The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Big Grove hosts Backcountry Film Festival

The Indian Creek Nature Center’s short film festival centered around snowscapes and mountainous areas.
Kathy Le
Attendees watch a film at Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. Indian Creek Nature Center hosted the Winter Wildland Alliance Backcountry Film Festival.

Silence washed over the crowd at Big Grove Brewery’s screening room as film festival patrons digested filmmaker Josh Goldsmith’s newest short documentary. His film “What If?” explores courage and doubt through the odd pairing of backcountry skiing and poetry.

The Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival has been featuring environmental short films that highlight the amazing feats of winter nature explorers for the past 19 years.

On Jan. 26, the non-profit conservation group, centered around protecting wild snowscapes, took the festival to Big Grove Brewery, hosted by Indian Creek Nature Center. Its vision is to establish a sustainable ecosystem and restore a balanced environment to the national parks, something they hope to spread awareness of through short films made by local filmmakers.

The Indian Creek Nature Center is an environmental preserve that seeks to educate others and restore their natural habitat and has worked with the Winter Wildlands Alliance for five years.

The featured films combined the missions of both the Winter Wildlands Alliance and the Indian Creek Nature Center through their portrayal of a variety of nature-themed topics.

The film festival spanned 120 minutes with individual film lengths ranging from six to 20 minutes, exploring topics such as Indigenous heritage, snow sports and rescue volunteers.

Goldsmith’s six-minute documentary follows backcountry skier and poet Mallory Duncan.

Goldsmith, whose previous work ranges from historical period pieces to documenting the experiences of cruise ship workers, does not shy away from telling stories that are not typically heard, but rather, he invites the challenge.

His most recent film, inspired by Duncan’s poetry, portrays the harsh conditions and challenging feats that backcountry skiing entails. But Goldsmith and Duncan noticed most existing films about skiing typically follow the same formula.

“[Skiing films] will normally feature the athlete either conquering a goal in the mountains or experiencing a struggle that comes from the mountains,” Goldsmith said.

However, Duncan and Goldsmith set out to do something different this time.

“I wanted to capture the essence of [Duncan’s] poem,” Goldsmith said. “[It] describes the mental battles and self-doubt that [Duncan and backcountry skiers alike] experience during and after their expositions.”

Duncan’s poetry discusses dreams, warnings, and missteps through spoken word. Goldsmith delves into the feelings of doubt and fear associated with skiing by opening all his sentences with the questions, “What If?”, including “What if the lessons I learned weren’t enough?” for example.

While backcountry skiing isn’t a universally shared experience, doubt is, Goldsmith said. His film is a testament to resilience and confidence.

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About the Contributor
Kathy Le, Photojournalist
Kathy Le is a fourth-year student at The University of Iowa majoring in 3D design and Art History. This is her first year working as a photojournalist of Daily Iowan.