As the Olympic Games in Torino demonstrated time and again, dedicated athletes can often overcome assumed boundaries and surpass supposed limitations to achieve truly amazing results. Although the Olympics tend to stress the technical and competitive side of the sports presented, it is always the spirit of a victorious athlete that wins over an admiring crowd and leads us to wonder what kind of drive it requires to be a true athlete.
In attempting to answer that question as it applies to a wider range of sporting events, Boise State University's Outdoor Program puts on the Seventh Annual Sawtooth Mountain Film Festival this Friday, featuring 11 short films dedicated to depicting the true heart and soul that goes into adventure sports. Geoff Harrison, director of Boise State's Outdoor Program, explains that each of the selected films this year not only showcases some thrilling adventure footage but also stresses the human dimension as well.
"When the festival started, we worked with a licensing firm to secure the rights to some of the films and also got local people to premiere their films," Harrison says, adding that at first, only four or five of the films would be produced by area locals. As the festival continued each year, Harrison received more and more requests from locals to allow their films to be included, and it was decided last year that the festival would no longer acquire films through a licensing firm, but would instead request submissions directly from independent producers.
"Over 20 films were submitted," Harrison says, adding that although the bulk of submissions hail from the Northwest region, some came from international neighbor Canada and even Ireland.
To select the featured films, a jury of six members from Boise State's Outdoor Program staff studied the entrants. "We mainly asked ourselves, 'What appeals to us when we watch any film?'" Harrison says. He adds that another factor the panel looked for was an attempt to answer the question, "What exactly drives that person to do that?"
Another common trend in the selected films this year is an international flavor. Between the Earth and Sky is the story of a paragliding team's expedition to Nepal, while Hypoxia II: Ethiopia documents an international team of kayakers as they brave the perils of crocodiles, hippos and dangerous rapids to become the first source-to-sea expedition on the Blue Nile of Ethiopia.
"It's like a window on two cultures' perceptions of one another, a glimpse of humanity," Harrison says of Huck'd, which follows a group of Irish kayakers as they battle Class V rapids in Africa, making a distinct impression on the African locals. The local scene is presented as well, with films such as Living the Dream ... Falling, a profile of Twin Falls B.A.S.E. jumper Miles Daisher. Neige is the work of a Boise videographer, and it follows a snowboarding expedition into the European Alps.
Various forms of skiing are covered in the films PWO5, about free-heel skiing in the Utah backcountry, Sessions, about free-heel backcountry travel in the Sierras, and The Collective, which showcases the leaders in the free ride progression style where the whole mountain is considered in-bounds. Another film, Splitter, deals with an entirely different type of mountain sport, that of minimalist mountain climbing. In this case, the film follows an "expedition" made up of two members.
Although a wide range of sports will be presented, Harrison stresses that the common theme of these films is the true heart and soul of each of the athletes. No title demonstrates that more than Second Step. This film follows the 25-day trek of Warren McDonald as he climbs Australia's Federation Peak. What makes this feat so amazing is that McDonald is a double leg amputee. "He had a boulder trapped on him for three days," Harrison explains, "and was told he would never walk again, let alone climb." Even the film's title demonstrates its theme. As Harrison explains, "It's about how most people would be afraid to take even the first step after such an accident."
As for the festival itself, Harrison says not only will it continue, but that it will even expand. He mentions a possible tour in the future. "It's a community event," he stresses, "and we'd want to keep it a community event and tour it around just to college audiences." In keeping with this community spirit, he also points out that the festival only takes submissions from totally independent producers and directors. "It's a forum for people to get their films displayed," he says. "There's really no other way to see them quite like this."
The Seventh Annual Sawtooth Mountain Film Festival is Friday, March 3, at the Boise State University Special Events Center. Tickets are $5 in advance, and can be purchased from 1 to 7 p.m. at the Student Recreation Center until Thursday. The day of the event, tickets can only be purchased at the door for $8. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the first film shown at 7:30 p.m. The program will last until 10 p.m. and will include a raffle of hats, backpacks, water bottles and more.