Annual film festival focuses on Grand Canyon issues

Filmmakers, authors and artists talk about challenges facing Grand Canyon during Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival

Filmmaker Harlan Taney talks about the challenges of filming in the Grand Canyon Feb. 12. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

Filmmaker Harlan Taney talks about the challenges of filming in the Grand Canyon Feb. 12. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - This year marked 14 years for the Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival (FMFF), which showcases local, regional, national and international films. The four day event highlighted a variety of political, environmental, social and adventure-related outdoor films from around the world with many focusing on many hot political and environmental issues surrounding the Grand Canyon.

The festival's theme of "Celebration of The Grand" aimed at paying tribute to the Grand Canyon and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. This year also marked the 99th birthday of famed Colorado River guide Martin Litton.

According to the festival's mission statement on their website the goal of the festival is 'to provide a cultural alternative to the mainstream commercial film experience and to celebrate, promote, nurture and teach non-fiction film making. The festival seeks to provide a window to the world and screen movies that inspire change.'

This year's festival showcased more than 105 films from around the globe and had noted author Kevin Fedarko, National Geographic photographer and writer Peter McBride, Grand Canyon artist Bruce Aiken and filmmaker/producer Harlan Taney as some of its key speakers and presenters along with many locals.

Taney said he is already looking forward to next year's festival and expressed his appreciation to festival organizers for the amount of local contribution.

"It's a really great thing and I really love how they kept the local flavor," he said. "I love this town, the people in this town and I think there are so many talented, beautiful individuals that are athletes, writers, filmmakers, photographers, you name it."

Taney, a native of northern Arizona and former professional kayaker, was asked to speak about what goes into making films and getting footage in the Grand Canyon. Taney has worked with film crews from around the world and helped film companies like National Geographic, HBO and the BBC for productions in the Canyon.

"What's unique about what I do as far as compared to other local filmmakers, who are great friends of mine, is I work with and facilitate these large scale productions," Taney said. "It's bringing those people together, having to facilitate them, take care of them, be a guide and make sure of their well-being but also making sure they're getting what they need. If they're dehydrated, hyponatremic or bleeding out of their feet they're not going to be getting much content."

In the last few years Taney's projects have included 'Kayaking the Grand Canyon Blind' where Taney and his film company, 4cornerfilms, worked with blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer, to produce and document an 18 day kayaking trip with Weihenmayer down the Grand Canyon.

Additionally, Taney helped with logistics for 'BBC Grand Canyon,' a 21-day recreation of the 1869 John Wesley Powell expedition down the Colorado River in the Canyon.

Throughout the weekend festival attendees and those browsing the streets of downtown Flagstaff were able to view an ongoing photography and silent auction exhibit from Grand Canyon artists Amy Martin, James 'Q' Martin and Andrew Poffrath.

Additionally, a behind the scenes bar talk by Taney took an in-depth look at the challenges of filming in the Canyon, and a coffee talk with Grand Canyon painter Bruce Aiken, noted author Kevin Fedarko and Grand Canyon photographer Amy Martin also took place.

During the coffee talk, held at Rendezvous coffee shop, discussions focused around the proposed developments in the Tusayan area along the South Rim and the Escalade project on the eastern region of the Canyon as well as uranium mining on the North and South Rims and the increase in air traffic along the West Rim of the Canyon.

During the evening session at the Orpheum Theater Feb. 13, seven films were shown back to back touching on these and other issues at the Canyon.

In addition to films and art about the Canyon, the festival also had student films and family session.

More information about FMFF is availabel at Flagstaff Mountain Films..

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