Growing up gay and black in Los Angeles in the 1960s, Gevin Fax felt alone. Then, at age 12, she discovered dirt-biking. “The boys grew out of it, but she never did,” her father reminisces in this short about the Litas, a 5,000-strong global women’s motorcycle collective founded in 2015. For Gevin, finding the Litas was a revelation. “I’m truly present when I’m alone on that bike and I can just be,” she says.
Because of sumo wrestling traditions, Japanese women are banned from competing professionally in the sport. But it’s all female sumo champion Hiyori Kon has ever wanted to do — and she’s damn good at it. This beautifully crafted film follows her awakenings about her sport, and her decision to try to change its outdated ways. “If we each raise our voice while also spreading sumo around the world, then I believe there will be more people willing to fight gender inequality with us,” she says.
Jyrgalan is a remote village nestled in the mountains of eastern Kyrgyzstan. It was once a thriving mining community, but was abandoned after the Soviet Union collapsed. Despite its dwindling population and his children’s protests, Emil Ibakov moved back to Jyrgalan, his hometown, after feeling called back. There, he set out on an unlikely one-man social media campaign to lure tourists to its stellar backcountry lines and uncrowded mountain terrain, setting the wheels in motion for changes that not everyone was prepared for.
“My end goal is to make people see the landscape in a completely new perspective,” says photographer Ruben Wu. “It’s about showing things in a different light.” Wu means this quite literally. Here he deploys a drone to illuminate Peru’s Pastoruru Glacier at night. The resulting images are unique.
Sverri Steinholm grew up chasing sheep up and down the rugged, breathtaking slopes of the Faroe Islands. Today he is a pastor of the Lutheran Church, the dominant religion on the island. He is also a compulsive runner, finding solace and spiritual refuge from personal conflicts and the burdens of priesthood on the trails and roads of his homeland. He may inhabit a very different world, but his words will ring true to anyone who has found peace in nature. “Somehow I am driven to it,” he says. “The body needs it, or my soul, my mind.”
Writer, comedian and actor Aasif Mandvi got bit parts on TV for years before landing on the Daily Show as the program’s “first brown guy.” That’s when he realized the power of comedy as a tool to inform, influence and shape political dialogue. Since the 2016 election, the rise in anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric has galvanized Mandvi to use comedy and activism more and more as a salve for today’s fractured society. “I’m not an activist by nature, I’m an artist,” he says. “But I think that there is a time when those two things merge and I can use my art as a tool.”
Mountainfilm Commitment Grant
“I like the tuba because it reminds me of my life, it’s the underdog.” That’s Dr. Richard Antoine White, whose biography reads like a manual in how to overcome odds. White grew up intermittently homeless on the streets of Baltimore, and went on to become a world-class symphony musician, professor and the first African American in the world to receive a Doctorate in Music for Tuba Performance. He’s got music in him, yes. But he’s also got a drive rarely seen, even in the most competitive artistic circles. As he puts it, “the only thing that will stop me from being successful is death.”