Carbondale’s 5Point Adventure Film Festival was one of the first events to feel the effects of the pandemic last spring. The annual festival runs each April, but new social-distancing protocols left organizers with few options aside from postponing the full mountain film showcase altogether.
Since then, 5Point’s reimagined its annual festival into a fully virtual event running each night from Wednesday, Oct. 14 to Sunday, Oct. 18. Audiences can livestream a curated selection of short adventure films each night, which are followed by Q and A sessions with the filmmakers.
“There’s only one screening of it and you have to be there (online), so it’s really the same thing,” said Carbondale-based filmmaker Michael CB Stevens.
His film “Beyond the Backyard: The Nation’s River” screens as part of the festival’s closing night lineup, and documents his attempt at venturing down the Potomac River with a childhood friend. Like any good adventure tale, Stevens said that everything that could go wrong while he was making the film inevitably did, which ended up being the focal point of his 12-minute documentary. He added that after his trip down the Potomac, it took almost 3 years to produce the film, and when the pandemic hit, its future was in doubt.
“I had finally come to a place where I thought, ‘You know what? No one’s ever going to see it, and that’s okay with me,’” Stevens said. “And then I heard from 5Point … it’s been incredible, having anyone watch it and find value in it was kind of like a treat to me.”
After postponing the April event, 5Point reopened submissions for its rescheduled October festival to include more filmmakers, including Stevens, in its virtual lineup. This year’s films include a handful of local filmmakers, plenty of mountain adventures and capture the present realities of the pandemic.
“We got some really current, relevant films, a lot about COVID, a lot about lockdown,” said the festival’s lead programming associate Charlie Turnbull. “A beautiful one is ‘Concrete Solitude,’ which is just a lone skateboarder skating around a completely empty San Francisco.”
Turnbull added that environmental issues, like wildfires across the west, also are thematic issues that pop up in this year’s lineup. Despite the challenges that come along with planning around public health protocols, Turnbull said that this year’s festival should still feel reminiscent of past years’ events.
“The reason people really love 5Point is that it’s got such a communal feeling to it. It’s 800 people watching films together and sharing that experience together,” said Turnbull. “It was really important to us to try and recreate that in a virtual setting … it starts (each night) at 7 p.m. and people log on, there’s a chat function, and in a way, they’re watching the film with hopefully thousands of other people around the world.”
Filmmakers like Stevens hope that outreach transports audiences, and maybe even leads to some adventures in their own backyards.
“Being in these spaces that we call our backyard or we call home, and it doesn’t have to be where you grew up, it can be where you develop that relationship to something greater than yourself,” said Stevens. “One of the takeaways is to feel that feeling of being smaller in a space.”
Tickets for the festival and the full film lineup can be found on 5Point Adventure Film Festival’s website.