On Saturday, Durango Nature Studies will celebrate its 10th year of hosting Mountainfilm on Tour in Durango, with proceeds from the event benefiting the DNS’ environmental education programs.
Mountainfilm on Tour brings films from the annual festival in Telluride to countries all over the world.
One of the films being shown Saturday is the short “Brighter Night,” by Coeur d’Alene, Idaho-based filmmaker Jordan Halland.
“Brighter Night” is described on Mountainfilm’s website as “a dash of spelunking. A pinch of ice climbing. A sprinkle of semi-psychedelic light show. This brief recipe is just right for a short feast.” Halland said the idea for the film was 10 years in the making.
“The first documentary I ever made was about ice climbing in Alaska. When we were up there, I remembered thinking we needed to do a film at night, because when your headlamp would hit the ice, it would light up the whole glacier, it would illuminate the whole thing, so I thought we should use that to our advantage at some point,” he said. “That was about 10 years ago. And then we decided this last January to finally do it and went up there.”
He said over the course of two weeks, he and his crew shot the film at night every night: “We would get out there at like six at night and then stay out until six or seven in the morning and then come back and sleep a little bit and go back out there.”
Because they were filming on and around glaciers, production was dangerous, Halland said. The crew had to hike about two miles across a creaking, frozen lake to get to the glacier. And that was just the beginning.
“After we got out to the glacier, we had another two-mile hike or so around the glacier to where we were going to set up. It was a boulder field at about a 45-degree angle, and all the boulders were covered with ice and snow,” he said. “Hiking in the dark on that made it pretty dangerous. At one point, my cameraman was coming off a boulder and slipped and slid about 50 feet down the boulder field and only stopped when he hit the bottom of the glacier. It was pretty scary.”
But, Halland said, the effort paid off.
“I think the best part was getting out there and knowing that it would work. We weren’t really sure if the lights that we had would light up the glacier, so getting out there, we did a test shoot the first day and it worked really well, and we were relieved,” he said. “And then there’s a lot of moments when we were just standing out there and the lights were on the glacier, and it was dark out and super quiet and it was a really awesome, beautiful moment. It had nothing really to do with filming; more just experiencing that: being out in the middle of Alaska at two in the morning and all you can see is stars and these pieces of ice you’ve lit up is pretty cool.”
After filming was over, Halland took the footage and edited it down to a five-minute short and sent it in to Mountainfilm. This is his third film for the festival, which he said is important because it is a festival that combines both adventure filmmaking with films that focus on heavier subjects.
“What ends up happening that I’ve seen over the years is a lot of people that start in making snowboard films or adventure films gravitate toward those heavier subjects and they bring with them their talent and their ability to tell a compelling story for the camera,” he said. “I think it’s just a good cross-section of really amazing films that highlight different parts of the world that you don’t normally see.
“I know for me, I’ve definitely, in going to Mountainfilm, I’ve gotten more socially conscious and aware of my surroundings. And now, most of the films I work on are geared more toward social-justice issues than adventure climbing and stuff like that.”
There will be three showings at the DAC: A 2 p.m. family matinee and shows at 5 and 8:30 p.m. Durango Nature Studies will also hold a silent auction.