At the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride, Colorado last month a panel discussion convened to talk about the allegations raised in a recent 60-Minutes expose on Greg Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute. Made famous in his bestselling book “Three Cups of Tea” the non-governmental organization that builds schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan is at the heart of controversies that range from a fraudulent misrepresentation of facts in the story to the misappropriation of funds raised from the piggybanks of third-graders.
“He was very much one of my heroes,” said festival executive director Peter Kenworthy, “But if you tell someone it’s a true story it better be true…especially if you use that story to fundraise.”
In a piece for the new blog site ByLiner.com, mountaineer and journalist Jon Krakauer accuses Mortenson of fabricating his origin myth to line his own pockets. Called “Three Cups of Deceit,” the article details Mortenson’s mismanagement of CAI funds and suggests that he ran the organization like megalomaniacal dictator. Many in attendance at Mountain Film had read Mortenson’s book and supported his efforts overseas. And those who packed a small meeting room at the festival demanded answers.
Port Arthur, TX is a long way from Colorado. But when Texas environmental justice advocate Hilton Kelley delivered a message to the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride, he demonstrated an activist power that transcends that distance. Kelley, who fights for the rights of poor populations whose health is negatively impacted by oil refinery pollution, spoke on the importance of protecting the rights of all to enjoy clean air, water and soil.
A favorite from last year'sMountain Film in Telluride was honored with the first-ever Indomitable Spirit Award. Music by Prudence star Prudence Mabhena received a cash prize of $1,000, plus an additional $1,800 collected among festival attendees. Also an anonymous donor committed to make up the difference in the effort to raise $25,000 to build Mabhena a new home in Zimbabwe.
I’ve been up since 6:00 AM and I’m still scrambling to post photographs from the first day of Mountain Film. I have less than 15 minutes to pull together and post an album before I head out to the next morning coffee talk gathering at 8:00 AM. I didn’t get to bed until almost 2.
I regret that these humble pictures do very little to give you an idea of how amazing and a bit overwhelming this year’s Mountain Film is. And we’re only half way through. A very...
I’ve personally shared two cups of tea with Greg Mortenson. This weekend I had hoped to have my third and enjoy another conversation with a man who has inspired me along with millions of people around the world. But that’s not likely to happen. Though the invitation remains open Greg won’t attend the Mountain Film Festival at Telluride after a devastating expose weeks ago on the CBS news show 60-Minutes. Accused of fraud and deception the subject and co-author of the best selling book “The Cups of Tea” is persona non-grata.