Carbondale’s 5Point festival takes a ride

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Courtesy photo

CARBONDALE – Julie Kennedy and her staff at Carbondale’s 5Point Film Festival faced a paradox while working on the lineup for 2013.

Although the film festival’s reputation and stature continues to grow, they had to work harder than ever to find films. Several of the filmmakers the festival has worked with in the past were in the middle of projects that are six months or so from completion, said Kennedy, a climber and adventurer who founded the event.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh-oh – how are we going to pull this off?” Kennedy said. The answer – they scrambled.

“We have gone further out of our box to reach a whole new tribe of filmmakers,” Kennedy said.

As a result, she believes the film festival from April 25 to 28 in Carbondale will have a different feel this year.

One film the 5Point staffed hustled to secure was “The Crash Reel” about Kevin Pearce, a former U.S. champion snowboarder. The feature documentary is by two-time Academy Award nominee Lucy Walker, who has presented a film at 5Point previously but isn’t a regular contributor. Former 5Point executive director Beta Calhoun advised Kennedy she had to see Walker’s latest work and try to get it shown at the festival. As soon as Kennedy watched, she wanted it.

“I’m totally goose-bumped out,” she said. The film tugs at every major human emotion, she said.

“The Crash Reel” uses vintage video of Pearce growing up and chumming around with a young Shaun White, well before he started dominating the sport. Their relationship changes as they age and evolve into top snowboarding competitors.

But the major focus is on Pearce’s crash in a Park City, Utah, halfpipe while training for the 2010 Winter Olympics and the aftermath. He suffered massive head trauma. It documents how Pearce was determined to return to the sport but how his family prevailed to convince him that his brain injury impaired his skills and that any type of repeat head blow would kill him.

Extreme sports have come under increased scrutiny, most recently because of the death of Caleb Moore after an accident in the freestyle snowmobile competition during the 2013 Winter X Games in Aspen in January.

Walker’s film “sheds light on the alarming trend of athletes pushing the boundaries of their sports past the limit,” according to the official website. “How much risk is too much?”

After Pearce’s family convinced him he could not return to snowboarding competition, he didn’t wallow in misery. He channeled his knowledge, effort and high profile into the Love Your Brain campaign, which raises awareness about preventing brain injuries and the resources available to recover when an injury is suffered. “The Crash Reel” website says 1.7 million people in the U.S. endure a traumatic brain injury every year. Roughly 500,000 injuries are suffered during participation in sports yearly.

“It totally embodies 5Point,” Kennedy said of the film.

From the beginning, she envisioned the festival doing more than screening “action porn” flicks. She and her staff seek films and presentations that embody the five guiding points: respect, commitment, humility, purpose and balance.

Landing the film was a story of cooperation. Film festivals always want fresh content to create a buzz. “The Crash Reel” is an HBO Documentary film so the cable network understandably wants limited release at festivals before its television airing.

Mountainfilm in Telluride provided a grant to help make the film, so it obviously wanted one of the few available screenings at its festival, Kennedy said. The Telluride event comes one month later than 5Point, which created a dilemma. Kennedy and her Telluride counterpart have agreed in principle that the film will be presented by Mountainfilm at 5Point as well as their own festival. It gives Mountainfilm a chance to showcase what it does and possibly attract new audience members, Kennedy said.

She’s thrilled that cooperation prevailed over competition among the outdoor-oriented film festivals in Colorado.

Regarding the festival line-up as a whole, Kennedy can hardly contain her enthusiasm, a common trait of hers in the weeks before the annual festival.

“You’re going on a roller-coaster ride of emotions,” she said of the films that will be shown this year. “I don’t know why anybody would want to miss that.”

Learn more about the festival and purchase tickets at


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