Ones to Watch at 5Point Adventure Film Festival

Ones to Watch at 5Point Adventure Film Festival

Surprise is among the key ingredients to the 5Point Adventure Film experience, whether it’s the story in a short film that opens your eyes to a new corner of the word or a new perspective or a special guest who arrives onstage as credits start to roll. You don’t want to sit down at the Carbondale Rec Center knowing exactly what’s coming on-screen or off.

But here is a taste of some of the best films coming to the festival, which returns to an in-person home Thursday to Sunday and as always offers a diverse and surprising collection of soulful adventure stories.

In keeping with the fragile tenor of our pandemic moment, many of the films tackle mental illness and several feature world-class athletes and adventurers opening up about their own struggles.

“If I Tell Them” (Courtesy 5Point Film)


Friday Night Film Program, 7 p.m.

Special guests include director Oliver Sutro

The Roaring Fork Valley-based photographer and filmmaker Oliver Sutro paints a vivid emotional and visual portrait of fishing guide James Sampsel as he grapples with his bipolar disorder and its affect on his livelihood on the water as well as his roles as a husband and dad. Sutro shoots the 12-minute film entirely on the water and in the woods, including sumptuous scenes of Sutro painting canvases in the rain, lending it an otherworldly spirit. In the opening moments, Sampsel wonders what would happen if his fishing clients knew of his mental illness or his past manic and depressive episodes: “If I tell them, will they ever come fish with me again?”

“Learning to Drown” (Courtesy 5Point Film)


Friday Night Film Program, 7 p.m.

A searing and inspirational portrait of despair and, eventually, hope, this intimate 40-minute documentary tells the story of pro snowboarder Jess Kimura. The Canadian rider opens up about her fall from the top of her sport, her head trauma, her schizophrenia diagnosis, her deep struggles following the death of her partner and finding a path forward. She finds it in the ocean, overcoming a lifelong fear of water through surfing.

“It’s like pushing your mind to push your body to do something crazy that is expressive of all of this stuff that I have inside of me,” she says of her extreme athletic pursuits. “That is just my nature. I’ve tried to tone it down, but I get so fired up.”

This is the latest film by 5Point favorite Ben Knight and Felt Soul Media, whose past films include “The Last Honeyhunter” and “Life of Pie.”

“This is Beth” (Courtesy 5Point Film)


Saturday Night Film Program, 7 p.m.

Beth Rodden is freedom personified. Or so it seemed as she became one of the most famous and accomplished free climbers in the world — making first ascents and free ascents on El Capitan.

“People saw the magazine covers and videos, but they didn’t know what was underneath,” Rodden, now 40, says in the film.

Underneath there are crippling body image issues and negative self-talk and a dark period following her divorce from climber Tommy Caldwell.

Directed by Jen Randall and supported by evocative archival footage, the film made with grant support from the 5Point Film Fund and is making its world premiere at the festival.

“Before I Die” (Courtesy 5Point Film)


Changemakers Program, Sunday, 11 a.m.

Special guests include director/producer Rush Sturges and subject Tristan Bussell

After his father dies of genetic early-onset Alzheimer’s, a rare form of the disease, his son Tristan takes a DNA test to find out if he will contract it and finds he has a 100{a804659bb65d18cb4a6dc8e7d034c3e09b42584b41147982650930584377f6e7} chance. At 36, he embraces living to the fullest. His goal: get good enough at whitewater kayaking to run a waterfall. This 10-minute tearjerker, made with support by the 5Point Film Fund, follows Tristan on his mission.

“From My Window” (Courtesy 5Point Film)


Changemakers Program, Sunday, 11 a.m.

Special guests include subject Melissa Simpson

“From my window I can see the tallest peaks in Colorado,” Melissa Simpson of Leadville says in the opening moments of this 20-minute epic. “I’ve always wanted to tackle these mountains.”

Born with cerebral palsy and using a wheelchair, Simpson hadn’t summited any peaks and also needed help getting around her hometown. That begins to change after she meets Erik Weihenmayer — the blind adventurer who has summited Everest — who serves serves as a mentor, climbing partner and inspiration as Simpson starts making her dreams into reality.

“Torn” (Courtesy 5Point Film)


Sunday, April 24, 3 p.m.

Special guests include Conrad & Jennifer Lowe-Anker

Max Lowe was 10 years old when his dad, the superstar mountaineer Alex Lowe, died in an avalanche on an expedition in Tibet in October 1999. Alex’s best friend and climbing partner, Conrad Anker, went on to marry Alex’s widow and raise Max and his two brothers. Now a filmmaker, Max used his camera as a therapeutic tool for himself and the family, attempting to reckon with the trauma of their loss in intimate interviews and by digging through Alex’s archives at their Bozeman home. The result is “Torn,” a revelatory and radically intimate documentary.

It is part of a three-film lineup of features that also includes “An Accidental Life” (Friday, 10:30 a.m.) and “The River Runner” (Saturday, 3 p.m.).


Friday, April 22, 3:30 p.m.

The best-selling adventurer/philosopher Jedidiah Jenkins, author of the must-read “Like Streams to the Ocean,” is a natural fit for 5Point. He’ll tape an episode of his popular podcast at the festival with Jenkins in conversation with filmmaker Taylor Rees (“From Kurils with Love”). Afterward Jenkins will give a reading and do an off-mic Q&A with the 5Point audience.


Saturday, April 23, 11 a.m.

Forget Saturday morning cartoons or watching “Encanto” for the bazillionth time, 5Point’s family-centric program is a dependably feel-good kid-friendly experience that — in many years — has featured some of the best movies at the festival. The 2017 girls’ skateboarding short “Gnarly in Pink,” for instance, was a 5Point favorite that went on to be distributed by National Geographic.

This year’s is a bilingual 90-minute program hosted by Voce Unidas de las Montañas co-founder Jasmin Ramirez and conservationist Beatriz Soto, followed by an ice cream social.