I have attended the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival regularly for the past few years, so I was excited to have the opportunity to preview four of the films that will be shown in the Women in Adventure category at #ShAFF2015. This year there will be double the number of films featuring female athletes and/or made by female directors and producers. This is due to a conscious effort by the organisers of the event not just to select more films made by and featuring women, but to address the reasons that there are disproportionately fewer women in front of and behind the camera. There will be competitions specifically for Women in Mountain Adventure Films, Women in Adventure Photography, and the exciting development of a ShAFF Fringe Women in Adventure Forum. The Forum has the specific aims of celebrating achievement, inspiring and encouraging more women to get involved, and to establish a network for women in adventure/outdoors sport to keep the conversation going.
The Showroom is a local independent cinema, it’s a perfect venue for ShAFF and really does help create the festival feel. It’s a great feeling to watch quality films with a crowd of people that ‘get it.’ In previous years there have been some fantastic moments, particularly the collective reaction to climbing films, often featuring familiar faces in places we know well and love. As well as celebrating the achievements of Sheffield’s outdoors community, adventure films are a source of inspiration, a way to open my eyes to sports or places that I haven’t seen before, and to possibilities and aspirations for myself. The following four films feature truly diverse women and their personal adventures. I absolutely loved watching them, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the ShAFF films.
Finding Traction – As an aspiring ultra runner, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to preview this film in which female ultra runner Nikki Kimball takes on the record for running the Long Trail through the mountains of Vermont. At 273 miles, the Long Trail is the equivalent of running more than 10 marathons back to back, and includes twice the elevation of Everest. To run this trail non stop is an extreme physical and mental challenge, it’s fascinating and sometimes painful to watch the effects of fluctuations in nutrition, hydration, and fatigue. As a successful athlete with a career spanning many years, Nikki has an insight into the ways that women and men are treated differently in sport. She is running the Long Trail to publicise a charity, Girls on the Run, and wants to inspire young women to discover that being outdoors will make them happy. You don’t have to be a runner or a woman to enjoy this film, but if you happen to be both, don’t miss it!
Megamoon – This film is made by Hannah Maia and features herself and her new husband as they cycle across the US Transcontinental Great Divide for their Megamoon. First this involves rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, then cycling from New Mexico, via desert heat, wind, and mud to Alberta, Canada. Hannah owns this film, she has shared a piece of her personal world and it is full of joy and the love of life. I particularly enjoyed the little moments captured by the camera, a wheel popping off the trailer unexpectedly, beard wiggling, and the face that happens when your tent nearly gets struck by lightning. I was so inspired by this film I was practically packing my bags to go and find my own Mega adventures before the end titles had finished.
Patience – A short film by Jen Randall about alpine climber Emily Ward and her journey to recovery from serious illness against the odds. It demonstrates the need not just for physical strength but for mental strength and the persistence to endure. Often in life, it takes a negative event to force us to find strength through adversity – but I don’t think so in Emily’s case. I’m sure she was exceptionally strong before her illness, and will continue to be in spite of it. This is a woman who has made numerous first alpine ascents in Kyrgyzstan. This film challenged me to question whether I have the strength of character needed to achieve my goals. I hope so, and if so, what am I waiting for?
Nobody’s River – In this film four girls from the USA kayak together along the longest free-flowing river in the world, first through Mongolia and then Russia. The film shares the highs and lows of the all-female expedition, the timing of this journey coinciding with an unforeseen tragic period in their lives. They encounter the beauty, naivety and spontaneous magic of Mongolia, tempered by the sometimes brutal reality reflected in the Russian experience. Feeling themselves bonding as a tribe, they are forced to take difficult decisions, having to make the right calls both as a group and individually. This is a film about friendship as much as adventure, the girls survive the physical and emotional challenges of the journey together using their unique blend of strength, capability… and just the right amount of intuition.
You can find all the details about ShAFF Women in Adventure here – http://www.shaff.co.uk/news-and-press/2014/11/05/Women_In_Adventure_Take_Centre_Stage_At_SHAFF_2015
And here is a link to the complete list of Women in Adventure films – http://www.shaff.co.uk/whats-on/women-in-adventure-films