Monday, 25 February 2019 15:53

Midwest Mountains: Growing film festival exposes students, community to the power of film

Written by  Marla R. Miller
Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Celebrating the spirit of adventure and the art of film, Mountainfilm on Tour: Saugatuck continues to grow with a weekend of film screenings, art, music and family fun.

The film tour returns to Saugatuck Center for the Arts for the third year, expanding to three venues with more than 40 different films, live music, art demonstrations and community conversations.

Mountainfilm on Tour takes some of the best-loved films from the 2018 Mountainfilm Festival, held annually over Memorial Day weekend in Telluride, Colo., and screens them at venues across the globe. Launched in 1979, Mountainfilm is one of the nation’s longest-running festivals and celebrates the indomitable spirit of athletes, outdoor adventurers and people who have a tenacity and passion for pushing the envelope. 

The festival and tour use the power of film, art and ideas to inspire audiences to create a better world. Documentaries highlight real stories about the environment, culture, climbing, adventure sports, and issues both political and social.

Saugatuck’s tour started as a school-focused experience several years ago. The center hosts school groups throughout the week, offering age-appropriate playlists designed for students. This year, more than 4,000 students from Ottawa, Allegan and Van Buren counties will experience Mountainfilm. 

“We are the only venue that has focused so strongly on the student aspect,” said Whitney Valentine, SCA’s education and exhibitions manager. “In one week’s time, we are able to share all of those films with students and youth and we are helping them create a new model.”

The public portion kicks off March 22 with a Friday night soiree featuring food, drinks, music and film at the arts center. Friday’s Evening of Shorts features 10-15 short documentaries, spotlighting sports, environmental issues and foreign arts and culture.

“We wanted it to be more of a social gathering and encourage folks to sit and meet and talk about the films afterward,” Valentine said. “Last year was wildly successful. We had more than 350 people in March in Saugatuck. That is a big deal.”

Because of  last year’s success, the SCA added more venues, films and events. Saugatuck Brewing Company and Saugatuck Woman’s Club will present full-length documentaries as well. Other activities include free family programming at Saugatuck-Douglas District Library and a live woodblock art demonstration at Landsharks with Erica Lang of Woosah Outfitters.

Lang, a Grand Rapids artist, created the official artwork for the festival. She will have a small solo show and a pop-up shop with Woosah merchandise at the SCA.

Lang’s exhibit, Wild Society, features a collection of hand-carved woodblock prints that “imagines our lives in an anthropomorphic way, playfully looking at the ways we try to get back to our roots.”

“Not only will I show people how I make my art, but also debut some new work that people have never seen before,” she said.

The festival wraps up Saturday night at the SCA with a talk by filmmaker Aaron Peterson and artist Tim Folkert, a cocktail hour and the feature film Return to Mount Kennedy.

Organizers and supporters hope it brings new visitors to Saugatuck and keeps them overnight, or at least around for the day so they can visit restaurants and downtown shops.

The Woman’s Club is a historical venue in town, a more traditional setting that holds around 150 people. Meanwhile, Saugatuck Brewing’s Barrel Room is a nice space that seats about 70 people and will have a large screen plus four televisions showing the film.   

“We’ve never participated in anything like this before. We’re super pumped,” said Megan Scheerhorn, SBC’s vice president of marketing. “Having Mountainfilm in this area is good for the community in general.”

The SCA has hosted a film festival for students for the last 16 years, partnering with Mountainfilm for the past five years. It’s a collaboration that allows SCA staff to show high-quality films made around the world in an array of styles, encompassing many themes.

SCA staff works with Mountainfilm to design the student playlist and other films and events based on what local audiences want to see, Valentine said.

“We feel like Saugatuck-Douglas is a hub for creative, open-minded folks,” she said. “The festival really celebrates that. We are all wildly different but the same, and it’s a really inspiring experience.”

The festival is also a chance for local students to enjoy a short field trip to the arts center, screening seven to 12 short films on the big screen with students from other schools.

Themes include human rights, adventure, environment, culture, facing your fears, imagination, sustainability, individuality and friendship. The screenings support creativity and diversity and are a springboard for post-film conversations and existential thinking back in their classrooms, Valentine said.

To serve more of Allegan County, SCA partners with Allegan Performing Arts Center and busses the students there for screenings.   

“We have found in the past decade, film is a really great vehicle for learning and it is a really great tool for teachers,” she said. “In an hour’s time, students see different parts of the world and different cultures and new ways of thinking and are exposed to really important social topics.” 

Mountainfilm on Tour: Saugatuck
Saugatuck Center for the Arts
400 Culver St., Saugatuck
March 22-23

Login to post comments

© 2021 Serendipity Media, LLC

Join Our Newsletter!

Breaking News

 Revue DigitalMag Feb21 PreviewBox