VIMFF Summer Fest shines a spotlight on diverse communities enjoying the outdoors

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      The Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary in February with a wide selection of documentaries about outdoor recreation, environmental preservation, and the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

      The festival was founded by Alan Formanek, who moved to Canada in 1992 with his young family from Bratislava. Like many immigrants, he forged a new life in this country, contributing enormously to the cultural fabric of Metro Vancouver.

      This month, the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival is encouraging a greater appreciation for diversity in mountain sporting activities with its VIMFF Summer Fest

      On June 26, it's offering several short films for free in a program called Celebrating Multiculturalism in the Mountains. The VIMFF Summer Fest will take place from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Shipyards in North Vancouver and features a beer garden, live music, and a climbing wall.

      The films include “Path of Cedy Nkunze”, an inspiring look at young man from a mountainous area of Burundi who finds a sense of belonging working in Whistler. In the Seth Gillis-directed film, Nkunze celebrates the wonders of mountain life but also doesn’t shy away from the challenges that come with being a member of a minority community.

      “Whistler has its own issues, for instance in inequity in representation, especially in kids’ programming,” Nkunze says in the film. “We have kids from all backgrounds enrolled. Still, these kids are not included in the imagery surrounding these programs.”

      Another of the short films, Ross James Reid’s “Riding Red”, highlights how First Nations youths are reconnecting to the land through outdoor activities. And Drew Bennett’s “A Space for All” reveals how cyclist Brooke Goudy, an African American, is pushing for more Black representation and inclusion in her sport.

      Brooke Goudy's campaign for more Black representation in the world of mountain biking is featured in Drew Bennett's "A Space for All".
      Emily Sierra

      This isn't the first time that the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival has tried to draw attention to this issue. It also occurred last February with an event called Colour the Trails at the Rio Theatre, which was aimed at fostering a more inclusive outdoor-recreation sector.

      Films  at the VIMFF Summer Fest are divided into two parts, each lasting 54 minutes.

      In the first section, “A Space for All” is being shown with “Dear Pippa” about a mother and a five-year-old daughter; “Ascend”, which tells the story of a mountain biker who lost a leg to cancer; “Em”, which features a great deal of content from Squamish. This section closes with “Originate: Inspiration”, a film focusing on skier Michelle Parker teaming up with professional mountain biker Brooklyn Bell and freerider Hannah Bergemann.

      The second section will feature “Eagle Eye—A Higher Perspective” about daring big-mountain skiing, “Outlaw Sport” about the North Shore’s bike trails, and “Originate//Symbiosis” about Parker joining adventure athletes in the Fairy Creek watershed on southern Vancouver Island. That’s in addition to “Riding Red” and “Path of Cedy Nkunze”.

      The festival is screening the films in recognition of Canadian Multiculturalism Day, which falls on the following day (June 27). The federal government designated this day in 2002 to recognize contributions that various communities make to Canadian society.