By Amy Hadden Marsh
Sopris Sun Correspondent
The feelings I had after the seventh annual 5Point Film Festival are the same feelings I usually have after the blessing of Carbondale’s Mountain Fair: blissful, hopeful, open and connected. Amidst the daily news onslaught of drought, killer storms, climate change, over-population and oil spills, 5Point Film is an alternate universe.
At the Carbondale Recreation Center last weekend, over 50 films portrayed people of all ages from all over the world, celebrating their natural talents and the beauty of the natural world with an unfettered joie de vivre.
Roaring Fork Valley resident Dave Munk said this year’s offerings had more depth. “It’s not as much adventure porn,” he said. “(The filmmakers) convey how sport and being in nature affects them and how it’s a part of their lives.” That makes sense since each film must convey the five points of 5Points: respect, commitment, humility, purpose and balance.
Munk also said that new technology grabs the audience and brings them along for the ride. “(The GoPro camera) has elevated the adrenaline norm,” he said. “The technology and resolution quality is good and it’s like you’re there.”
So, for four days, we all went skiing through deep powder in Japan and off cliffs in Alaska, walking slacklines over deep gorges, climbing impossible routes, fishing, running, surfing, skating, boating, ‘boarding, and monkey-wrenching along the Snake River until we were breathless and slack-jawed.
At least I was, particularly off the coast of Angola while zooming through a tunnel of blue-green water during the film, “Under Desert Sun.” I’m glad someone else was doing the surfing because I would have been too mesmerized by the wave, like I was while body-surfing in the Bahamas decades ago. I can still see that wave, towering above me just before I was slammed face-first into the sand.
Yes, 5Point took me back to adventures past and memories of environmental activism on land and at sea. But, it also clarified the perspective that comes with age. When the late Floyd Dominy, notorious Bureau of Reclamation commissioner from 1959-1969, showed up in “DamNation,” defending dams as “controlling nature for the good of man,” I could see where he was coming from.
In his time, it was all about controlling nature for human benefit. Dams produced electricity and water for a growing, post-war nation. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told the American public that wild rivers were “dangerous,” as if they were a threat to national security.
The people who built the dams believed in what they were doing, just like the scientists at the Hanford nuclear facility in Washington state or at Los Alamos, New Mexico believed that producing plutonium for nuclear bombs was patriotic. That was the rationale in those days. There was no thought given to the impacts on the natural world or that what befalls nature, befalls humankind. But, from the viewpoint of 5Point, I believe that times have finally changed.
When long-time activists and stars of “DamNation” Katie Lee and Mikal Jakubal took the stage Saturday afternoon to reflect on the film and their work, I realized that all the crazy back-country actions that took shape in the 1970s and 1980s — when Earth First! spiked trees and sugared bulldozer gas tanks, and Greenpeace activists with video cameras put themselves between whales and whalers or stood at Ground Zero at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site to stop a nuclear test — were not in vain. The next generation, like “DamNation’s” Ben Knight, Travis Rummel and Matt Stoecker, now carry the torch. In fact, Knight dedicated his Best of Festival award to Lee.
5Point volunteer Mona Newton was excited about “DamNation.” She said, “I think we’re seeing a resurgence of environmentalism. It seems like there has been a void for the past 10 years.” Newton partially attributes that void to a collective focus on electronic gadgets but Jakubal believes today’s video technology has strengthened activism. “In the old days, you took a picture, saw it once and then it [went] into a scrapbook,” he said. “Now, we can put photos of actions on the web and it goes viral.”
Or it gets made into a film and shown at 5Point.
In his book, “At Play in the Fields of the Lord,” the late Peter Matthiessen suggests that wild instincts and wild nature cannot be tamed. Nor is nature waiting to be saved or controlled by humankind. It is not god-less or heathen; it is life itself. And, in the alternate universe of 5Point, nature becomes a playmate.
And, don’t worry: Millenials and Gen X-ers, in their plaid shirts and blue jeans, aren’t sitting around whining about how the Boomers have left them a dying planet. In Travis Pitcher’s film “Highline Slackline,” Josh Beaudain says “The sky isn’t falling. We’re just rising.”
5 Point Film Festival awards
5Point now has six award categories. The five-person jury added a new one called Pure Joy. Here’s the list of this year’s winners:
Spirit of Adventure Winner:
“Nobody’s River” (Skip Armstrong)
Runner-Up: “El Sendero Luminoso” (Renan Ozturk)
Most Inspiring Story
Winner: “14.c” (George Knowles)
Runner-Up: “Slomo” (Joshua Izenberg)
Winner: “The Revenge of the Beasts” (Sebastian Linda)
Runner-Up: “The Explorer” (Anson Fogel)
Winner: Forest ski segment from “Valhalla” (Nick Waggoner, Zac Ramras)
Runner-Up: Surf/snowboard segment from “Into the Mind” (Malcolm Sangster)
Winner: “Dream” (Skip Armstrong)
Runner-Up: Wedge (Brecht Vanthof)
Best of Festival
“DamNation” (Ben Knight, Travis Rummel, Matt Stoecker); it will be available for download on June 6 and plays at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen on June 8. All other festival films go live at 5pointfilm.org this month.