Guest post by Shana Cesaire, content creator for the Ottawa Adventure Film Festival.
Everyone can excel in the outdoors – they just have to be given the opportunity.
One of the most exciting programs this year at the Ottawa Adventure Film Festival is Adventure is for Everyone. When it comes to outdoor adventures, certain groups are more privileged than others and therefore can access outdoor activities more easily. OAFF acknowledges that this is a field dominated by white men with financial means, but we want as many people to be able to see themselves in the festival as possible. Many of the people featured in this program not only have physical obstacles to endure, but must also break through societal boundaries. OAFF wanted to create a program that promoted those who have to go through this extra layer of adversity to tell their stories.
Adventure is for Everyone focuses on inclusivity: We wanted to showcase how people from many different backgrounds experience outdoor adventures. The focus is not only on the adventure itself, but the story of how those individuals get to that point and how their different identities — whether it be race, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic background — shape their experience in the outdoors.
Films you will be able to see in this program include Transcending, which follows the journey of a trans woman who trains to climb the Seven Summits, and Par for the Course, which follows an African-American woman from Brooklyn who takes on the Broken Arrow Sky Race in Squaw Valley, California.
This program’s feature documentary, That’s Wild, tells the story of a group of underprivileged youth from inner-city Atlanta who attempt to climb the ice peaks of Colorado. The youth participating in this adventure are part of a program hosted by Wildness Works, an organization in Atlanta that strives to give economically disadvantaged children access to safe and nurturing outdoor experiences.
“I didn’t just want to do a promo video,” says Michiel Thomas, the film’s director. “I wanted a compelling story, evolution, and an arc. I wanted to tell a story that mattered, and it just clicked from the first moment I met with Wilderness Works. They already had a trip to Colorado planned, were open to the idea, and didn’t try to control the narrative.”
Through amazing storytelling, That’s Wild urges viewers to reflect on why outdoor adventures are easier for some than others. These kids’ reactions to the mountains can be described as nothing short of amazement. Someone who is used to experiencing the Rocky Mountains would have their perspective challenged after seeing the excitement in these kids’ eyes.
In order to create an inviting space for BIPOC and other groups to participate in the outdoors, it is important to have people who are already comfortable in these spaces understand why they have access to the outdoors that other groups may not. Everyone’s story is unique, and the approach taken to open up this space is an important factor in diversifying the outdoors. That is what That’s Wild set out to do.
Programs such as Wilderness Works are one way to make these adventures accessible to individuals of different backgrounds who would have trouble finding space in the outdoors on their own.
“These programs are crucial. Even more so in the world we’re living in right now,” says Michiel. “Moving towards the future, it will be even more important to emphasize the outdoors and encourage outdoor activity for everyone.”
“It’s very important that we support after-school programs like this to help them grow up and give them opportunities.”
It’s also important to have different faces seen participating in outdoor adventures so people of all backgrounds, especially youth, can see that they, too, can participate in their own adventures.
“Media and outdoor brands have a big responsibility to include diverse faces into their branding and promotion in an authentic manner,” says Michiel. Diverse representation in outdoor branding has increased in recent years, but there is still a lot of work to do.
Viewers will find films about people from all types of backgrounds throughout the festival, but Adventure is for Everyone really showcases the uniqueness in the stories of diverse groups, and that there are no limits to who can experience “adventure.”
Watch the trailer for That’s Wild below.
Tune into Adventure is for Everyone at the Ottawa Adventure Film Festival on November 20. Get your tickets and view all the other programming here.