When the annual 5Point Adventure Film Festival postponed its flagship event in April, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, its organizers went online with a small “5Point Unlocked” virtual program with a pay-what-you-want model.
The online event proved that the 5Point community is much larger than the 800 or so people who normally pack into the Carbondale Recreation Center for its programs.
Over three days, 20,000 people watched those programs — half of viewers living outside Colorado.
The flagship 5Point festival is back this week, running Wednesday through Sunday, with virtual programs showcasing some 65 short films. Rather than running on-demand, the films are curated into blocks that will broadcast live through the online platform Eventive.
“We have done that so that everybody logs on together at the same time and we’ve tried to keep that communal feeling in the Rec Center,” said 5Point head of programming Charlie Turnbull. “We want to create a sense of community, to use the chat function and interact as much as possible.”
Turnbull will host the Sunday night program, during which festival awards will be announced and winning films will be screened. Other hosts include Jen Zeuner with Anne Keller, Russ Chapman, Padd O’Connell, and Wade Newsom.
The festival includes six live programs. The main show runs nightly at 7 p.m. and there is also the annual “Changemakers” program on Sunday at 3 p.m. and an on-demand family film program.
5Point has always used a broad definition of “adventure,” programming films beyond the adrenaline and stoke-fest fare of the ski and mountaineering worlds. They’ve tended toward more thoughtful stories with themes guided by the nonprofit’s titular five points: purpose, respect, commitment, humility and balance.
The festival’s mission and the stories it shares meet a clear need for viewers struggling mentally, emotionally and physically during the pandemic.
“These are challenging and unprecedented times,” 5Point executive director Regna Jones wrote. “Great storytelling offers inspiration, hope and a call to be the narrator of our own story as we embark on new journeys — as things we cannot control shift around us.”
The festival had selected all of its films back in the spring, but reopened for submissions after postponing. That allowed filmmakers to make movies about how they navigated life during COVID-19, among them the stunning “Concrete Solitude” about skating San Francisco’s empty streets during the citywide shelter-in-place order.
Other high points include “TranSending,” about transgender mountaineer Erin Parisi; “Ode to Desolation” about a firespotter on Desolation Peak; “Games of Survival” about the World Eskimo Indian Olympics; “North Country” about America’s longest-running ski shop and “One Man’s Trash” about a real estate professional who quits the rat race to go fishing. Local filmmakers in the lineup include Michael C.B. Stevens, who is screening “Beyond the Backyard.”
Films like Chris Burkard’s “Unnur,” about an Icelandic surfer’s relationship with his young daughter, were made before the pandemic but reflect themes that have come to the surface over the past seven months.
“There are many films about relationships between parents, grandparents and children,” Turnbull said. “I know that’s on the top of everyone’s minds — dealing with homeschooling or caring for elderly relatives. I think it will be a more reflective year.”
It’s also a year of economic struggle for independent filmmakers, including in the adventure film world. Most films in this realm are financed through partnerships with outdoor brands and gear companies. Sponsorship money has evaporated due to the pandemic-caused economic crisis, Turnbull observed. That’s freed filmmakers to make passion projects and more experimental movies, but also has made funding sources like the 5Point Film Fund — which offers grants to finance movies — more vital than ever.
“Obviously it’s a very difficult time, but it’s important we support them in any way we can and our film fund does that,” Turnbullm said. “Our futures are tied together. We do have an obligation to support them and we want to support them.”