TELLURIDE – Sadly, one of the mountaineering world’s most eagerly-awaited films wasn’t quite ready in time to be released at MountainFilm this year. But it will still be here in spirit.
Telluride MountainFilm Festival hosts a filmmaker’s workshop on the making of Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia on Saturday, May 24, from 9:30-10:45 a.m. Award winning director Jim Aikman will conduct the workshop with support from Lowe’s girlfriend Connie Self.
Lowe himself, the legendary climber, founder of the Ouray Ice Festival, and first to scale Telluride’s frozen Bridal Veil Falls, now suffers from an advanced form of an ALS-type disease, and will not be able to travel to Telluride to attend the event.
“He is doing okay, but the altitude is prohibitive for him now and he sometimes has bad patches,” Self explained from the couple’s home near Boulder. “A bad patch between here and Telluride could mean ending up in a hospital in the middle of nowhere. Not a good plan for us.”
As the workshop’s title suggests (“Two Works in Progress: Metanoia and Frame by Frame”), Saturday’s event will also feature the making of Frame by Frame, a character-driven feature-length documentary directed by Alexandria Bombach, now in final production, that follows the story of four Afghan photographers to explore the recent revolution in local photojournalism.
“The workshop takes place at Wilkinson Library, with the first 45 minutes devoted to Lowe’s film project. “Jim will show some scenes from Metanoia and we will talk about the making of a documentary like this – the challenges and solutions from inception to completion,” said Self, who has been deeply involved in the project as it has slowly come together over the past five years, even as Lowe’s health has slowly fallen apart.
Through it all, Self and Lowe have spiraled forward on an intense journey that has been powered by fierce love, generous humor and profound acceptance of what is.
The website devoted to their film project (jeffloweclimber.com) spells out the basic concept of Metanoia:
“It’s a film about one man’s journey from the top of the world to the end of the line. Lowe helped make climbing what it is today, through technical innovation and more than a thousand first ascents, including ‘Metanoia’ on the north face of the Eiger, where he experienced a spiritual transformation that continues to this day. His story inspires us all, as he brings the creativity and strength that characterized his climbing career to the challenge that he faces today: his own mortality.”
It’s pretty heady material, but Self said, the project has faced some predictable challenges. For example: How do you wrangle a very interesting, diverse life into a film that is only 90 minutes long? Also, How do you make a different kind of documentary, that is exciting and fun? And finally: How in God’s name do you raise the money to make it all happen?
Self is thrilled how it all is coming together as they close in on the final phase. “There are so many aspects – music, animations, fantastic interviews with Jim Donini, Ueli Steck, Malcolm Daley, Michael Kennedy, Conrad Ankor, Steve House (all household names for those who live in close proximity to the Ouray Ice Festival) – We have the best of the best speaking about Jeff,” Self said.
When the project began in 2009, Lowe was reluctant to fold his illness into the film’s storyline. But, the illness turns out to be the intrinsic filament that holds it all together and stitches shimmering, poignant meaning into what might otherwise be, after all, just another awesome climbing documentary.
Also – the film doesn’t shy away from more difficult elements of Lowe’s younger years – including infidelity, divorce and estrangement from his daughter (with whom he has since forged a new relationship). It’s all part of the hero’s tale, Self reflected.
“You always need the hero,” she said. “The hero falls from grace and the hero triumphs. It’s a very different kind of triumph for Jeff. The triumph is his attitude, his view of life, his appreciation of every day and moment, and really knowing how to live that way.”
Post production on Metanoia (the name means
continues full time in Boulder and the film will be completed this summer.
“We will have a private screening of the completed film and a rooftop reception at the Salt Lake City Library during Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Show on Thursday, Aug. 7 for sponsors, donors and guests,” Self said.
For more information about how to support the project, visit www.JeffLoweClimber.com or contact Self at firstname.lastname@example.org or 208/630-4477.
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