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How the No Man's Land Film Festival is Celebrating Women in Adventure

9/13/17 by Samantha Larson

It is no secret there's a gender imbalance both in outdoor pursuits and in outdoor media. Women often face a particular set of hurdles that can prevent them from getting outside: Maybe it’s not wanting to be the only female on a climbing trip, perhaps it's the frustration that comes from seeing males star in almost all of the adventure films out there.

Recently, however, the landscape is beginning to shift, thanks to rockstar women athletes breaking down barriers in the outdoor space and initiatives likeOutside magazine’swomen’s issue. Another key player? The No Man’s Land Film Festival, held in Carbondale, Colorado, from September 14-17. Now in its third year, the event features films made by and about women, giving them an unprecedented platform to showcase the incredible things they’re doing—and what it means to be an adventurous woman.

Brette, pictured here, is one of the festival’s previous films.
Brette, pictured here, is one of the festival’s previous films. Sender Films/Peter Mortimer/Brette Harrington/No Man’s Land Film Festival

The festival is about "redefining femininity" and portraying adventure through a female lens. “We want to show that if you want to be a mountain biker and shave the side of your head, that doesn’t make you any less of a woman than what you typically see on the big screen,” festival founder Aisha Weinhold says.

It’s also about showing aspects of adventure that are uniquely female, like what it’s like to balance a passion for skiing with motherhood, or to have to deal with sexism as a female athlete. "We want to model that however you want to do it is okay," Weinhold says.

When the festival first started, Weinhold says she had to spend the two years prior digging to come up with 13 films that fit into her vision. This year, however, No Man’s Land is showcasing 45 films—and Weinhold estimates organizers had to turn down about 50 percent of submissions.

No Man’s Land Film Festival helps female filmmakers and adventurers across the country forge their own paths.
No Man’s Land Film Festival helps female filmmakers and adventurers across the country forge their own paths. Krystle Wright/No Man’s Land Film Festival

She attributes the rise in women-centered adventure films on two factors. First, she says, male filmmakers have begun to take more responsibility in highlighting females crushing it out there. In addition, she notes the explosion of burgeoning female adventure filmmakers likeJen Edney andSavannah Cummins, as well as the continued success of established adventure filmmakers like Krystle Wright, who made the viral short "Where the Wild Things Play".

Some upcoming highlights at the 2017 festival include Almost Ablaze, featuring pro skier Angel Collinson, and Gnarly in Pink, which follows a troupe of skateboarding six-year-old girls. Among Weinhold’s favorites are The Honey and the Bear, about a group of elderly black synchronized swimmers, and Quincy, starring a radical surfer girl.

The Honeymoon is Over is one of the festival’s previous films.
The Honeymoon is Over is one of the festival’s previous films. Henna Taylor/Madeline Sorkin/No Man’s Land Film Festival

No Man’s Land’s selected films have already begun to tour the U.S., with several more stops coming up this fall. But the September event in Carbonale promises to offer much more than just the movies: For the first time, it has expanded into a three-day event that also features workshops, speakers, and panel discussions.

"The first year I realized I would pour my heart and soul into the program, and people would watch for an hour and a half—and then that was it," Weinhold says. “We’re trying to take the ideas that we put on the screen and then put them into a discussion that people can contribute to and act around.”

No Man’s Land also organizes events such as the Pitchfest, in which two female filmmakers will leave with a total of $5,000 to start their next project, and Adventure Lab, which develops curriculum around gender equality and adventure for K-12 schools.

No Man’s Land Film Festival helps female filmmakers and adventurers across the country forge their own paths.
No Man’s Land Film Festival helps female filmmakers and adventurers across the country forge their own paths. Krystle Wright/No Man’s Land Film Festival

Weinhold, now 25, says she got the idea for No Man’s Land when she was 18 while sailing across the Pacific. "On the sailboat, there was definitely a gender divide," she recalls. Over the 40-day trip, she was often skipped over when the crew needed to get something done. “It left me feeling not self-sufficient, because I wasn’t tasked with these things that are necessary for survival.”

One night, alone at the front of the boat on bow watch, her frustration led to a stroke of inspiration.

"It was amazing—it was, I’m going to start a women’s adventure film festival, it’s going to be called No Man’s Land, and this is going to be the logo," she says. “I’ve never had another moment like that in my life. I wish all things were as easy as that.”

Originally written by RootsRated for Marmot.