Film fest celebrates the environment |

Film fest celebrates the environment

Submitted photoWoody Harrelson appears in "Go Further," which follows a group of activists traveling down the Pacific Coast in a bio-fueled bus. The film will be shown Saturday night at the Nevada Theatre.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

What started as a 25-minute film about the successful efforts of a group of climbers working to save Yosemite’s Camp Four from development turned into the 90-minute award-winning “Vertical Frontier.”

The documentary evolved from Kristi Denton Cohen’s initial idea to do a short film about the climbers’ advocacy. (Cohen’s cousin was the climbers’ lead attorney.) It soon became clear to the San Francisco filmmaker of 15-plus years that she needed to conduct more research.

“You couldn’t understand why they wanted to save Camp Four until you understood the history behind being a climber,” Denton Cohen explained Monday. “As a nonclimber, you don’t understand until you get the whole history.”

The end result is a film begun in 1998 about the art, sport and philosophy of climbing the great granite Yosemite walls.

Immediately upon its release in the latter part of 2002, “Vertical Frontier” won awards, including “Best Film on Climbing” at the prestigious Banff Mountain Film Festival that year and “Best Climbing Film 2003” at the Kendall Mountain Film Festival.

Narrated by Tom Brokaw, the story is told through the words of climbers including David Brower, Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, Jim Bridwell, Lynn Hill, Hans Florine and Dean Potter.

Although the endeavor placed her “thousands of dollars in the hole,” Denton Cohen funded the film herself.

“The stuff that pays the bills is my corporate work, commercial and nonprofit video production. This feeds the soul,” Denton Cohen noted.

After her expenses are eventually covered, the filmmaker will donate any net proceeds to nonprofit organizations that support the mountain environment.

“I believed in the story; I wanted the story to be heard. I was ready to take a giant leap into independent filmmaking,” said Denton Cohen about her unwavering commitment to produce “Vertical Frontier.”

What she hasn’t received yet in financial success has been made up for via public feedback and personal satisfaction.

“The reception has been wonderful. People write me letters. Climbers write, ‘now my wife understands,'” Cohen said with a hearty laugh.

Making the film also became a rather personal venture for Denton Cohen.

“I’ve done tons of backpacking but I’m not a climber. My dad was a climber; he died when I was 6. Getting to know these guys was a way to get to know him,” she explained.

And in the process of making “Vertical Frontier,” Denton Cohen was surprised to find heroes.

“I liked the spirit of the climbers and the fact they never gave up. We have all kinds of heroes, and some of them are unexpected, like the ones who pushed the envelope of climbing in Yosemite. They’re not the typical heroes kids hear about in school, but they are still heroes,” Denton Cohen added.

“Vertical Frontier” is one of about 40 films to screen during Friday’s and Saturday’s second annual Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City. Denton Cohen is one of approximately 20 filmmakers, celebrities and environmentalists to speak during the two-day festival sponsored by the nonprofit South Yuba River Citizens League.

Other celebrity speakers include actress Daryl Hannah, bioneer Charris Ford, international mountaineer Carlos Buhler, Auburn-based extreme boater Scott Lindgren and speed climber Hans Florine.

The films explore a variety of environmental subjects such as wildlife, forestry, natural resources, Native American issues, rivers and water, and those individuals making a difference in the natural world.

The festival also features adventure films about mountaineering, climbing and boating. Children’s’ films will be featured Saturday morning.



WHAT: second annual Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival

WHEN: Friday from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

WHERE: Miners Foundry Cultural Center, 325 Spring St. and Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St. Saturday’s VIP Party at Nevada City Winery, 321 Spring St. All locations in downtown Nevada City.

ADMISSION: $10 to $55 depending upon whether session passes or full festival passes are purchased. Proceeds go to South Yuba River Citizens League’s overall budget. Tickets are available online at, by phone 265-5961 or at the SYRCL office, 216 Main St., Nevada City.


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