Words: Jesse Huffman
Photos: Courtesy of Connection Films
Snowboard videos are of course primarily a celebration of riding– whether that’s skinning an unridden peak, or bashing a jib line down a city street. But Boulder, Co-based splitboard mountaineer and first time director Rafael Pease is taking the genre forward with his three-year project, Connections Film. In an era where climate change is having a noticeable impact on winter around the world, riding is no longer an excuse for tuning out. It’s a call to take notice of the natural playgrounds we ride in, and get involved in understanding them better, and protecting them too. Pease is integrating doc-style investigation of the people and places that he and his crew ride in, including the indigenous cultures that were the first to live in harmony with their native environments.
And if that sounds like a hippie trip, don’t worry, there’s plenty of beautiful, HD footage of rippers like Kaitlyn Farrington and Marie-France Roy splitboarding and mountaineering at remote locations around the world. Pease is in the midst of a Kickstarter push to fund their treks to BC, Tajikistan and beyond this season. Read on to find out more about Pease, Connections Film, and how you can get involved in making this unique video come to life.
What is the Connections Film all about?
Connections Film is a 3-year borderless snowboard-based documentary film that aims to explore the connection we as riders and environmentalists hold with the surroundings in which we explore. We will delve into this topic not only by snowboarding in some of the most remote and rugged places on Earth, but also by shining a light on the perspective of indigenous cultures in all the places we visit.
The goal is to explore topics of cultural and ecological conservation from the perspective of the legendary humans who’ve inhabited these places for generations. We are working with snowboarders, filmmakers, and subjects from all over the world to combine these vastly differing perspectives into a film that truthfully represents the environments that bring us all together.
“Cultural exploration” is a key part of your kickstarter campaign. What does cultural exploration mean to you, and how are the perspective of indigenous cultures important to that exploration?
Cultural exploration has many levels to it. For me it means that you are exploring every aspect of a region from indigenous people to modern city dwellers, and from the environmental issues to how one can help solve them. You are becoming more than a temporary visitor— you are becoming a temporary local and giving back to the local community.
The indigenous perspective is a very interesting and raw one. Being at the frontlines of the environmental changes they notice every change as it affects them directly in all forms. Their relationship is essential to the places we are exploring, as they have called these ranges home for countless generations. I settled on this idea because I want to share with viewers around the world how important a healthy environment is to some people.
It sounds like you’ve had your own relationship with indigenous culture down in Chile. Can you tell us more about that?
Over the past four years of exploring the landscapes and cultures of Patagonia, what caught my attention more than the vast beauty of the endless snow and ice covered volcano’s was the local indigenous cultures that remained. The Mapuches are the indigenous people I have spent the majority of my time with. I believe they are important because they are the last stand for the environment surviving.
What are the places you’ve ridden, and where is on the slate to ride this year?
So far we have ridden in Hokkaido, Japan and the Andes and Patagonia in Chile.
The next locations are interior British Columbia, Chugach and Tordillo Range in Alaska, Pamir Range in Tajikistan, and Talas Ala-Too range in Kyrgyzstan.
When is the movie slated to be released?
It will be released Fall 2018
What riders are you the most excited to have explored and ridden with so far? What about in the next year?
Riding and exploring with Tamo in Hokkaido was awesome, his style is legendary. I look forward to riding with Kaitlyn Farrington, and Marie France Roy along with the rest of the crew!
What about the film crew— who is on these trips with you? How long are you guys out there for? What sort of crew do you need to make that a success?
There are a handful of cinematographers and photographers working on this project, Brian Hockenstein, Sebastian Hasbun, Danny Kern, Seth Gillis, Alvaro Zurita and Ben Moscona are the main people behind the cameras. There will be a couple more joining so we have extra angles. To crew for a project like this you need people who are passionate aout the environmental and cultural topic, and motivated enough to go on technical high mountain expeditions.
Can you talk about your personal connection to the environments that you ride in?
I feel like I (and all humans) have a responsibility to the environment, especially those who have dedicated the majority of their lives exploring in nature. This sort of relationship is available to not only snowboarders and skiers but to everyone out there who is dedicated and passionate.
It looks like this is your first film. Where did you learn how to direct and produce, and what made you start on a project with such an epic scope?
I am currently learning how to direct and produce so it has definitely been a huge learning curve, especially while being busy with so many other things. But I have embraced this challenge and face it head on, not missing a detail so things are done properly. The smartest thing I have done was assembling a team of extremely talented people.
What sort of message are you trying to put out into the snowboard community?
I want the snowboard community to see how they can get involved in protecting the environment, whether it be something as small as enlightening others on issues and how to solve them or getting out there and getting political and hands on with issues.
Right now, there’s a lot of tension and anger over the direction the country might take on dealing with climate change. What can snowboarders do to take action? What sort of role do you think snowboarders, and snowboarding, should have in safeguarding the places we ride in?
There are way bigger issues than not being able to snowboard, as the climate drastically changes year to year, breaking all sorts of bad records. We must unite as a community and inspire others and get out there leading the charge on fixing the issue. Getting educated on the topic is key to figuring out how you can begin to fix local environmental problems.
Why should people take part in this project, and help fund it?
I welcome everyone to join the movement, as this film is bigger than the crew and the people we are meeting on our travels, it would be great to see everyone get together for the overall good of the environment. Funding this will help promote the message of how important it is to be environmentally conscious— plus there are some great rewards on Kickstarter and it’s a win, win for all of us.
Our Kickstarter campaign ends on December 1st at 3pm MST. Everyone is welcome to get some turns in and hangout with us while we are on the road!