The 2015 Adventure Film Festival closed on Sunday night in Boulder, amid tears and cheers in remembrance of the festival’s inspiration: the late climber and adventure filmmaker Jonny Copp. We bounced around at the Festival this weekend to bring you some highlights.
Watching environmental engineer Favio Chavez teach children in the impoverished Paraguayan town of Cateura to play classical tunes on scrap metal is like watching rain douse a desert. The “desert,” though, is home to one of South America’s largest landfills. And the rain is a downpour of violins humming in unison. Chavez’s dream turns garbage littering streets and streams into flutes and cellos. After finding a craftsman who learns to build these instruments, Chavez opens free music lessons for Cateura’s aspiring musicians, who later make their name, the Recycled Orchestra, known around the world.
While directors Brad Allgood and Graham Townsley present a scope limited the social aspect of the environmental disaster, the lost understanding of the environmental consequences is outweighed by the memorable characters. In a Newtonian sense, Chavez is the opposing force to the plague that’s gripped the rural wasteland. His eager determination to impact the lives of young musicians counteracts the devastation a barren environment creates. For example, he helps make the orchestra a community asset in Cateura after one of Paraguay’s most devastating floods engulfed the town in 2014, providing housing for families who lost their homes. The children repay him by learning to mute their personal instability for the sake of the band’s success.
The face of poverty as painted by the filmmakers is bittersweet. Each scene leads the viewer to find beauty in unexpected places. And as time passes, the musical accomplishments of the orchestra become an encapsulating portrayal of human potential that leaves the viewer awestruck.
We Are Fire
Champa Pal’s husband was murdered for his land.
When he was killed on October 9, 2011 in Uttar Pradesh, India, everything was stolen from Pal. As a woman without money, the police would not act on her behalf.
It wasn’t until Pal joined the Gulabi Gang, a women’s movement formed by Sampat Pal in Northern India in 2006, that Champa Pal received justice. The Gulabi Gang fights for the rights of women and teaches them to sew, so that they do not have to rely on men for money.
This evocative film revealed the unifying power of women and the strength of a community determined to affect change in the midst of oppression. The bright pink garments worn by the women stands out against the bleak landscape and offers hope of a more equality minded future.
“Drawn,” produced and directed by artist, rock climber and father Jeremy Collins, is an emotionally evocative work of art – literally. The film combines Collins’ famous illustrations with footage from adventures to four exotic summits, as he searches for closure after the death of his good friend Jonny Copp. The result is a multimedia experience that includes a live drawing performance overlaid with beautiful projections of stars.
After Copp passed away in a tragic avalanche, Collins set out on an epic journey to find balance between the necessity of adventure and the importance of home and family.
On one trip to a summit in Venezuela, the crew never made it to the top due to multiple setbacks, including fractured bones and abysmal weather. They learned that even though everything doesn’t always go as planned, there is joy and meaning in the journey to these incredible destinations.
The film tells the story of heartbreak, recovery, happiness and family through its inspiring imagery, handcrafted illustrations and touching soundtrack. After witnessing Collins’ struggle with finding meaning after tragedy and discovering solace in his family, the audience was left with a new perspective on the brevity of life.
The Adventure Film Festival commemorated the second anniversary of the Boulder flood on Sunday with Knee Deep. The 17-minute documentary examined the role volunteers play in natural disaster response by spotlighting the Mudslingers, a group of friends that mobilized a clean-up effort through social media before the rain had even subsided.
The flood that tore through Boulder in September 2013 swept away mountain roads, displaced about 11,000 people and damaged more than 19,000 homes. Starting with just a few supplies from Home Depot, the Mudslingers saw an opportunity to rally support and help restore their community after watching it go under water.
The group of friends and strangers was out removing mud and debris from homes, clearing roads and digging cars out of ditches when President Obama called on the National Guard and declared a state of emergency in Boulder. The team ultimately provided aid to more than 400 households.
Aly Nicklas, Knee Deep’s co-director and producer, cofounded the Mudslinger group, which began as a ragtag crew of 25 and grew to more than 1,000 volunteers by the time winter weather forced the group to curtail its relief efforts.
The film examined the tipping point that transforms someone from a community member to a participant. Many who volunteered said in the film that they didn’t have experience in disaster relief, but they still felt called give their time to the effort. Through the forces of empathy and community, Knee Deep empowers individuals to pick up a shovel and take recovery into their own hands.