Friday marked the second day of the sixth annual Lookout Wild Film Festival at the Walker Theatre Auditorium. A sold-out crowd was treated to 13 films ranging just under three minutes to almost 50, on topics ranging from traditional Himalayan honey harvesting while mountain climbing (say that three times fast) to white water rafting to personal experiences of the ocean.
A notable feature of the annual festival is its rolling, none-repeating lineup; each ticketed screening has a different set of films. Select filmmakers are present at the screenings and talkbacks afterwards. Audience members can also vote on a favorite film for their screening. Thursday’s audience favorite was Break on Through, about 19-year-old Margo Hayes of Boulder, Co., and her quest to climb a 5.15-difficulty cliff. Stumped, another cliff-climbing film, won Friday’s vote by a commanding margin with its tale of one-armed climber Maureen Beck (also from Colorado) battling a 5.12-difficulty cliff face called Days of Future Passed.
Two films on Friday were of special interest to local audiences: Lookout Mountain Conservancy and The Wild President. The first film showcased the impact of conservancy internships on local public students’ lives; the second showed a less-known part of President Jimmy Carter’s life: how his personal experience fishing and paddling river rapids inspired a life-time commitment to river conservation. The conservation theme ran explicitly through several other themes, although the general tenor of Friday’s selections was one of awe and personal challenge in experiencing the outdoors.
The outdoor clothing and equipment company The North Face was the sponsor of many films whose subjects, naturally, tended to be toting North Face gear. A scene in the film The Last Honey Hunter turned the paradigm on its head, with the American team finding that their high-tech gear was no match for the sheer toughness of the Nepalese honey collector who they were filming, or for the formidable Himalayan honeybees whose honey they sought.
In general, the film selections were all beautiful to behold and interesting in their subjects and pacing. The longest, Fishpeople, seemed ill-suited to its timeslot. While its six anecdotes were individually compelling, at almost 50 minutes long it was simply too much of the same for the end of a full evening, which ran 3.5 hours with a short intermission. Its sedate pace was perhaps amplified by following the high-energy and very funny Stumped. The latter film not only followed an engaging and compelling protagonist, but also included some poignant yet tongue-in-cheek jabs about the ways that disabled athletes are often described in the media and in personal interactions. Stumped’s very own fake news segment is not only hilarious, but also educational.
To see video, click here.
The Lookout Wild Film Festival continues through Sunday at the Walker Theatre Auditorium in Chattanooga. Tickets are available online; advance purchase is strongly suggested.