When climber Harvey Wright is in his room alone, feeling the anxiety creep in, he doesn’t always understand what’s happening to him. But that all slowly melts away when he’s on the wall of the Stawamus Chief, dangling precariously from the rock face.
“The emotions when you’re actually climbing compared to him being isolated in his room, there’s a lot of parallels, but Harvey says it best about how when he’s on the wall, he can move through all that anxiety, the emotion, the fear, whatever he’s actually going through, and he understands what is happening,” says Squamish’s Casey Dubois, co-director of the award-winning short documentary, Crux, alongside North Vancouver’s Zac Hoffman.
The anchor of the Whistler stop on this year’s Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF) tour, Crux tells the powerful story of Wright, a Vancouver-based climber and recovering addict who is open about his mental-health struggles that only seemed to worsen in the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Wright’s saving grace was and is climbing, a way for him to reconnect with nature and himself, and he serves as the centrepiece of the film.
“There are many reasons I think why [his story] spoke to us. One is his life story in general from our first interview and hearing how intricate his life has been and what he’s been able to go through and then how he got into climbing,” explains Dubois. “He’s someone who wears his heart on his sleeve and he’s able to really show his vulnerability in such a powerful and positive way.”
Shot primarily in Squamish, Crux is one of five VIMFF docs that will be playing Oct. 2 at the Maury Young Arts Centre, selected specifically for a local audience by Arts Whistler. The other films are Par for the Course, about an African-American woman from Brooklyn who takes on California’s gruelling Broken Arrow Sky Race; Metanoia, about the Mountain Tribe Crew’s ski-touring adventure through the Ötztal Alps; Motherload, about parents who adventure with their children in the great outdoors; and Venture Out, detailing the Venture Out Project, a non-profit that brings the LBGTQ community together on outdoor wilderness trips.
“What we aimed for this year when we were picking out from the main body of films were … films based on resilience and self-confidence and also reflections on things like mental health and wellness,” explains Anna Lynch, venue, sales and service supervisor for Arts Whistler.
Along with the usual themes of outdoor recreation and the wild, the VIMFF entries this year took on decidedly larger social issues as well, reflecting a wider trend in the outdoor world, says festival tour manager Dylan Morgan.
“I’m very excited to see this broadening of the community, and the festival and film communities starting to take on important social roles,” he says. “Traditionally the outdoor industry hasn’t dealt with it, because the outdoor community has been a bit of a snowstorm. It’s been predominantly white, largely male-dominated.”
To that end, Morgan says there are plans in the works for a series of clinics and outdoor events held next summer as part of the festival that will touch on some of these social issues.
Only the second official VIMFF Whistler tour stop after events worldwide were mostly shut down due to COVD last year, it also represents the first in-person event at the Maury Young Theatre since early 2020.
“We’re really excited to be able to have audiences back in the Maury Young this winter,” Lynch says. “It’s the first of many events we have coming up this fall, including many ski films.”
Showtime is 7:30 p.m., with doors at 7. The show is a 19-plus event, and tickets are $20, available at artswhistler.com. There will also be door prizes from Scandinave Spa, Jesse McNaught Styling, and presenting sponsor Arc’teryx.