Vertical Life Film Tour brings outdoor sports documentaries to Boston

Boston University’s FitTreks program hosted its first Vertical Life Film Tour screening, showcasing highlights of the film industry outdoors at the fitness and recreation center.

Vertical Life Film Tour, an event with international screenings, features climbing and mountaineering documentaries created around the world. The first tour kicked off in 2020, in New Zealand and Australia, with the aim of continuing climbing coverage during the pandemic.

On Friday, the Boston University screenings were available free to faculty and staff thanks to funding from The Wellbeing Project, a new initiative “to support student health and wellbeing while at BU” .

Roni Deckard, a Boston University junior, said the free event drew viewers who otherwise might have been hesitant to attend.

“It’s optimal for college students,” Deckard said in an interview after the screening. “It’s a great way to bring them together.”

The event included three short films focusing on perseverance, including a documentary about a project combining acroyoga, slacklining and mountaineering in Switzerland. The second film explores grief and loss in the climbing community with interviews of friends and family left behind. The festival ends on a lighter note with a documentary about a Spanish climber’s first ascent on one of the most difficult routes in the world.

Benjamin Beck, outdoor programs manager at Boston University, said the event was designed to bring the outdoor community together again after the COVID-19 shutdowns. FitTreks has suspended operations since March 2020, including all outdoor travel.

“We hope people with all kinds of interests can come and see,” Beck said. “This is the start of the return of outdoor programs to the BU campus.”

Although greater media exposure has increased participation in rock climbing, the activity remains less popular than most mainstream sports like football or basketball.

Deckard said she enjoyed attending an event focused on outdoor sports because she could meet like-minded people.

“I thought it was interesting because it showed a different side of the outdoor community that wasn’t the typical sports that are featured,” she said.

The Boston University Climbing Club has seen an increase in member activity during the fall semester as more students show interest in the sport. Club vice-president Jack Broddus said the film tour allowed students to see the potential for adventure beyond the plastic holds and man-made rocks found in indoor gymnasiums.

“I think the screening is important because it gives people the opportunity to see what outdoor climbing is like and hopefully get them involved in the sport,” Broddus said in an interview.

Vertical Life Film Tour will return for a second screening on February 18 at Boston University’s FitRec Center with free admission for college students and faculty.


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