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I was able to get to Boulder last night for the first stop of Rainshadow Running’s Trail Running Film Fest. I’ve been to a number of climbing and mountaineering film festivals over the years, but this was my first opportunity to attend a showing of trail running films. James Varner and Rainshadow Running did a great job of putting on the show.

On the whole, I enjoyed the mix of film styles and subjects. The event consisted of one feature film, a handful of race vids, some excerpts and previews of future films, a couple humorous interludes, and even a couple interviews (Well… one of the interviews felt more like a commercial, but I suppose that’s bound to happen once in a show of this size….)

Regardless of whether it’s climbing films or trail running films, I’m drawn to those that can combine two key elements: (1) showing off the unique nature of a particular event, mountain, or locale, and (2) giving us an honest and open picture of the people involved, without elevating them or their accomplishments to mythical status (even if their physical and mental abilities are otherworldly). I’ve never been comfortable with the notion of runner (or rock climber) celebrities, so films that go too far down the path of “OMG, look how AWESOME this person is!!!” are kind of a turn off. Thankfully, none of the films in the festival suffered from that problem.

If I had to pick my favorite film of the evening, it would be “Depressions.” The filmmaker did a great job of giving us a glimpse of the challenges that one particularly strong and talented runner faces, all while doing so in a deceptively simple visual style that made it virtually impossible for me to blink, let alone look away from the screen.

Other highlights:

  • Having lived in Colorado for the past decade I’ve become a bit spoiled with spectacular and awe-inspiring mountain trails. But the two clips about Alaska’s Mountain Marathon (a short film about the 2013 Race, and a preview of the upcoming feature “3022”) made my jaw drop. I’d never considered the possibility that a trail 5k could be so ass-kickingly difficult, I’m anxiously awaiting the release of “3022.” (I’m not affiliated with “3022,” but if you’re interested in joining me to help get the film out quicker, here’s a link to their online fundraising campaign: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/3022-ft-a-mt-marathon-story.)
  • I’m also looking forward to the imminent release of “The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young” (which was also previewed with some exclusive footage). Given the truly unique nature of that race, I can’t help but think the film is going to be something special. (http://barkleymovie.wordpress.com/)
  • The feature film – “Running the Edge: The Colorado Trail” was a great way to end the evening. I appreciated the way the filmmaker stepped back and let the story unfold organically. The trail and the runner were both given their due, and it felt like I was there watching the record attempt rather than watching a glossy hyper-edited retelling of it.

Future dates and locations can be found here: http://www.trailfilmfest.com/tour-dates.html.