A growing number of female filmmakers, directors, producers, and subjects are broadening outdoor narratives on screen.
It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in adventure films. But the paradigm is starting to shift. There’s a momentum among female filmmakers and stories they tell. And the growth of women-centric film festivals like “No Man’s Land” and the Women Sports Film Festival evidence this push even further.
“The more we see of women in these mediums, the more we’ll see women in these sports,” said Aly Nicklas, director of “Blue,” a dream-like fat biking story full of female shredders.
“There’s a cumulative impact of sharing these kinds of stories: My goal is to contribute towards showcasing the value of women’s stories in the outdoor space, and to do so in new, imaginative ways.”
Below are six epic documentaries — and their directors — that celebrate the female lens in winter sports.
Best Female Outdoor Documentaries of 2019
“Blue” takes viewers through Alaska’s glacial mountains by way of a female crew of fat bikers.
“The film serves as a fantastical reminder to dream beyond the boundaries of what you may currently perceive to be possible,” Nicklas said. “Our hope was to portray these genre-pushing women in a way that inspired women and girls of all ages.”
‘This Mountain Life: Director’s Cut of the Skiing Nun’
“You see lots of movies about men doing crazy things and trying to bag peaks. In reality, there’s a diversity of people drawn to the mountains, and that’s why I want to share those stories,” said Jenny Rustemeyer, producer of “The Mountain Life.”
“Creek Sessions” distills the experience of venturing outdoors through conservationist and climber Jess Kilroy, who goes to Indian Creek to rope up and create music.
“There are endless perspectives on the outdoors — regardless of your gender,” director Tahria Sheather said.
“We all have a unique lens through which we view the world. Jess’ celebrates the subtle elements of the outdoors that are often drowned out in traditional outdoor films. She reminds us that it does us good to tune into the quiet in nature. Her music is also an effortless, beautiful vehicle to explore a far heavier topic of the loss of wild spaces.”
“Eighth Wonder” follows Erica Madison, a scientist who quits her job to become a commercial fisher in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
“There are actually tons of women and incredible diversity all around Bristol Bay fishery. And the fishery’s astounding aspects are universally understood and felt by anyone in it,” director Ryan Peterson said.
“Erica’s superpower is that she is funny, articulate, heartfelt, and strong as shit — but so are lots of people. I’m not sure if there is any voice or perspective here that diversifies a traditional one, other than we have a woman providing it. That in and of itself is still somewhat revolutionary for outdoor films.”
“I hope ‘Dead Last’ can broaden people’s perspective and understanding of who an athlete is regardless of gender, physical ability, or age,” producer Sarah Herron told us.
In the film, adaptive climber Kaitlyn Heatherly overcomes self-limiting beliefs to compete at the paraclimbing world championships.
“The lead role of adventure films is often a mega-athlete, or there’s an unattainable goal, which may alienate viewers from the message altogether,” Herron said. “As a person with a limb difference who loves the outdoors, my hope is that the young girl who thinks she could never be an athlete sees this film and is inspired to try if that’s something deep down she wants.”
‘Life of Pie’
Mountain biking brought life partners Jen Zeuner and Anne Keller to Fruita, Colorado. The small community wasn’t completely open yet to trail development — or “nontraditional” relationships. When the couple co-launched a pizza shop, The Hot Tomato, their business flourished and helped locals foster inclusivity.
“I wanted to see if we could tell a mountain bike story with more depth and meaning that we’re used to seeing,” director Ben Knight said.
“The majority of mountain bike films have been focused on the riding, landscapes, and textures — not so much what gives the sport a pulse. Mountain biking is quickly becoming less associated with joy and more associated with $120,000 vans and $12,000 bikes. It’s important to remember [the sport’s] dusty ghetto roots.
“Anne and Jen love to ride and love sharing it with people. If riding is their identity, it’s for the right reasons.”