Michael Hayward's Blog

VIFF: "This Mountain Life"

Michael Hayward

I missed the screenings of This Mountain Life at this year's VIFF, and so was pleased to be able to catch it at the Vancity Theatre recently, where it is playing to full houses until November 12 (tickets available here). Kris, my fellow Geist blogger, reviewed the film during the festival, so check out that review for her impressions.

This Mountain Life is a must-see film for anyone who has wondered what's behind the mountains that serve as a backdrop to Vancouver, and particularly for those who have ventured into those mountains, even if it's only slogging up the Grouse Grind once a year as part of your New Year's resolutions. The spine of the film is the story of a BC-local mother and daughter team, Tania and Martine Halek, who embarked upon an epic six-month ski traverse during the winter of 2016/17, a trek which took them along the entire length of the Coastal Mountain range, from Squamish to Skagway, Alaska. They blogged about their adventure as it was in progress (you can check out their blog here), and Tania is apparently now in Switzerland, writing up her account of their trek.

This Mountain Life is a locally-produced film, from the husband and wife team of Grant Baldwin (director, cinematographer, and editor) and Jenny Rustemeyer (producer), with funding from the Knowledge Network (where the film will will eventually screen, once it has finished its theatrical run). This Mountain Life began as a profile of Todd, a young man who'd been caught in an avalanche while skiing in the backcountry with two friends. While Grant and Jenny were filming Todd's story, they began to hear about other people who had a deep connection to the mountains of BC, including Tania and Martine, who were then still in the planning stages of their traverse.

I loved the film, but wish that the filmmakers had chosen to devote the entire film to Tania and Martine's epic adventure, a story which truly deserves the spotlight. Their six-month mid-winter ski traverse, a dangerous journey that could have, and almost did, cost them their lives, is the best part of This Mountain Life, and could easily have sustained a feature-length documentary film. The other stories could (and I think: should) have been turned into a series of shorter profiles of "mountain folk," for broadcast on Knowledge Network, or on PBS. But hindsight is 20:20, and This Mountain Life is still one of the best local films you'll see this year. Catch it on the big screen at the Vancity Theatre (where it is projected in 4K!) while you can.



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