UBC Mountain Film Festival uses the appeal of winter sports to revamp climate change narratives

UBC Mountain Festival, a film series co-hosted by The Environmental Sciences Students’ Association (ESSA), UBC Varsity Outdoor Club (VOC), UBC Ski & Board Club, and UBC Surf Club brings the topic of skiing and snowboarding with climate change, relationship to place, and Indigenous sovereignty to life. The event started as an idea between three UBC students and one of the film directors to combine the issue of climate change with outdoors sports.

Hanno Southam, the co-president of ESSA and the lead organizer of All.I.Can believes that there is a growing need to advocate for our understanding of climate change and our ability to generate solutions. The movie series is expected to become a community-oriented platform that fosters the link between skiing and climate change and raises outdoors enthusiasts’ awareness regarding environmental issues. All proceedings from the film festival will be used to support Protect Our Winter (POW) and Beyond Boarding (BB), two non-profits mainly related to the ski and snowboard community. They share similar platforms and visions in climate change advocacy and serve as a reminder for athletes to give back to nature.

Guilt Trip, directed by Mike Douglas, a professional skier and founder of POW, introduces the issue of carbon footprint and the responsibility of the skiing and snowboarding community in fighting against drastic climate changes. The Radicals presents a unique adventure shared between four skiers and snowboarders as they seek the meaning of “radical” while working alongside activists on the front line of Indigenous resistance. All.I.Can is an example of using stunning cinematography with minimal traditional narrative to bring the issue of climate change to life.

Through compelling storytelling, stunning cinematography and the credibility of professional athletes, Luke Faulkner, who organized the film showing of The Radicals believes that the stories of real communities bring relevance to the audience. The directors, athletes and Indigenous Elders are "important actors to get the message across" as they live and act on issues of climate change, explained Alastair Spriggs, who organized Guilt Trip. He believes that the legitimacy of the creators behind the movies “cannot be underestimated” as they are the trailblazers in linking the themes of outdoors sports and natural preservation.

Spriggs also said that “no any other medium can be as effective as films” in conveying the thrill of motion to outdoors enthusiasts, as they tend to grow up very visually stimulated and drawn to spectacular performances of their athletic idols.

The first film showing, Guilt Trip, was a sold-out success with 140 attendees. With the director’s intriguing anecdotes and facilitation of the panel discussion, the audience was able to learn more about the behind-the-scenes of filmmaking and engage with in-depth conversations on the topic.

While future plans for the film festival remain uncertain, the organizers are excited to observe the outcomes and valuable lessons that come with the festival. This year’s film festival is hoped to “pave the way for future generations” to inherit their legacy, said Spriggs.