Telluride Film Fest Returns to Whitefish

Annual event supports Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation

By Dillon Tabish

Holler if you love “The Bob.”

There’s a lively, echoing response around this time of year during the annual documentary film festival in Whitefish supporting the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation.

In its ninth year, the Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour is slated to feature 10 documentary films from around the world. The festival is Thursday, March 19 at the O’Shaughnessy Center in downtown. Doors open at 6 p.m. and films begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 beforehand and $15 at the door. Be warned: the festival has sold out the past two years, so get your tickets now, either online — — or at supporting retailers: Rocky Mountain Outfitter in Kalispell and Sportsman & Ski Haus in Whitefish.

Jenny Cloutier, outreach coordinator for the foundation, which hosts the event in three cities across the state, including Helena and Great Falls, said this year’s lineup is sure to please spectators.

“There’s such a variety,” she said. “They’re not all adrenaline films. There are human-interest stories and movies from around the world. It’s nice for folks living in Western Montana to get to see films from around the world.”

The festival will feature several outdoor documentaries that have sparked buzz as fan favorites.

“Duke and the Buffalo” is a 16-minute story of a cowboy who tries to organize part of the largest conservation herd of bison in the U.S. As the filmmaker Alfredo Alcantara shows, it’s a task that truly requires some savvy maneuvering.

“The Record Breaker” is a 25-minute film about Ashrita Furman, who is quite simply the greatest record breaker of all time. Furman has set nearly 400 official world records, from underwater bicycling to upside-down juggling and even splitting apples with a samurai sword. As the filmmaker Brian McGinn describes it, this lively documentary showcases a man with seemingly limitless talents.

Another fan favorite, “The Karsts of China,” is a brief yet powerful documentary about the geologic wonder of China. Climbers Cedar Wright, Emily Harrington and Matt Segal went with National Geographic photographer Carsten Peter to spend a month roaming the peaks of Asia, and the result is a gripping work of aesthetic mastery.

Of course, another highlight of the annual festival is the intermission, when the prominent raffle prizes are announced. The foundation has once again gathered some impression prizes, from top-notch gear to trips in the wilderness and other scenic adventures in the region.

As tradition goes, those who have the winning tickets are supposed to yell, “I love The Bob.”

Another highlight of the event, as Cloutier says, is mingling with folks who are passionate about “The Bob” and outdoor exploration.

“It’s great to meet all the people who love the wilderness and are connected to the Bob Marshall in so many ways,” she said. “You get to hear stories from people who have been going into the wilderness for their whole lives.”

Cloutier and others from the foundation will raise awareness about the upcoming summer projects in the wilderness. Every summer over 300 volunteers — collectively known as “The Bob Squad” — help manage and maintain the 1.5 million-acre wilderness complex.

Founded in 1997, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation is a nonprofit organization that partners with the U.S. Forest Service and other groups to maintain the complex’s trail system and values. Every summer, volunteers complete trail maintenance and reconstruction, noxious weed removal and general cleanup. The foundation operates completely on grants, private donations and fundraisers such as the film festival and relies on the work of volunteers who range from all ages.

There are 40 volunteer projects on the books this summer, Cloutier said.

But first, the film festival, which acts as a fun gathering and fundraiser before the adventures of summer.

“It’s a nice chance to get the Bob Squad together,” Cloutier said.

For more information about the film festival and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, visit

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