Aspen Times Weekly: Grand Central
If You Go …
What: ‘Sunday Grand Slam” at the 5Point Film Festival
When: Sunday, April 24, 2-5 p.m.
Where: Carbondale Recreation Center
How much: $15-$26
More info: Eight short films will be followed by a program featuring Grand Canyon explorer Rich Rudow, filmmakers Pete McBride and James Q. Martin, and others.
5POINT FILM FESTIVAL
Schedule of Events
(All events at Carbondale Rec Center unless otherwise noted.)
THURSDAY, APRIL 21
5 – 7 p.m. Van Life Rally
7 p.m. Film Program I
FRIDAY, APRIL 21
10 – 11 a.m. ‘The Enormocast” Live, Bonfire Coffee
1 p.m. Film Program II: “Far From Home”
5 p.m. Earth Day Toast
7 p.m. Film Program III
10 p.m. The Davenports, The Black Nugget
SATURDAY, APRIL 22
8:30 a.m. Fryingpan River Cleanup, Lions Park, Basalt
8:30 a.m. Group hike with Vasque, Independence Run and Hike
11 a.m. “Dirtbag Diaries” Live, Location TBA
11 a.m. Film Program !V: Youth Adventure Films
12:30 p.m. Ice Cream Social & Community Picnic
1 p.m. Unicycles with the Uni-Saders
2 p.m. Bikepacking with Joey Schusler
2 p.m. Film Program V: “Dog Power” & “The Great Alone”
4 p.m. Dog Power Demo
5 p.m. Come Together Picnic
7 p.m. Film Program VI
10 p.m. After Party, 201 Main St.
SUNDAY, APRIL 23
10 a.m. Unicycles with Uni-Sanders
11 a.m. Come Together Community Brunch
1 p.m. Get There seminar with Graham Zimmerman
2 p.m. Film Program VII: Sunday Grand Slam & Awards Program
Tickets and more info at www.5pointfilm.org
For artists, depicting the Grand Canyon is irresistible and impossible. Easels and tripods (and, these days, selfie sticks) are a fixture along its rim. Tourists and hobbyists along with some of the world’s most talented painters and photographers emerge daily to attempt replicating this gorgeous hole in the ground. But, of course, nothing can duplicate its intricacies and unfathomable vastness.
Flagstaff-based filmmaker James Q. Martin has profiled artists with deep and long relationships with the canyon in his new film, “The World Beneath the Rims,” which has its world premiere at the 5Point Film Festival on Sunday, April 23 in an afternoon program dedicated to the Grand Canyon.
“This landscape has a magnetic power for a certain kind of artist,” Kevin Fedarko, author of the 2013 instant classic of the canyon, “The Emerald Mile,” says in the film. “They’re unable to resist its pull because they find themselves swept downstream and into it, both physically and metaphorically.”
Fedarko, who spent 10 years writing his book and manning a poo-hauling boat on the Colorado River in the canyon, serves as a guide in the film, helping weave together the stories of painter Bruce Aiken and photographer Amy Martin.
Aiken lived inside the canyon from 1973 to 2006, overseeing the public water supply for the National Park Service, raising a family 5.5 miles below the North Rim, and painting the landscape around him. Amy Martin, whose mother floated the river while pregnant with her, has spent more than a decade photographing in the canyon while serving as a ranger, a boat guide and a science technician.
To the untold artists painting and shooting photos on the rim, Aiken pleads for them to (quite literally) go deeper: “I urge you to go below the rim and stay below the rim for days and days and days on end and watch the light and wait and watch. And then also to pay attention to the water in the canyon — the sound of it, the scent, the entire aroma. It’s almost erotic.”
Telling Aiken’s story had been a career-long ambition for Q. Martin, the director. He’d befriended the painter and long been fascinated with his decades inside Grand Canyon. When the nonprofit conservation organization American Rivers approached Q. Martin about making a film related to the canyon and the massive Tusayan development proposing to build more than 2,000 homes near the South Rim, he pitched a profile of Aiken as a vehicle for the story. That idea evolved into “The World Beneath the Rims.”
