Editor’s note: “Bidder 70″ is yet another labor of love from a couple we consider local heroes. For over 15 years, George and Beth Gage have only made films that make a difference in the world, among them, “Fire On the Mountain,” about the heroes of the Tenth Mountain Division and “American Outrage,” about the life and times of Native American crusader Carrie Dan. Mountainfilm is almost always the launching pad for their important work. “Bidder 70″ screens twice: Friday, May 25, 6:45, The Palm and Sunday, May 27, 4:15, The Nugget.
You probably have already heard about Bidder 70.
You’ve heard the story of Tim De Christopher, the college student, who derailed an illegal Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction a few years back on news stations — or perhaps have read about it more recently in Rolling Stone or Orion.
You’ve seen folks wearing Bidder 70 baseball caps in Telluride for over a year now or a rogue poster hanging in the window of a local business.
But you won’t really know the story of Tim DeChrstopher, and what happened on December 19th at the oil and gas auction, and more significantly since, until you’ve seen the story as told by local husband and wife filmmakers, George and Beth Gage, at Mountainfilm in Telluride.
The Gages are as emblematic of Mountainfilm in Telluride as the backdrop of Bridal Veil or Tibetan prayer flags. Since 1995, the award-winning filmmakers have premiered seven documentary films at Mountainfilm, including this year’s contribution, Bidder 70 which will premiere in Telluride Friday May 25th at the Michael D Palm Theater at 6:45pm and Sunday May 27th at The Nugget Theater at 4:15pm
Bidder 70 follows the journey of the high-profile incident in which University of Utah student activist, Tim DeChristopher, derailed the 2008 Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction that would have allowed drilling around Utah’s National Parks. DeChristopher entered the auction as Bidder #70, bid $1,700,000, winning 22,000 wilderness acres with no intention to drill or pay.
The auction took place in December 2008, after Obama had won the presidential election but before he was inaugurated. Many saw the auction as Bush’s last gift to the oil and gas industry and interestingly, the entire thing was deemed illegal by the Obama administration. However, DeChristopher was still indicted on two federal felonies, convicted, sentenced to two years in jail and is currently serving time.
Because the Gages began filming DeChristopher’s story immediately after the auction, the story was constantly unfolding as they shot, turning what they originally thought would be a short project into a much longer journey.
“We thought that whatever would happen would happen really quickly,” Beth said. “But, we had to wait for the story to play out, which took 2.5 years.”
When I spoke with Beth on May 15th, she revealed, “We finished the film yesterday,” adding, “so that’s pretty exciting.”
Last year during Mountainfilm, the Gages showed scenes from Bidder 70, even though the film wasn’t finished, because they feared that by the time the film was wrapped, DeChrsitopher wouldn’t be able to attend the festival. Their intuition was correct. Next week, as audiences watch the complete version of Bidder 70 at Mountainfilm from Telluride, DeChristopher will sit in his jail cell outside of Denver – where he was recently transferred from Nevada. He has been in jail since July 26th, 2011.
“It’s interesting,” Beth said. “Tim’s story is still evolving. You have to finish a film, but we’re both interested in where he will go from here.”
For DeChristopher, and the Gages, his story is about much more than a court case or a film. According to Beth Gage, Bidder 70 the movie, focuses more on Tim, the person, and his conviction to fight for climate justice.
“It’s about his courage and his willingness to take a stand to work for a sustainable future,” Beth said. “As I watched the film last night, I thought the best thing people can get out of it is to be empowered by Tim’s actions. We want people to understand that taking a stand and making sacrifices are worth it to fight for a livable future.”
DeChristopher’s powerful story, combined with the Gages’ moving filmmaking, will make it hard to leave the theater unaffected. Festival Director David Holbrooke agrees, and has highlighted Bidder 70 as one of the festival’s top ten films that he believes will “resonate [with Mountainfilm audiences] in a real and sustained way.”