If you’ve spent any time in the Roaring Fork Valley – or most any ski-town area in the American West, for that matter – then you’re probably already familiar with the subjects of “The Quiet Force,” a 37-minute film that will be showing Friday night at the Wheeler Opera House as part of the opening night of 5Point Aspen, a two-day spinoff of Carbondale’s 5Point Film Festival.
The movie, produced and directed by Hilary Byrne and Sophie Danison while both were living in Jackson, Wyo., tells the story of the immigrant workforce in ski-resort communities – the hard-working, often overlooked backbone of the hospitality and restaurant industries – without whom ski towns would completely stop working.
Byrne and Danison ask tough questions about immigration and the broken system that has had such a divisive effect on both Mexico and the U.S., but they do so through the personal stories of immigrants in places like Jackson, Salt Lake City and Mammoth Lakes, Calif., where foreign-born workers and families are an essential part of the local economy and an integral part of the community.
It’s weighty subject matter for Byrne and Danison, both of whom worked in the action-sports film industry before embarking on their latest project in 2016, after deciding they wanted more out of their movie careers than just an adrenaline rush.
“We were working on inspiring things, but I think both of us had gotten into filmmaking to tell stories that we felt could start conversations and really make more social change,” said Byrne, who has produced content for Teton Gravity Research, National Geographic and Outside Television, among others.
“We were both feeling in a bit of a rut in that regard, and we started brainstorming about what we could do in the industry we know to tell a story with a little bit more meat,” Byrne said.
Inspired by a November 2015 article in Powder magazine (entitled “The Quiet Force”) and recognizing that immigration was such a hot-button issue, Byrne and Danison spent 2017 and much of 2018 gathering footage from around the West and Washington, D.C., and conducting interviews with ski-town locals and public officials (all of whom concede that their communities would be devastated without immigrant labor).
In addition to tackling the immigration topic head-on, the film also seeks to counteract some of the stereotypes that exist about Latinos by, for example, showing young immigrants skiing with their schools or ski clubs or talking about their love of rock climbing.
In all, it makes for a moving experience that will stay with viewers long after the credits roll.