Good Life

Festival films capture the great outdoors

The documentary “Project Mina” is part of the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which stops by The State Theatre April 8-9.
The documentary “Project Mina” is part of the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which stops by The State Theatre April 8-9. Photo provided

There’s something to be said for the life that’s lived vicariously.

Whether that something is good or bad depends on who’s fielding the question, of course, but every once in a while it’s nice to step outside of your comfort zone — even if said step occurs with your backside still planted firmly in a reclining chair.

This time around, the chairs in question belong to The State Theatre, the venue for the latest stop on the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour.

The tour, as you may have surmised, is an offshoot of the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, which is held every fall in Canada in celebration of filmmakers, authors, photographers, adventurers — basically anything that looks good on a resume.

Films featured in the festival focus primarily on nature and the outdoors, especially as they pertain to the siren song of adventure.

From both an athletic standpoint and film-making perspective, I still can’t believe we ended up with the final product we did. So many things were working against us, but in the end everything worked out and we have a fun and inspiring film to show for it.

Joey Schusler

A selection of the event’s best offerings are then sent on an international tour, screening in places like New Zealand, China, and, as luck would have it this year, State College.

Held on April 8 and 9 at The State Theatre, this leg of the tour is hosted by The Sierra Club Moshannon Group, which is helping to bring a global experience down to a local level.

Do you still have those fantasies about leaving work on Friday, heading straight to the airport, flying to Venezuela and climbing the third-highest peak in North America — all before returning to your desk on Monday morning?

It’s been done. And captured on film.

Joey Schusler is one of the filmmakers behind “55 Hours in Mexico,” which he produced with Karl Thompson and Thomas Woodson.

“It’s definitely a very comical piece because the whole concept is just absurd and downright impossible to begin with,” Schusler said.

There’s not much room for a director’s chair on the third-highest peak in North America. Making films like these require the eye of an artist — and the body of an All-American wouldn’t hurt either.

Schusler called the experience one of the most physically challenging tasks he has ever undertaken.

“From both an athletic standpoint and filmmaking perspective, I still can’t believe we ended up with the final product we did,” Schusler said. “So many things were working against us, but in the end everything worked out and we have a fun and inspiring film to show for it.”

It’s always surprising how documentaries turn out. You have to be flexible as a filmmaker and just go with the story in front you.

Jen Randall

Still, there’s a reason they say “no pain, no gain” — which is mostly because it rhymes. But there’s also a little bit of truth there.

Schusler is thrilled that the film is traveling the globe.

“To get a spot on the tour brings your to more eyes than you could imagine, all in intimate and grand screening experiences as opposed to online,” Schusler said. “As a filmmaker that’s really satisfying and makes all the hard work worth it,”

It’s likely that Jen Randall would agree.

Randall is the filmmaker behind “Project Mina,” a documentary that followed pro climber Mina Leslie-Wujastyk over the course of a season on the world cup bouldering circuit.

The director was interested in finding out what it takes to be an elite climber and filmed Leslie-Wujastyk on and off for more than a year.

Randall’s original ambition now occupies only a small corner of the finished film.

“It’s always surprising how documentaries turn out. You have to be flexible as a filmmaker and just go with the story in front of you,” Randall said.

An avid climber herself, Randall became interested in what she perceived as Leslie-Wujastyk’s love/hate relationship with competition climbing and the forces that kept her on the rocks.

She hopes that audiences share that fascination.

“So far, people seem to have connected with the real human element of the film, of being brave enough to put yourself out there as well as accepting when it’s time to let go,” Randall said.

These are heady themes, especially for films that, on the surface at least, could be easily dismissed as a series of chills and thrills in the great outdoors.

“I think adventure sports and wild places are a great backdrop for exploring identity and that’s what I really like to focus on,” Randall said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

IF YOU GO

What: Banff Mountain Film Festival

When: April 8-9

Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College

Info: www.thestatetheatre.org; www.banffcentre.ca/banff-mountain-film-and-book-festival

  Comments