“Through the course of investigating and concepting the story, we thought, ‘How cool would it be to feature artists of the Grand Canyon? And not just a painter — what about a writer and a photographer?” he told me in a phone interview from Flagstaff.
The filmmaker saw Fedarko, Aiken and Amy Martin’s stories as a sort of triptych encapsulating three different mediums and three distinct entry points to the canyon: Fedarko first came to the canyon at 37, Aiken at 17 and Amy Martin in utero. Like the artists struggling to do the Grand Canyon justice, the filmmaker found their expansive stories difficult to capture.
“Their personal stories were almost as intimidating as the massive aspect of the canyon,” he says. “Like, what aspect of the story do you tell of a man who has spent over 40 years obsessed with the Grand Canyon? What vignette? What light are you going to shine on that unique story?”
Q. Martin also does his part adding to the canon of artistic depictions of the Grand Canyon — peppered between interviews and archival footage, “The World Beneath the Rims” features some memorable time-lapses of shifting light on limestone wall, cloud cover undulating above and below the rims and slow motion rapids and waterfalls. Martin spent about a year making the film, and tracked weather patterns daily to get those images.
“We’d literally watch the weather and be like, ‘Hey, it might be gnarly up there, it might be moody. Let’s head up and try to get some stuff,’” he recalls.
An eloquent, often poetic portrait of the canyon, its artists and its water, “The World Beneath the Rims,” Q. Martin hopes, will motivate viewers to cling tighter to the natural world.
“I really hope it’s going to be a piece that’s going to inspire audiences and bring a strong emotional connection to the places that they love, that they have important connections to,” he said.
Loving the Grand Canyon, as with all wild places, almost inevitably evolves into fighting to preserve it. Both “The World Beneath the Rims” and Basalt-based photographer/filmmaker Pete McBride’s “Martin’s Boat” address current threats on the canyon, which include uranium mining on the north rim, a proposed tramway on the canyon floor in the south, helicopter flights that operate between the east and west, and the town of Tusayan’s plan for residential develop on 400 acres.
McBride’s film — also screening Sunday — offers a loving portrait of the late legendary Grand Canyon river runner Martin Litton along with the guides and boat-builders who carry on his legacy in the Grand Canyon Dories fleet.
Like “The World Beneath the Rims,” McBride’s film also features Fedarko, who is becoming something of an unofficial poet laureate for the canyon. Fedarko and McBride are currently collaborating on a National Geographic story about the environmental threats against the canyon. McBride will be at 5Point, fresh off of a river trip with Fedarko.
While chasing their story, the pair hiked the Grand with canyoneering icon Rich Rudow (who is also coming to Carbondale for Sunday’s program). Rudow has spent more than 800 days below the rims of the canyon. He first ventured there for a commercial rafting trip — a gift from his wife — in 1989. In the years since, he’s explored 165 of its slot canyons, sliding into nooks and crannies that have never been explored by humans. Those slot canyon adventures were the subject of the documentary “The Last Great Unknown,” which screened at the 2012 5Point Film Fest.
“Every time you peel away a layer of the onion, there’s something else to go see,” Rudow told me from his home near Phoenix. “At some point I realized that the Grand Canyon is bigger than a lifetime.”
Recently spending 57 days hiking the 600-plus mile length of the Grand Canyon, from Lee’s Ferry to Pearce Ferry, provided a unique glimpse of the man-made impacts on the canyon.
“That’s the crux of what Pete and Kevin are trying to document now,” he says. “From Mylar balloons to being hit with 300 helicopter flights a day going over the river and over the national park and everything in between, you see water sources that are contaminated with uranium, you find poaching of game animals, raided archeological sites.”
The experience reshaped his relationship with the Grand Canyon. After decades of plotting new terrain from a climbing harness, he’s more interested now in plotting a future for his beloved canyon through conservation and fighting off man-made encroachment.
“My attention these days is focused less on the next big adventure,” he says, “and more on ensuring that 20, 30 years from now somebody can go and have some of the same experience I’ve had there.”