WHEN I first came across the Adventure Travel Film Festival (an international festival run out of London also screening in Scotland and Victoria), I was working at the City of Fremantle and I thought “wow that looks amazing, I have to go to that.”
The second thing I thought was “if I ever leave City of Freo I am going to run it here.”
Well, as it turns out, both things came to pass. So what was it that attracted me to this festival?
I had a physical reaction in my stomach when I came across it. I mean this wasn’t a casual “oh that would be nice to attend”, but a thumping “I must go to this.”
I have always loved travel films and documentaries about far flung places and most of the books I read are about travel.
But this was different from the travel docos I had seen, the books I’d read, and it was certainly nothing like the adrenalin-fuelled “adventure films” that are common at cinemas these days.
This was something deeper. It was something very human that hooked me in – real-life drama unfolding on the screen.
Watching independent travellers making their way into the unknown, the films were like diary entries – rough and imperfect with a spirit and soul that slick documentaries don’t possess.
At times I felt I was right there beside the film maker working it out.
At times the characters are flawed or have no idea what to do next – just like me. I was hooked.
I began to realise that the festival was more than the sum of its parts. It wasn’t the individual films that were the star, although each was fascinating.
Rather, it was seeing them all together as an anthology over three days which created the magic that stirred something in me and my fellow festival-goers.
It was about freedom, discovery and facing fear – not fear of far-flung places but fear of stepping outside of life’s expectations of us.
Fear of letting go and embracing the unknown fear of doing something new, fear of taking on a project. It was a metaphor.
People may warn against kayaking down the rapids of the Pamir mountains in Turkmenistan – all manner of terrible things could happen.
Sure, they might, but oh my God what an experience if you went. They may also say you can’t take a year off work to write a book, or warn against starting your own business or learning to dance.
All manner of things could go wrong – and sure, they could.
But what an experience, what a life awaits if you do. All these thoughts were confirmed for me when I first ran the festival in Guildford in 2017.
I received so many emails from people who were moved to take on long put-off projects.
Over the years I have run many events, festivals and the like, but I have never received so much feedback, and it was the nature of the feedback that surprised me. It was not about how they liked or disliked the festival but how the festival had affected them.
This was the lightbulb moment when I realised what this festival was about and why I had had that reaction all those years ago. It is why I am running it now; it’s not a financial winner – far from it.
Putting this together and sharing these films moves me and excites me and I want to share this; it’s a little bit of anarchy. The Adventure Travel Film Festival is at the Adelaide Street Plaza in Fremantle on March 20-22. For more details go to adventuretravelfilmfestival.com Tix at eventbrite.com.au
by ALEX MARSHALL