April 29, 2011

elephantjournal.com hearts: 5Point Film Festival.

Four Faves, One Honorable Mention, and Two Questions from first night of…

5Point Film Festival

in Carbondale, Colorado.

Lindsey, Nicole (our new editor) and I drove up from Boulder, Colorado. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been to Carbondale. It’s colder up here, a few months behind Boulder’s Spring weather, beautiful, surrounded by mountains and mist and a river. Everyone up here seems straight out of a Patagonia catalog: happy, healthy, active, living simply.

The fest itself started with New Belgium beers and dinner. Sat on the grass, met a bunch of our longtime allies in our fun fight against the world going south—columnists including Emily Nuchols, Anna Brones, Allie Bombach, and soon-to-be columnist Sarah Menzies, Allie’s partner in 23 Feet.

The films started off with emcee Timmy O’Neil, as usual, rocking the crowd with a professional combination of humor, nuttiness, heart, and efficient hosting. I missed a few of the early speeches, hanging in the lobby trying unsuccessfully to get wifi and post, tweet, update our FB Page about the fest. Finally, I snuck in and settled as low as I could in my chair (my big head has a way of ruining movies for those sitting behind).

Three films wowed my eyes, broke my heart, and inspired. One film troubled me to some extent. Two seemed like half-advertorial (sponsors are all over the Outdoor Industry, which is great—walk-the-talk companies should support inspired simpatico filmmakers—but the lines between journalism and advertising were unclear in both Fly or Die and Life Cycles).


Chasing Water is a life-changer: you watch it and are re-inspired to work hard to be of benefit to a society and planet in dire need of those who give a care. “For six million years the Colorado River flowed to the sea. Since 1998, it hasn’t.” Instruction: Repeat said quote to self twice. (kayaking through sludge, walking over desert that was Colorado River)

Beautifully filmed, a sweet story of farming in the morning, climbing (illegally, without pro gear) in the afternoon.

My personal favorite: a reminder that there’s nothing urban or liberal or effete about environmentalism and responsible business:


Honorable mention: gorgeous, inspiring, kayaking.

“Music waltzed to the appreciation of outdoor adventure.” ~ Nicole Duncan

Two films, both beautiful and full of inspiring moments, gave me some pause. The Life Cycles film fell solidly into the “ski porn” category…full of slow motion bicycle shots. Listen: I looooovvvve bikes. Add as many o’s and v’s as you like. Loooovvve ’em. I live on ’em. I don’t own a car. But after the 300th bad-ass slow-mo blam! of a bike tire on mud or snow, I was fresh out of “wows.” A few moments that showed man’s effect on Nature were powerful…rich mysterious forests, clear cut—revealed in insta-time lapses. And the slow mo and detail shots were The Dude-worthy. There were moments of advertising, logo placement throughout that, while fine…the film is about bikes, bikes have logos…crossed over into advertising. Yes, it’s a new media age where product placement is ubiquitous (reference Super-Size Me guy’s new film):


…but you can keep it tactful, appropriate, non-distracting, and be upfront about the funding and support of the film. As is said about writing, the author’s task is to create a dream for the reader to fall into. One too many moments of Shimano’s logo shimmering in a close up, there’s danger of the viewer waking up out of the film and thinking, “I’m watching an ad.”

Which you kinda were.

The other hmmm: Fly or Die, made by two of my favorite Boulderites, is well-told, dramatic, beautiful, fun, exciting. But: knowing and caring about Dean Potter, the daredevil climbing star (freesoloing huge mountains in questionable weather without ropes, then if falling off 5 kabillion foot cliff, he pulls out a parachute as he plummet to the earth), I don’t want to see him push his edge or envelope in an effort to get in the zone. The zone, peace, that natural high, can be found naturally: through meditation. The present moment is accessible. We don’t have to risk our precious lives to revel in it.

The film did address this very real danger in a numerous of sober moments—kudos. Often, though, the danger was danced around: he’s crazy! He’s fearless! He’s pushing the edge! He’s bold, pioneering! I can’t help but feel that a young climber who watches said film would be left saying “wow,” inspired to push their own edge. For anyone who’s had a loved one or dear friend die a too-early death—and that’s just about all of us in or around the adventure/outdoor industry—watching such a film feels unsettling.

Also, Fly or Die’s oft-quoted experts represent the film’s sponsors. While both experts were, indeed, real leading voices for climbing, and had valuable observations and quotes, that relationship could be spelled out more clearly. Note: I respect and admire the film and filmmakers, and invite them personally to write here on elephant about their approach, goals, questions, mission, concerns, context—whatever they like. I would like to see elephant support their hard work, not undercut it. My questions reflect my honest reactions watching Fly or Die, and should be taken as genuine curiosity and confusion.

Today, we’re all encouraged to hike or bike and get out. It’s a unique film festival in that way: instead of films all over a campus or town, everyone gathers together and watches the same mostly-shorts. This builds instant community. Everything seems run in a super-eco-responsible manner. We’re psyched, honored to be here as press and media sponsor.

Updates to come.

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