Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Higher Ground film wins film fest in Telluride

‘Fish Out of Water’ presents veterans’ fly-fishing camp in Sun Valley


By SABINA DANA PLASSE
Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo by Jennifer Koskinen War veteran Sgt. Christian Ellis sings at the Mountainfilm in Telluride film festival. Ellis was a subject in the short documentary film “Fish Out of Water” produced by the Sun Valley Adaptive Sports Higher Ground program. The film received the Moving Mountains Prize and the Higher Ground program was awarded $4,000.

A documentary film about Sun Valley Adaptive Sports' fly-fishing camp for wounded veterans won the Moving Mountains Award at the Mountainfilm in Telluride film festival on Monday, May 31.

Tom Iselin, executive director of the Higher Ground program, and participants in the program attended the festival in Colorado over Memorial Day weekend. The film "Fish Out of Water," produced for the program, had been selected to screen at the festival.

Iselin and crew were only minutes from leaving Telluride when festival organizers held them up to have them attend the award ceremony.

"Fish Out of Water" was produced and directed by Charles Wiengarten Annenberg. The 19-minute short film is a tribute to wounded veterans and honors the families and nonprofit organizations helping them cope with the challenges of physical injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"We beat out 10 other films at the festival," Iselin said. "'Fish Out of Water' was awarded for the work we are doing as a nonprofit organization on a wide-scale level with a broad, sweeping impact."

Iselin said the judges knew about the program and that it provides hope.

"The film was awarded $4,000 to be used within the organization," Iselin said. "This was the first time the film was sent to a festival. It will be submitted to the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival and the Silver Creek Fly-fishing Film Festival."

Marine Sgt. Christian Ellis, a machine gunner featured in "Fish Out of Water," was injured by a roadside bomb explosion beneath his vehicle in Iraq. He snapped his lumbar spine and witnessed his comrades die. He presents an account in the film of how different life can be when a soldier returns home.

"We create an environment that is not a hospital," Iselin said. "It's a retreat and safe place of hope and model for other organizations because of our long-term-care approach."

Ellis has been given $6,500 by the Higher Ground program for voice lessons so he could pursue his dream of singing.

"It has kept him from committing suicide," Iselin said. "He is back in school because of our long-term support."

Ellis attended the film festival and sang at the award ceremony in Telluride.

Sabina Dana Plasse: splasse@mtexpress.com




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