El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park (Craig Miller/KQED)
El Capitan in Yosemite National Park (Craig Miller/KQED)

Yosemite National Park is kicking off its first-ever film festival Thursday to mark the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Yosemite Grant Act, the document that set aside Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove as protected lands.

Steven Bumgardner, director of the Range of Light Film Festival, said there are more than enough films about the park to fill the five-day marathon that runs through Sunday. He spoke with “The California Report’s” Rachael Myrow.

“We’ve got quite a long film history here in Yosemite, and this is definitely a retrospective film festival. We’re looking at the history of Yosemite through film,” Bumgardner said. “But we’re also going to be having some premieres of films making their debut right here in the valley.”

The festival will feature more than two dozen films, and more than 16 visiting filmmakers and artists will attend.

Ken Burns’ documentary, “Yosemite: A Gathering of Spirit,” is one of those documentaries. Bumgardner describes it as a repackaged version of Burns’ “America’s Best Idea” into a 25-minute definitive history of the creation of Yosemite National Park, from the 1864 grant signed by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War to the importance of people like Galen Clark and John Muir.

Yosemite: The Fate of Heaven,” a documentary from 1989, explores the juxtaposition between nature and people visiting the park, according to Bumgardner.

“It’s kind of a behind-the-scenes tour of Yosemite in many ways,” Bumgardner said. “They shadow park rangers, folks who drive the trash trucks, but they also interview visitors in the campgrounds and things like that. So it’s a neat story of how Yosemite inspires people, but also that human and natural relationship and sort of the conflicts that result.”

And for the hikers, rock climbers and thrill-seekers who flock to Yosemite, there’s “Honnold 3.0,” a documentary about Alex Honnold, a free climber known for his ascents of El Capitan and Half Dome.

“You know, the vast majority of those climbers, they’re securely anchored with ropes. There are still some hazards associated with that,” Bumgardner said. “But the idea of climbing that without a rope, the idea that … one slip and you’re dead. There’s only a handful — literally — a few people in the world that can do what Alex Honnold does. And this film’s a great portrait of him. And I think people who might think he might be crazy. … When you watch it, you realize that he’s just really good.”

The Range of Light Film Festival runs through Sunday at the park’s Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. For more information about the festival, go here.

Listen to Rachael Myrow’s full interview with Steven Bumgardner below.

Yosemite Kicks Off Its First-Ever Film Festival 26 February,2014Don Clyde

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