Grab your favorite outdoor adventure pal and don’t forget the trail mix, because on Friday, Sept. 16 No Man’s Land Film Festival is coming home to Carbondale. Hosted at the Crystal Theatre, doors open 15 minutes before showings at 5 and 7:30 p.m.
“It feels really exciting to bring the magic back to Carbondale,” Executive Director Kathy Karlo said. “That’s where the magic all started.”
Founded in 2015 by Roaring Fork Valley local Aisha Weinhold, No Man’s Land celebrates diversity and gender equality in the outdoor adventure world by highlighting the stories of women, transgender and gender-fluid individuals through visual media. The flagship festival, which occurs annually in Denver, is a multi-day film event accompanied by in-depth panelist discussions.
The upcoming Carbondale show, sponsored by Mountain Hardwear, Black Diamond and Dometic, is part of No Man’s Land World Tour, and will present seven films over the course of two hours.
According to Karlo, the program was specially curated for Carbondale with an overarching theme focused on diversity. The powerful films follow the stories of ultrarunners, cyclists, hikers, surfers, action sport athletes and business leaders as they promote body positivity, overcome sexist and transphobic barriers, and address the deep-seated white supremacy and colonialism that plagues outdoor recreation.
While describing the film, “Mardi & the Whites”, directed and produced by Paula Champagne, Weinhold said that she felt like she spent a “year in a master class on decolonization in the outdoor industry.”
She continued, “I don’t think it’s a piece we hear very often and to hear it so succinctly, there is no gray area. It really opened my eyes because I never considered that if you’re a person of color going outdoors, you’re acting as a role model; and since you’re probably engaging with more white people you’re literally taking time away from your own community. It’s a very real sacrifice.”
Another movie that will captivate audiences is “Fuel for Life: Blake Hansen” by female directors Katie Bennett and Blake Hansen. The film tells the story of Hansen, a professional mountain biker, who races for acceptance in both her personal and professional life as she overcomes prejudice and self-doubt. With a surprise twist at the end, audiences realize the enormity of the mountain she has had to climb.
“Visual storytelling is so impactful,” Karlo said. “It’s such an important way to bridge the empathy gap and literally look through someone else’s eyes, see what they’re seeing and feel what they’re feeling which is ultimately a way to address some of these larger issues we’re dealing with currently.”
Remaining true to the festival’s slogan, “un-define feminine,” the films challenge audiences to question their role in outdoor recreation exclusivity, and how antiquated notions can be unraveled and reimagined.
“We’re redefining [feminitity] to make it our own and show the complete opposite of what many women and transgender people have been told forever,” Karlo said. “The initial first step is deconstructing and understanding where all of these biases came from. To find some of the root cause, we have to understand why these outdated narratives exist, who put them on us, and then give ourselves permission to change from that point.”
Karlo, who also hosts “For The Love of Climbing” podcast, elaborated that untangling femininity is a multi-layered process that requires a deep look at our individual experiences, stories, relationships and upbringings. Both Weinhold and Karlo agree that the films are excellent opportunities to discuss true outdoor inclusivity, amplify marginalized voices and take action to dismantle prejudice.
Since the flagship festival moved to Denver in 2019, No Man’s Land has started gaining international acclaim as more award and grant winning filmmakers have joined the programs. While the festival’s new home in Denver has allowed for increased accessibility and more opportunities to connect with a wider audience, both Weinhold and Karlo feel a deep appreciation for the festival’s Carbondale roots.
“When I started No Man’s Land it was a dream that there would be more representation in film and that there would be more equity and equality in gender and sports,” Weinhold said. “Now to see how it has become a platform for so much change in the adventure film world… It’s so cool. It’s amazing, and really inspiring, and I am so mindblown every single day.”
Tickets for Carbondale’s No Man’s Land program are on sale now at www.filmfreeway.com/NoMansLandFilmFestival