Mountainfilm in Aspen celebrates 10th anniversary by spreading downvalley |

Mountainfilm in Aspen celebrates 10th anniversary by spreading downvalley

Women in a refugee camp in Lebanon use their culinary skills to start a catering business. They build a loyal following but experience challenges trying to expand beyond the borders of the camp, as documented in the film 'Soufra'
Courtesy photo


What: Mountainfilm in Aspen

When: Wednesday through Sunday

Where: Wheeler Opera House and downvalley venues


Tickets: Various options at

Mountainfilm in Aspen opens its 10th anniversary run today, packing 60 short and feature documentaries, panel discussions and special performances into five days.

The collaboration between Telluride Mountainfilm On Tour and the Wheeler Opera House keeps finding new ways to broaden its appeal to the Roaring Fork Valley audience.

It will continue the popular Lunch Film Series at The Cooking School of Aspen and feature a block of Spanish-language films with English subtitles tonight. Family-friendly events also have been added to the lineup.

This year the festival is expanding “outside of the roundabout” and showing films at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale and The Temporary in Basalt, said Gena Buhler, Wheeler Opera House general manager. It’s an acknowledgement that the Aspen community extends beyond the town’s boundaries, she said.

That idea is reflected as well in this year’s overall theme: “One World. One Community.”

Throughout the five days, the festival will show films oriented around a specific community — people affected by borders, adventure junkies, people who thrive in uncharted waters.

One film that stands out is “Soufra” about life in a refugee camp south of Beirut, Lebanon. The camp is home to victims of war from Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere. Men struggle to find jobs; women spend their days cooking for their families. Mariam Shaar, a refugee who has lived in the camp all her life, enlists a group of women with impressive culinary skills to launch a catering company. The women of Soufra build a loyal clientele but face hurdles when they try to expand beyond the borders of the camp.

“‘Soufra’ elucidates the myriad challenges that stand between refugees and success, as well as what it takes to overcome them,” says the film festival’s program.

“That is probably one of my festival favorites right now,” Buhler said.

“Soufra” inspired a cooking demonstration that will be held Saturday at The Cooking School of Aspen. The menu includes three dishes made by the women in the film and their official cookbook comes with the price of admission. “Soufra” director Thomas Morgan will attend and there will be a special video message from Mariam in the film.

Buhler said Mountainfilm in Aspen has the flexibility to take the content from the Telluride festival and find new ways to present it.

“We’re not trying to duplicate what they did in Telluride,” she said.

The cooking school presentations are a perfect example of tailoring the festival.

“We can eat and watch a film at the same time,” she said.

During its 10-year run in Aspen, the festival has grown from two days. It was at three days when Buhler became the executive director at the Wheeler. She saw the potential for expansion and made it happen with her team. Mountainfilm was the first event she curated when she was hired four years ago, so “it’s near and dear to my heart,” she said.

The film festival also will feature numerous films for outdoor adventure junkies. The Ute Mountaineer will sponsor “An Evening of Adventure” at the Wheeler Opera House tonight. A “Biking Adventure Double Feature” will be screened at the Wheeler on Thursday night.

The full lineup of events can be found at

A special 10th anniversary festival pass can be purchased for $100. There also is a Pick 3 Pass for $67.50 and a Downvalley Pick 2 Pass for $30. Single-event tickets are available starting at $30. Call 970-920-5770 or go to to purchase tickets.

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