Playing their passions, they live to take risks (Boston Globe)

Sep 21, 2011

Playing their passions, they live to take risks

Film festival spotlights women in adventure sports
-September 18, 2011|By Andrea Meyer, Globe Correspondent

A woman’s bikini-clad body bends and sways as she rides an enormous wave, foam nipping at the tail of her surfboard. A teenager’s powdered fingers clutch a wall of rock that towers over the sea. An 8-year-old girl kicks a soccer ball that whizzes past the goalie. A woman cries, drenched and terrified, as she recounts how her boat capsized in the middle of the ocean, where she has been rowing solo for three months.

These are some of the images that make up the films of the first Women in Adventure Sports Film Festival, running at the Regent Theatre in Arlington on Wednesday and Thursday. Screening films about rock climbing, mountain biking, surfing, rowing, highlining, ocean kayaking, soccer, and other outdoor sports, the festival is the first of its kind to focus solely on women.

Besides featuring women, what sets these films apart is their stories. “Guys shoot musclehead movies,’’ says festival cofounder Kevin Shea. “Women want stories. They want to know who the person is, why they’re doing this, what their passion is.’’

Passion is front and center in “Heart of the Sea,’’ Charlotte Lagarde and Lisa Denker’s compelling 2002 documentary about Rell Sunn, a pro-surfing pioneer, who died of breast cancer in 1998. The film won a string of prizes, including the 2003 PBS Independent Lens Audience Award. More recent standouts include “Kick Like a Girl,’’ Jenny Mackenzie’s smart, funny look at the Mighty Cheetahs, a third-grade girls’ soccer team in Salt Lake City that was in 2008 permitted to play in the boys’ division after clobbering every other girls’ team; and Sarah Outen’s emotionally charged “A Dip in the Ocean,’’ which chronicles the filmmaker’s own journey when, at 24, she became the first woman to row across the Indian Ocean. Darcy Turenne’s “Eighth Parallel’’ explores gender stereotypes in Indonesia through the lives of two rock climbers, a motocross rider, a mountain biker, and a surfer.

Shea and festival cofounder Paul Fitzpatrick-Nager have been learning the ropes since they became Boston-area hosts for the granddaddy of adrenaline sports film festivals, the Banff Mountain Festival, 16 years ago. Shea says audience members kept asking why they weren’t showing more films about women, and the idea for this unique festival was born.

Shea and Fitzpatrick-Nager scoured the Internet, called every filmmaker and sports enthusiast they knew, and put out a call for films on LinkedIn. Rather than splashy world premieres, they were seeking the best films they could find, whether they were made 10 months or 10 years ago. They managed to find 30 films, which they have narrowed down to a program that includes one 60-minute feature per day screened with five or more short films.

In addition, an eight-minute introductory segment includes compelling snippets, like a two-minute interview with nonagenarian Barbara Washburn, who was the first woman to climb Mount McKinley, in 1947. Washburn was married to Bradford Washburn, the explorer and cartographer who helped found the Museum of Science and served as its director from 1939 to 1980. “We’re hoping to engage history as a way to show women whose shoulders they’re standing on,’’ Shea says. “It’s not just a saying, but an old technique in climbing. To gain 10 feet, they would stand on each other’s shoulders.’’