festival co-founder Michael Brody. He hopes film goers will be inspired to stick around for some other films as well.
First, Mike Horn (a CB local) and Galin Foley return to the film fest with Born from Junk II: Trailblazers, a second installment of their Born from Junk documentary series to celebrate the outlaw roots of mountain biking in the west and particularly in the Gunnison Valley. The latest film is a short feature about CB royalty, like Don Cooke and Kay Peterson Cooke, as they developed what has become a world-class trail system today, and biking all-stars such as Dave Wiens and Susan DeMattei who helped forge the way for competitive mountain bike racing. Horn and Foley incorporate some archival video footage to illustrate the early days of bike racing in the Gunnison Valley on the big screen, and the Crested Butte Mountain Resort base area of the early 1990s is almost unrecognizable compared to the area today.
“We had the world to ourselves,” says DeMattei of the premillennial decades and vast bikeable wilderness.
This film shows on Wednesday, September 27 at 5 p.m., and Friday, September 29, at 7 p.m.
Next, the festival will host the world premiere of In the Dirt, a mid-length documentary following a group of Native Americans who are passionate about mountain biking the thousands of miles of dirt and slickrock within their Navajo reservation, and the healing power it has on riders as it promotes joy and provides a way to see and connect with their land.
Former pro cycler Scott Nydam has joined forces with some of the riders to form a nonprofit that helps build trails, provides bikes and gear, creates mentoring programs and provides much needed repair and tuning skills and services.
The film’s premiere will be attended by many of those involved in the film from the Navajo Nation. The Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association (CBMBA) will be hosting the group for a series of rides on Saturday after the film premieres on Friday, September 29 at 7 p.m.
Brody says he expects as many as 30–40 visitors from the Navajo Nation to attend this year’s festival for the film’s premiere. “I think it’s been kind of a wild experience for them,” he says.
CBMBA executive director Dave Ochs says CBMBA first heard about In the Dirt from a board member/film enthusiast, and the nonprofit quickly got in touch with the group.
“I’ve personally been driving through the Navajo Nation for the last 23 years, and to be honest, I’ve been enthralled by native culture and thinking of how great that riding looked,” says Ochs. He describes a memorable 21-day bike tour that included large stretches through Navajo lands in Arizona in 2001.
Ochs says CBMBA members are looking forward to viewing the film, showing the visitors some classic CB rides the next day and learning more about their overall experience.
“I’m excited to see some energy and momentum around the film, and I hope it can be a benefit to the Navajo Nation. I think we have a lot to learn from them, and I‘m excited to hear and see things from their perspective,” he says.
Last, Café Americano, directed by Ben Page, Joey Schusler and Thomas Woodson, is what Brody describes as a soft comedy short film. Featuring real life mountain biking legend Shawn Neer who embarks on a trip across Italy in search of great coffee, great mountain bike trails and a special place his father told him about as a child, the playful narrative and iconic scenery is a refreshing short film. “This story is almost like a documentary, but it has a twist to it, and it’s kind of scripted—it’s more of a story,” describes Brody.
Café Americano will play on Friday and Saturday, September 29 and 30, at 7 p.m.
Local films showcase
Beyond the biking program, the film fest has a locals showcase for the second year in a row, which will take place on Wednesday evening, September 27 at 5 p.m.
“We’ve really seen the film scene in CB change,” says Brody. “There are so many filmmakers participating. There’s this film thing happening in town, so we want to acknowledge that.”
The local showcase includes two films from the recently passed Mark Reeb, one from Western Colorado University students, and two from Benjamin Swift who grew up in CB.
“I think, what a good way to start the festival by saying there are people making films right here,” says Brody. “And the rest of the festival is more like we’re bringing things to CB, with films from Ukraine and one from the Reunion Islands in the Pacific, that highlight the human condition and hopefully shows us pieces of ourselves. I think that’s something special that the film fest has in the valley,” explains Brody.
“The festival serves the community in a whole lot of ways. At home, streaming and through cable we can watch a lot of stuff. But this collection is so curated, and these are probably films people would never see otherwise. So we are expanding people’s choices, showing what we love and what turns us on so that others can be inspired and see a larger body of work out there than what we see in the Gunnison Valley.”
Brody says that the festival this year has more visiting filmmakers than in the past. “People and particularly filmmakers are wanting to get out again,” he observes.
Brody says he thinks the CB Film Fest has an added appeal for this time of year as it comes after the prestigious summer film fests of Cannes, Venice, Telluride and Toronto and well before the next, the Sundance festival in January.
“Filmmakers are wanting to show their films to a live audience and see their reaction. They also want to see where we live here in Crested Butte and have that experience. I think they are really interested in coming here and seeing what it’s all about. The culture we have of riding bikes—some people haven’t ridden bikes in 10 years and have a lot of fun with it. I think we offer something unique here,” Brody explains.
Brody says the film fest always tries to combine films with a sense of place, including screenings that address mental health struggles such as My Sister Liv.
“From female sexuality to a robot, our spectrum of subjects shows the complexity of the film medium, the world and ourselves. We want to build interest and excitement. People have a lot of fun here.”
It certainly doesn’t hurt to add changing leaves, majestic scenery and this fleeting autumn weather.