Review: Shextreme Film Festival @ Arnolfini, Bristol

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It can be difficult to make waves in extreme sports when you’re a woman. In a traditionally male-dominated arena female athletes are, more often than not, objectified and pushed to the sidelines while male athletes take centre stage. 

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Photo Credits: Shextreme Film Festival photographer Georgie Owen from Little Silver Photography

Being a filmmaker and surfer myself, I was very excited about attending the world’s only film festival celebrating women in extreme and adventurous sports. So my good friend and I traveled to Bristol to be part of this special occasion.

We were met with a lively atmosphere as soon as we entered the room. It was chock-full of things to draw the eye and ear: live surf art created by Amsterdam based artist Chanti Mai, and a DJ was in full swing.

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Photo Credits: Shextreme Film Festival photographer Georgie Owen from Little Silver Photography

There were also a few stands occupied by local Bristol artists, creatives and independent start-ups such as Snooks, the first British snowboard and ski outerwear brand dedicated to women; and Albus & Flora, who specialise in modern active skincare. It was a vibrant start to the night!

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Photo Credits: Shextreme Film Festival photographer Georgie Owen from Little Silver Photography

I really liked the Mute Collective (especially its logo, which was printed on awesome stickers as part of a goody bag). I also spent a few pounds to support Mayfly, investing some of their innovative stickers that can be used to digitally enhance journals and other stuff, by attaching photos and making sound recordings to the stickers. (A bit like a QR code.)

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Photo Credits: Shextreme Film Festival photographer Georgie Owen from Little Silver Photography

With my goody bag in tow, I was all set to start! Festival director, Dr. Ruth Farrar was ready to introduce the night. There was a total of 5 films. 4 of them UK Premiere, split into two parts:

Part 1 films:

  • Miles Away, the first drone film by Dave MacLeod. This documentary followed Alicia Hudelson as she explains what mountain running means to her. Filmed in the Swiss Alps and the Catalunyan Hills.
  • The space outside (UK Film Premiere): An inspiring film where 7 women were interviewed about their extreme adventures, from trekking Everest, to exploring the South and North poles. Filmed by Jessica Pearson: Director of Shimnix Films.
  • Broken Roads (UK Film Premiere): A fierce all-female skate crew discovers wild new skate spots amongst the devastated landscape post-earthquake in Kyusyu, Japan. Filmed by Tom Swindell.
  • Way East (UK Film Premiere): Amazing snow and surf adventure set in Hokkaido, Japan.
    [Some descriptions lifted from the Shextreme website.]

Photo Credits: Shextreme Film Festival photographer Georgie Owen from Little Silver Photography

A panel discussion was included between the screenings, lead by three of the most brave and inspiring women I’ve seen in a while. These included:

  • Jenny Jones, a pro snowboarder, the first British athlete to win a medal in an Olympics snow event.
  • Squash Falconer: The first British woman to paraglide from the top of Mont Blanc.
  • Sian Lewis: An award-winning journalist and adventure blogger at The Girl Outdoors, She also writes about her travels for The Independent and BBC Countryfile and is working on her first book.

Photo Credits: Shextreme Film Festival photographer Georgie Owen from Little Silver Photography

Presenter Ruth Farrar asked questions, and invited the audience to do the same. Some of the best responses of the night were when they answered the questions with brutally (and funnily) honest stories. Like when Sian confessed to cry in an airport toilet before boarding a flight to her next great adventure. (Or when Squash Falconer fibbed to two separate sponsors to get them on board — and got away with it…!)

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Squash Falconer, Sian Lewis, Ruth Farrar & Jenny Jones (left to right) // Photo Credits: Shextreme Film Festival photographer Georgie Owen from Little Silver Photography

Part 2 films:

  1. Full Moon (UK Film Premiere) produced and directed by Leanne Pelosi, showcasing an international girls-only snowboarding squad, depicting the past, present and future of women’s snowboarding with astounding imagery, catchy soundtrack and anecdotal humour. 

It’s hard to choose between so many great films, but I’d like to give an special attention to The Space Outside. Different to the other films, this video was less professional, but a lot more authentic. It really stuck with me, because I found these women more relatable and their stories were very honest and real. They were honest to themselves as well, and really went for it.

Having attended similar events over the past few years, such as the Banff Mountain Film Festival and Ocean Film Festival, it’s dawned on me that mostly active films feature sportsmen on their agendas. This highlighted the twist on Shextreme, which aimed to record the achievements of inspiring women in extreme sports; to encourage women to have their own adventures; and to work towards an inclusive, empowering and diverse film community.

Rating: 4/5

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