Ingrid Picanyol Studio.

Project Diary: Torelló Mountain Film Festival 22

28 October 2022
5 min


Project Diary: Torelló Mountain Film Festival 22

For the last five years, the editions of the Torelló Mountain Film Festival have revolved around a place in the world. This place is used to develop different activities parallel to the competition and also, as you probably already know, to create the starting point for the concept of the campaign. I have already said it in previous editions, but if cinema explains stories, we also understand our exercise as an opportunity to explain another one and, thus, add views to this rich, diverse and cultural event that we would like to build.

Although for most of its forty years of history the festival has tended to focus on mountain sports, since 2018, the aim is to highlight mountain culture beyond sport. The stories of people who relate to nature in a different way from that of sport are also mountain stories, the stories that happen in direct contact with the territory are also mountain stories, and the stories marked by the behaviour of nature are also mountain stories.

Borders fragment the region, and they are used to give names to places and to control human behaviour, but not —or at least not until now— to control the behaviour of the climate. From an environmental point of view, we have seen for some time now that the global and the local are in constant connection. What happens in a small part of the world can be triggered by a global cause, while at the same time the entire planet is experiencing a global climate crisis caused mainly by the developed countries, of which we are a minority in terms of land area. Damn. So, given this dichotomy, I wonder if what has happened or is happening in Mongolia could be a consequence of what we are doing here. Or, on the other hand, I also wonder whether what is happening today in Mongolia is also happening here and in the rest of the world.

I begin to research Mongolia and gather everything I find, whether I find it interesting at first or not. Many of the first things that I find highlight the figure of Genghis Khan, they talk about the persistent conflicts with China and emphasise the steppe of this sparsely inhabited region, and how it became the home of the most important nomadic culture on the planet. A parenthesis for those who, like me, wish to revisit what drives such communities: nomadism has been the way of life of half the population of this country, and it exists not because the shepherds and their families have a wanderer’s spirit, but precisely to guarantee the survival of the group. They are light groups in terms of equipment, but very heavy in terms of people and livestock. When it gets too cold in one place, they have to move to the place where they know the weather will be warmer, or when it stops raining in one place, they have to move to that place where they know there will be fresh water and, therefore, fresh grass for their herd.

It turns out that these families have known where they had to go thanks to oral tradition. Until now, the elders passed on the knowledge to the youngsters and everything worked. But today, this foresight is no longer reliable. I have read that, due to climate change, it is becoming increasingly difficult for shepherds to predict the weather on the steppe and, therefore, many of these trips to places where they think they will be better off, often end in tragedy. Along the way, they encounter unforeseen extreme weather phenomena, such as DZUD, which can kill half the herd. And if the herd weakens, their own survival falters. To the point of sacrificing the horse, which is their most sacred animal. Or to give up and set out on the journey, not to another part of the steppe, but straight to the capital, because their way of life does not seem safe anymore. As if this were not enough, I have also read that once in the capital of Ulan Bator, they find that the system does not know how, or rather, does not want to take them in. And it is then that these families are forces to live on the margins in poverty, to breathe some of the most polluting air in the world because of the coal in suspension and to see how they do not know how, or do not want to integrate their children into the education system.

What worries us at the festival is not only that many things in Mongolia are about to disappear, but that things as important as fresh water, clean air, fresh grass, oral tradition, hospitality and wild animals are also about to disappear here and in the rest of the world.

To create this year’s campaign, we have tried to put on the glasses of the shamanic tradition, still present in some parts of Mongolia, to observe this reality from an animist point of view, understanding that everything has a soul and is therefore as important as people. Also inspired by the book ‘When I sing, mountains dance’ by Irene Solà, in which the author plays at telling us a story from different non-human voices, we have created a series of tombstones on which these characters express themselves in the form of an epitaph when they realise that their death is foretold. What would the last blade of grass write on its gravestone as it sees its end approaching? And the last stream of crystal clear water? And the last gesture of hospitality or the last tale learned from our grandparents? And the last wild horse or the last blast of clean air?

I would like to thank Gerard Canals for the magic of writing each of the epitaphs that you can read on the tombstones, Irene Solà for creating such an inspiring work and for connecting me to him, the team who have worked with me, Tiago, Ricardo and Victoria, for their energy in making this seed planted at the end of June grow, and the festival team for allowing year after year to continue exploring new formal, conceptual and narrative territories. Long may it continue.

Ingrid Picanyol.
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