We’ve told Ben Stookesberry and Chris Korbulic’s epic story of the Impossible Gorge of the Marble Fork of the Kaweah before. But when we first saw the final edit of Stookesberry’s film Walled In, in a gear-cluttered hotel room a few nights before its premiere at the GoPro Mountain Games, we had a sense his film about the Marble Fork mission could go as big as Banff. And now it has, with an official selection as a festival finalist for this year’s incarnation of the most famous mountain culture festival in North America.
Stookesberry is no stranger to the Banff Mountain Film Festival, winning the Best Film–Exploration and Adventure award for his heart-wrenching film Kadoma and being named one of the ten best of Banff in 2011 by Outside Magazine. But Walled In is a much different film, which ties into Stookesberry’s past as the source of his drive to tackle un-run rivers such as the Marble Fork. So the two-time director was understandably stoked when the selections were announced last month. We checked in with Stookesberry for a quick interview on the making of his latest film festival flick before he departed on another impossible river mission at the ends of the earth. —LYA editor
Walled In will unveil to two sold-out showings in Banff this Saturday at 9 AM. View the festival schedule here or find out when the road show of the World Tour will come to your town here.
Interview with Ben Stookesberry, Images by Chris Korbulic, Jared Johnson and Eric Seymour
What was the first thing you said when you heard Walled In was selected for Banff?
It makes perfect sense that the Banff Mountain Film Festival wants to show the cutting edge of kayaking!
For those who haven’t seen the film, what made the Marble Fork mission such an epic?
My favorite comment from those who have seen Walled In came from Jim Whittaker, who said “I’ve climbed a lot of hard things, but at least I wasn’t carrying a kayak.” I guess the bottom line is that this wasn’t just a kayaking expedition.
What was the hardest part about distilling the experience into a short film?
The hardest thing about telling this story was trying to convey the number of times over six days when it seemed impossible. Including day one.
What was the best part of the story that you decided to leave out?
I ended up compiling the first three days of scouting and contemplation into one. To the viewer, it may seem that we decided to go for it fairly quickly when, in reality, we almost quit before even taking our first paddle stroke in the Marble Fork.
What was harder…running the Marble Fork or editing the film?
Completing the Marble Gorge and editing the film now seem equally as challenging. Both took nearly a year and required much more than just brave kayaking.
How many beers went into the edit process, start to finish?
I would say to see this film through to its fruition took a level of sobriety that I had not experienced on any other project. It was just too complicated to link my 15 years of paddling to a single mind-boggling descent being anything less than fully cognizant.
You decided to tell the film as a personal narrative rather than in an all-action style. Does that make it a better film?
I certainly think that telling the story through a personal narrative adds to the understanding of what we did in the Marble Fork. It’s impossible to know why I would want to dangle off a rope on the side of a 400-foot wall with a 70-pound kayak tied to my back without knowing that, when I skied full speed into a rock-hard snowdrift as a four-year-old kid, all I said afterwards was “do it again.”
Is adventure-based storytelling a departure for kayak films? Would you like to see more story in kayak movies?
In general, kayak movies relegate themselves to the sort of visual pornography that is expected in the extreme sports genre. But kayaking in particular begs for a deeper story to tell the how and why of entering these places that, quite simply, are not accessible by any other means.
Why do you think this film resonates beyond the kayak world?
I think this film will resonate with anyone who appreciates adventure because it tries to explain why anyone would intentionally put themselves in a life-or-death situation. It’s an exploration of the human condition where risk is an essential part of our fabric.
What mission is going to be your next film treatment?
In 2008, I met up with a Nepali named Lama Kumdan Tamang to attempt first descents in Himalayan India. I began to see a connection to kayaking and the river in something more grounded to spirituality than western affluence and technology. Because of this I want to travel back to Nepal to explore the roots of this organic human connection with these forbidden places and tell the story of expedition kayaking through the eyes of a poor Napali kayak guide who puts his life and his families livelihood on the line everyday for his pursuit of the ultimate river experience.
Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.