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Basalt resident’s documentary headlines 2019 5Point Film Festival
McBride calls ‘Into the Canyon’ ‘hardest project ever’
into the canyon
Basalt resident Pete McBride (right) and Kevin Fedarko hiked 750 miles through the Grand Canyon, an arduous journey because of the lack of developed trails, temperature extremes and required ascents and descents. Their story is told through “Into the Canyon,” which was released in February and which plays Saturday during the 5Point Film Festival. Photo by Pete McBride

When the 5Point Film Festival begins its four-day run on Thursday, audiences will choose from a line-up that includes almost as many ancillary events as there are adventure films, the fest’s original reason for being.

Now in its 12th year, 5Point, which runs April 25-28, kicks off with a “Van Life Rally” to celebrate “outdoor living, dirtbags and van culture, alongside live music, food and drink,” according to its promoters. Van Life unfurls outside the Carbondale Community Center, 567 Colorado Ave., home to the films as well as opening night festivities, which begin at 4 p.m. on April 25.

An ice cream social, a Saturday night after-party and panel discussions are some of the sidelights to a gathering that has successfully retained its small-town feel in the presence of internationally acclaimed works. To many, 5Point, founded in 2007 by former Climbing Magazine owner Julie Kennedy, offers a mirror reflection of the community’s interests.

weight of water
Erik Weihenmayer battled rapids during his 277-mile river journey in the Grand Canyon that is told in the 5Point Film Festival feature, “The Weight of Water.” The film plays Sunday at the Carbondale Rec Center. Photo by Erik Weihenmayer
Two films that were set in the Grand Canyon, “The Weight of Water” and “Into the Canyon,” the latter by Pete McBride of Basalt, are the marquee features of a 5Point program showcasing 50-plus short films. Considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, in February, Grand Canyon National Park celebrated its centennial birthday.

“They work as nice complementary pieces from the same place but each telling different stories,” McBride said this week of the program’s pillars.

This is the adventure filmmaker’s fifth time presenting at 5Point and he suggested it’s one of his favorite venues: “I think the community understands the lure of the Grand Canyon and wild places.”

“Into the Canyon” is the Saturday feature and will be shown from 2:30-5 p.m.

Since the February release of “Into the Canyon,” the film has drawn sold-out shows from Flagstaff to San Francisco, New Hampshire to New York. “It’s been humbling and cool to see,” McBride said.

Also humbling was the magnitude of hiking the Grand Canyon, despite the fact that McBride had traveled through there several times previously to chart the Colorado River’s journey.

“It was the hardest project I’ve ever done. Nearly killed me. The film was almost as hard to make as completing the 750-mile hike," he said.

Upping the arduous factor of relatively few developed trails in the canyon, when the men embarked upon the journey, which was completed in 71 days and over a period of about 13 months, temperatures fluctuated from a low of 8 degrees to highs reaching more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

5Point panel
A panel discussion at Steve’s Guitars was a big draw during the 2018 5Point Film Festival. - photo by Jordan Curet
McBride and writer Kevin Fedarko figured they ascended and descended more than 100,000 vertical feet to complete the project.

“The hiking journey was much harder than I anticipated and the silence of the place was life changing,” McBride noted.

Both he and Fedarko required medical attention on separate occasions but pushed back against the temptation to abandon through outside encouragement of their mission: To shine a bright light on the environmental threats faced by the Grand Canyon through over-love by tourists and other business interests.

As to his forthcoming projects, McBride said he has “just finished a small film project in Kenya,” which sounds a whole lot easier than his Grand Canyon expedition.

View from canyon bottom

“The Weight of Water” starring Erik Weihenmayer, the blind adventurer best known for climbing and recording his journey to Mount Everest nearly 20 years ago, offers another view of the Grand Canyon. It received a grand prize at the Banff Film Festival, much to the surprise and delight of the filmmakers.

Weihenmayer worked with director Michael Brown and eight others on the 277-mile Colorado River kayaking adventure in October 2014. He described what sounded like numerous thrilling and potentially death-defying moments, including in Lava Falls, during their 20 days on the water that cuts a serpentine path through the Grand Canyon.

“Close your eyes and go into a giant rapid. It definitely gets the adrenaline flowing,” he said. Lacking vision, Weihenmayer was compelled to “interpret the river under what you’re feeling through the boat, what you’re hearing from the guides yelling on the radios.”

The river journey became a “cacophony of sound,” which included the echoes of “rapids bouncing off the canyon walls.” Born with retinal disease, Weihenmayer said he went blind during his freshman year of high school.

Back in the canyon, flips were common in almost every big rapid and Weihenmayer said out of necessity to survive, he became proficient in his rolls. “I give my guides a ton of credit. They were trying to avoid holes and chaos,” he said. 

His main guide was Harlan Taney, who Weihenmayer called a “world-class kayaker.”

This was the fourth major film that Weihenmayer and Brown produced together; both men live on the Front Range but have local connections. Weinhenmayer climbs often with Jeff Hauser of Challenge Aspen and earlier this spring, he hiked up Highland Bowl with the help of guide Rob Levitt of Basalt.

“The Weight of Water,” the 5Points feature film on Sunday, will be presented from 3 – 5:30 p.m.