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Competitors and spectators watch Lo Anderson climb her first route during the Rockstars Climbing Competition at Ohio University's Ping Center in Athens, Ohio, on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. Lo Andersen won second place in the women's intermediate category and third place in the intermediate open category.

Film festival highlights diverse voices of the outdoors

Based out of Denver, the No Mans Land Film Festival, or NMLFF, is coming to The Athena Cinema this Thursday. The films will highlight the stories of female and nonbinary outdoor athletes. The event is hosted by Outdoor Pursuits and the Recreation Majors Association. 

“A film like No Man's Land is very powerful,” Zach McGinty, president of the Recreation Majors Association, said in an email. “There are some extremely bada–– outdoor women that don't always get their deserved recognition. This film gives them the platform that they deserve while also igniting a fire in others to get outside and achieve their dreams, no matter who you are.” 

The festival is new territory for Outdoor Pursuits, as it has never hosted an event like this in the past. The event can be credited to the help of Leanne Chapman, a graduate assistant for Outdoor Pursuits.

Chapman was exposed to NMLFF in her home state of Louisiana while at her local climbing gym and was inspired to pitch the idea of bringing the festival to Athens.

“It was just a cool setting,” Chapman said. “I saw it for the first time, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I can do anything.’ From there … I've watched them virtually, and so I've been trying to keep up with it. I'm excited about the new ones every year because they get me pumped.”

Chapman said the festival provides a space for storytelling and empowerment, being that the outdoors is typically associated with men.

“I think the outdoors itself is inherently intimidating, and rightfully so because, in a lot of ways, it is,” Chapman said. “For a while, it has been a space that has been male-dominated.”

Cody Lennon, the assistant director of outdoor recreation and education for Campus Recreation, tends to also see only the male side of outdoor activities be portrayed in the media.

“With any other outdoor film festivals like Reel Rock (Film Tour) or the Paddling Film Festival, you typically see a lot of white men doing outdoor things, and the reality is that there are a lot more people than just white men in the outdoors,” Lennon said. “No Mans Land does a fantastic job of highlighting that fact. It focuses on empowering and highlighting stories of female and non binary athletes in the outdoors.”

McGinty said the film festival is also an event that can help those in Athens find new outdoor activities to try for the first time.

“Many of the activities presented in the No Man's Land film are available within minutes of campus such as mountain biking, trail running, paddling, climbing, and more,” McGinty said in an email. “I believe seeing the folks highlighted in No Man's Land can give people the push they need to utilize these local resources.”

Chapman also views the festival as an important event for those who have not pursued the outdoors before.

“I think it's important for other people who might be intimidated or might not feel like what they do is important or their story is important, for them to know that they are,” Chapman said. “They also belong in these spaces, too. They should feel empowered, and that it is their space, no matter what mainstream media says.”

The festival starts at 7:30 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $10 for community members and free for students. There will be a panel discussion after the festival, including Rory O’Malley, Hanna Vorisek, Carrie Vieland, Elle Dickerman and Kate Campbell Bernens.


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