The 5 Point Film Festival has carved out a unique niche since its founding in 2008. Part movie screening, part movement, the weekend-long festival is a gathering of the tribes for adventurers of all stripes.
Fitz Cahall, the Seattle-based filmmaker and host of the essential mountain-town podcast, “The Dirtbag Diaries,” was first invited to 5 Point four years ago. He remembers getting cold-called by 5 Point founder Julie Kennedy, and feeling dubious of yet another upstart outdoor film festival.
“I’m picky about what I do,” Cahall says. “But she wouldn’t take no for an answer. … So I came and I said, ‘This is one of the coolest things out there.’ And the coolest thing about it is there isn’t any pretense to it.”
Cahall has screened films here every year since then, joined 5 Point's board of directors, and this year is showing two movies and hosting a live taping of “The Dirtbag Diaries” at Steve’s Guitars on Saturday.
At 5 Point, the filmmakers and the audience mix easily. Unlike many festivals, there’s no hierarchy, no barriers or velvet ropes between artist, athlete and audience — just like-minded people talking about the art of film and the art of adventure.
“That just doesn’t happen at film festivals,” says Cahall, who describes 5 Point as a flesh-and-blood version of the community he’s tried to create through his podcast and website. “It’s a unique experience. … It’s infectious, being in that room with 900 people. And there’s something really powerful about these stories that define our community.”
This year’s festival began Thursday and runs through Sunday, April 28 in Carbondale, with six film programs at the Carbondale Rec Center, events running all day at venues around town with filmmakers and athletes, and speakers like National Geographic Adventure producer Mary Ann Potts and Patagonia CEO Casey Sheahan.
The screenings include 17 premiers, including Cahall’s “The Road to Karakol.” The 20-minute film follows Kyle Dempster on a solo bike trip through the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, where outdated maps take him on a journey he never expected.
Cahall’s second film, “Strong,” screens Sunday. It introduces us to skier Roger Strong, as he returns to the site of an avalanche that killed his friends and grievously injured him, exactly one year after the accident.
Strong will be a familiar character to anyone living in this valley or mountain communities around the world: a passionate outdoorsman balancing a career, a family and a life in the mountains. The incisive film gets to the heart of the struggle between pushing the limits, respecting the lethal potential of nature and accepting tragedy when it comes.
“A lot of us in these outdoor communities grapple with this,” Cahall says. “’How do you live passionately without living dangerously?’ It’s this question that all of us have to consider.”
The same question is posed by “The Crash Reel,” a feature-length documentary about X Games snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who was Shaun White’s top rival until he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a Utah halfpipe while training in late 2009. Pearce, who served as an on-air commentator for ESPN at this year’s X Games in Aspen, will be attending the festival, and the screening Saturday afternoon.
5 Point strives to showcase stories that have such depth to them — films that go beyond capturing people skiing sick lines and hucking cliffs, though, of course, there is plenty of go-big eye candy. The festival’s executive director, Sarah Wood, and her team spend months screening films and weighing them against the titular five points: respect, humility, commitment, purpose, and balance.
If they’re on the fence about a film, they leave the decision of whether to include it up to their screening committee — a group of active locals ranging from teenagers to 60-some year-olds, who help give the festival its distinct Carbondale spirit.
“We also look at, ‘Who are the characters?’ and ‘Do we want to showcase them in the festival and do they reflect our five guiding principles?’” explains Wood.
What they’ve found this year are characters like Strong, Pearce and Aaron Barker, a quadriplegic mountain biker featured in “All That I Am,” which screens Friday.
On the fun-loving side, “The Bus: A Journey Up North” follows a group of gearhead college kids from CU-Boulder who take a biodiesel-powered school bus packed with kayaks and mountain bikes on arguably the most epic summer road trip ever. The filmmakers — and the bus — are coming to 5 Point this weekend.
Two of the more colorful characters featured this year are Justin Jones and James Castrission, Australian adventure partners who set out to make the world’s first successfull unassisted round-trip expedition from the Antarctic to the South Pole. Their journey is captured in “Crossing the Ice,” which screens Friday. Shot by Jones with a handheld camera, it’s an unblinking depiction of their three-month journey that seemingly hits the full range of human emotion. There are goofy moments in a tent, fleeting joy in triumphs, the existential dread of failures, and stomach-churning footage of frostbite and bodies pushed past their physical limit.
The festival’s artistic ambitions match those of the adventurers it celebrates, as 5 Point attempts to capture the breadth of stories to be found in the mountains and beyond.
“The stories we’re portraying hit a wide range of what adventure can mean,” says Wood. “Sometimes that’s through traditional hiking and skiing and outdoor activities, sometimes it’s also a personal adventure or an artistic adventure. Sometimes it’s overcoming adversity. It’s important to us to touch on these different definitions of adventure, so that anyone can relate it to their lives and maybe be inspired to take a similar step.”
5 Point Film Festival
Ongoing through Sunday, April 28
Carbondale Rec Center
& Steve’s Guitars & Bonfire Coffee
Full schedule and tickets at 5pointfilm.org