Students and Mansfield residents left the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival Sunday feeling as if they were capable of anything. UConn Recreation’s Outdoor Team brought the festival to UConn to showcase nine films on regular people running, skiing, hiking, horse-back riding and biking in mind-boggling ways, which showed the audience just what the human body could do.
“Corbet’s Couloir” featured two bikers racing a skier down a snow-capped mountain. The three skidded across rocky cliff faces, slid over the snow and jumped dozens of feet into the air. Its delicate balance of humor and action continued to play across all the films that followed it in the festival, and helped to keep the audience engaged.
“For The Love of Mary” was about a little 98-year-old man named George clad in an ancient green pair of running shorts and a yellow T-shirt, who ran every day in honor of his dead wife Mary. Despite his heart condition, age and fatigue, George runs the completely up-hill, 7.6 mile Mount Washington Road Race every year, beating his old times each time he runs it. The audience at the festival loved his sweet nature and the little jokes he made about his age.
“I really like the film about the runner and how he’s running up Mount Washington, just because it’s a place so close to us,” Maura Sanchi, a third-semester environmental science major, said. “And just taking it to the next level of running is an insane thought to me. And he did it for his wife, which is super sweet.”
“Fast Horse” is about a young Native American man who participates in horse relay, where competitors must race a horse around a track, jump off and jump on top of another horse for another lap. The way he vaulted over full-grown horses seemed gravity-defying, especially considering he was in a rush and couldn’t completely think the leap through.
“Brothers of Climbing” (BOC) is the story of how the climbing group of largely Black and Asian climbers, BOC, first was formed and how they built a community together. Many of the climbers in the film had been told all their lives that climbing was a white person’s sport and that there were no Black or Asian climbers. It was only by stumbling across each other in climbing gyms that they realized this was a false statement. Their mission today is to expand minority participation in outdoor activities, beginning with climbing but ideally moving beyond to other activities in the future.
“My favorite one [film] was ‘Brothers of Climbing’ because it really did connect with me because when I came to UConn I wasn’t really an outdoorsy person and I, myself, am a person of color,” Apolanar Velazquez, a seventh-semester statistics major, said. “My sophomore year I started rock climbing, and I always kind of thought that was a white person thing to do. So I stepped out of my comfort zone and connected with the film in that way.”
“This Mountain Life” is about a 60-year-old mother and her daughter hiking and skiing from Vancouver, Canada to Skagway, Alaska. As their six-month journey went on, the pair grew closer and witnessed the most breath-taking parts of nature from a giant glacial cave to a range of ice-covered mountains that made the mother cry. It garnered the most laughs with the mother’s little gripes and their continuous longing for indoor plumbing and sushi.
“Far Out: Kai Jones” centered on Jones, an 11-year-old extreme skier. He was jokingly filmed being denied tickets to a PG-13 film and a seat at a bar, but was then shown being given permission to ski down a cliff face. Audience members laughed when he said he always asks himself how far he can push it without scaring his mom.
“RJ Ripper” took place in Kathmandu, Nepal, where 21-year-old Rajesh Magar is the fastest mountain bike racer in Nepal, despite being born into poverty. With his family unable to afford a bike, Magar had to build his own from metal scraps. On this wonky, homemade bike, his fast racing and fearlessness got him attention from a mountain bike trainer. Today, he supports his family to such an extent on his racing career that he has been able to improve their quality of living from a one-room apartment to one with several rooms.
“Break on Through” was about Margo Hayes, a 19-year-old who became the first woman climber to complete a 5.15A route. Even immediately after she accomplished this incredible achievement in the climbing community, Hayes began working to become the first woman climber to climb Biographie, the hardest 5.15A in the world. As of 2017, Hayes was able to complete this challenge too, and has since has paved the way for two other women to achieve 5.15 routes.
“People are capable of so much more than I thought they were,” Sanchi said. “Things I didn’t even know existed and people are out there doing them everyday, and I’m just here living my life too.”
“The Frenchy” was a fun, light-hearted film to end the night. It featured Jacques Houot, an 82-years-old ski and bike racer. Houot joked that he had 24 close calls with death: Cancer, heart attack, avalanche, gun attack, bike accidents and a time when his car fell off a bridge and into a river. Despite this, he continues to say his catchphrase, “No Problem,” and keeps on challenging himself. He tells viewers to never give up, and to enjoy life.
Many audience members reported feeling inspired by what they saw in the film, and curious to see what they were capable of, themselves.
“These films have taught me no matter what you think you can’t do, there’s always a way to do it, so just try,” Velazquez said. “Especially like the old man who’s like 90-years-old and continues to run. And meanwhile, I’m over here and I’m really considering whether I should’ve joined the running club. It’s really eye-opening and motivating.”
You don’t need to be young, rich, experienced or well-trained to go outside and find out what your body can do. This movie festival showed students that all they need to do to be like the people in the movies showcased is to go outside and challenge themselves.
Rebecca Maher is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.