In Defiance: 5 Points full of life lessons, and risk |

In Defiance: 5 Points full of life lessons, and risk

I’ve never really lived life on the “edge” when it comes to extreme adventure sports. But I’ve been close to that edge a few times.

Close enough to peer over and ask myself, ‘OK, decision point here.’ Calculate the risk, consider the consequences, and know your escape route if things go bad.

Honestly, I usually take the safe path.

Sure, I like to ski the steeps, find that hidden, hard-to-get-to fishing hole, and challenge my technical running ability through loose high-alpine scree fields or on desert slickrock skirting the precipice.

But I gotta tell you, I get a little freaked just riding my road bike down off of Missouri Heights, or turning onto one of those roller coaster descents from the Crown.

Give me a trail that gradually climbs forever, and I’ll be perfectly content. Gravity scares the hell out of me.

I vividly remember sitting down for an interview with 5Point Adventure Film Festival founder Julie Kennedy back in the spring of 2007, right before that inaugural installment in this awesome annual Carbondale event.

Her concern, with good reason, was that the showcase of outdoor films not be perceived as mere “adventure porn.” It’s a phrase that gets tossed around the festival venue every year as a way to keep everyone honest and focused.

Some extreme-sports adventure films do teeter on that proverbial “edge” between telling a story and just outright exploitation of the very outdoors they seek to promote. Some go right off the cliff without even thinking.

Instead, 5Point was founded on the five guiding principles of commitment, respect, humility, purpose and balance.

We as journalists could probably do well to adopt those same principles as the five tenets of good story-telling. And that’s also what 5Point is all about — powerful stories.

The 5 Points were evident throughout this year’s four-day lineup of films that concluded on Sunday. Each of the films I was fortunate to catch moved me in some way.

Sometimes, I was just purely entertained, as with Leah Evans’ and Jamie Tanner’s “Cabin Jams,” putting the joy of backcountry skiing to sweet music. Or Stu Thompson’s “Frames of Mind,” with its super-cool video editing merging still frames and live action on a mountain bike descent.

“The Mirnevator” by director Sarah Menzies reminded us how some people, for whatever reason, can be just downright cruel with their words. It told the story of ultra runner Mirna Valerio, who doesn’t quite match the body stereotype for runners, but who, by God, is out there doing it and should be celebrated just the same.

Some people just don’t get it, as evidenced by a rather mean email she receives on her phone as she sets out on the last lap of a 50K trail course. Some people should really just shut up.

Life on the edge takes on a little different meaning for Iraq War veterans Matthew Griffin, Robin Brown and Stacy Bare in “Adventure Not War,” a film by Max Lowe and Lindsey Hagen.

If there was a film meant to put it all in perspective, this was it.

Iraq was a nightmare for many who were sent to fight there for reasons that were never all that clear. Most would just as soon forget it, but they couldn’t. The nightmare only continued when they got home.

What better way for this trio of veterans to try to dispel the demons than to go back, but with a different purpose — to ski the mountains of Northern Iraq.

Along the way, they paused for some reflection, healed some wounds, and experienced a misunderstood culture for the beauty of its diversity, without the ravages of a misguided war as the backdrop.

I paraphrase here, but Griffin made an important observation during a post-screening interview Saturday that summed up not only his own experience and that of his fellow war veterans, but provides a life lesson for how we should seek to understand first and judge later.

Perhaps we should all make an effort to immerse ourselves in a different culture and learn a little something, before acting on presumptions. That latter course tends to lead us over the edge.

Life is all about risks. Just leaving the edge of the bed every morning can be risky. I’m not one to judge the risks others take. Just give it some thought first.

With that, I think I’ll go take a safe run around the neighborhood. Hey, who put that crack there?!

John Stroud is editor of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. His column, In Defiance, appears with occasional regularity.

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