Women in Adventure 2021: and the awards go to...

Posted by Emma Travers on 18/07/2021
The winning filmmakers, stars and judges of this year's competition. Photo: Emma Travers

Congratulations to the winners of the 2021 BMC TV Women in Adventure film competition! What a fantastic bunch of inspiring films and what a great way to celebrate them all at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival.

The screening and panel session, sponsored by Montane, brought together many of the talented filmmakers and adventurers who entered their films this year. The Women in Adventure 2021 screening had it's premiere in a cinema room, and for many of the filmmakers it was a chance to see their films up on the big screen for the first time. As each award was announced, the filmmakers and stars were invited up on stage to share exclusive insight into the behind the scenes of their films. 

With both the quality and quantity of the submitted films being at an all-time high, each year the competition becomes tougher for our judges to choose the winners of the five awards. So, did your favourites win? Here are the deserving winners:

Montane Best Film Award

Esivi – Shyla Lee (Clayhouse Productions

Esivi moved to London from Ghana but then moved to the countryside in Haworth, West Yorkshire, where she has been living for over 20 years. She feels the one thing that connects her to Ghana is the outdoors.

Director Shyla Lee says: “I've entered the BMC Women in Adventure festival since its inception. So to actually win it feels really special. Esivi's ability to share her adventures in life with humour and grace was a real inspiration. What gives the film impact is Harriet Barbir's ability to develop concise structure and emotion through her writing. 

I always feel like making these short films for BMC is my own parallel adventure. And I'm really pleased that you've recognised our message.”

Most Watched Award 

Rise Above The Fear – Abbie Barnes (Spend More Time in the WILD)

Getting into turquoise blue waters would be a dream for most, but for Abbie Barnes it is one of her biggest fears. Her reasons for fearing the coast are vast, but things are different now. She is determined to show that mental illness doesn’t have to hold you back from turning places of destruction into places of construction, and that with the right support and mindset, anyone can rise above the fear.

Abbie said "We never set out for our film to be aired on the big screens, but it is amazing how far good stories travel. Last year I faced one of my biggest fears of getting in the water, and Anna, my partner, took up the role of being in front of the camera for the first time too. When comparing our film to our others, it is the rawest, but rather than focussing on the filming style and edit, we wanted to focus on the message. We hoped to create space for viewers to self-reflect and step out to face their fears, because we believe that there is so much more life on the other side of fear."

Make A Difference Award

Called To The Mountains – Ali White and Kirsty Pallas (Drift Studio)

The mountains of Western Scotland can be imposing to some, but to others their remote and seemingly endless nature have a meditative appeal. An avid and capable climber, Kirsty Pallas takes to the outdoors to offer her assistance as part of Mountain Rescue, an organisation made up entirely of volunteers. This film puts a face to one of Oban’s local heroes, looking at her life, background and ambitions, and her connection to the mountains that she loves.

In our interview with Kirsty about the film, when asked 'How can we encourage more minority groups into climbing and hill walking?' her response was: "One of my favourite quotes is "we cannot be what we cannot see". If you don't see people of colour (POC) climbing, then you're unlikely to think of it as an option available to you or a space open to you.

Generally POC are less likely to be in a position to have the opportunity to climb. Whether that's because they have to work more hours and have less free time, or they don't have the disposable income to get started, or they live in a more disadvantaged area with no means to get into the countryside, all of these are barriers which POC face in accessing the sport. Starting by dealing with these barriers directly, will allow increased accessibility into the sports and outdoor spaces we all love."

Judges Special Mention Award

Dobson's Hole – Tim Dobson and Judith Plowman

When mother and son caving team got locked down together, they started to look for nearby unexplored objectives...

Cavers Judith Plowman and Tim Dobson gave us some insight behind the short film:

Judith: "Caving at home and making the video has kept us very entertained during lockdown. Laughter and silliness get us through these things. There’s a beam in my house that starts off in my attic and goes down to the first-floor landing, so you can rope down two floors – it’s great. I’ve managed to perfect my single rope technique (SRT) while I’ve been doing it. And I’ve been practising caving under the double bed, to get used to wiggling through some tight squeezes We wanted to show that you can be a badass and have a laugh at the same time."

Tim: "Caving is for everyone. Many people would assume that caving isn't a sport that older women can just "pick up", and yet mum is 71, took up caving 18 months ago and completed over 50 different trips last year. Perhaps more importantly she's supported a huge number of people, all with different body types, genders, fitness levels and levels of fear, give caving a try through the club she helped set up - The Caving Crew.

"The film was shot and released in 24 hours. We didn't expect it to go anywhere, so we shot it in the morning, I edited it overnight and posted it online the next morning. It's amazing what one can achieve with a DSLR, laptop and a vague mental storyboard of shots. One thing that particularly helped was Paul Diffley's Documentary Masterclass from SHaFF 2014 and you can see its legacy in Dobson's Hole.

"One of the most memorable parts of the film was a complete accident. When she blows dust under the bed, at the time we all thought "oh, we should have cleaned under here first" without realising the reaction it'd get in the film. It turned out to be one of the most commented on moments.

"The juxtaposition of a sport that many people appear to find intimidating, taking place in a normal, friendly household setting, adds to the charm and forces people to question whether their fears are rational and whether they might enjoy pushing their comfort zones."

Judges Special Mention Award

100 Years of The Pinnacle Club – Adele Long, Ed Cartledge and The Pinnacle Club

The Pinnacle Club – the UK’s only national rock-climbing club for women – was founded in 1921 to “foster the independent development of rock climbing amongst women and bring together those interested in the pursuit”. "100 years of the Pinnacle Club" as told by its members, is part of an oral history collection to be housed in the British Library. Voices include those of Gwen Moffat, Angela Soper and Jill Lawrence. Stories span from the 1940s to the current day, a metaphorical handover from the past to the future for women’s climbing. Click here to listen to more historical soundbites.

We wanted to create a film that celebrated the fun and friendship Pinnacle Club members have enjoyed over the years while rock climbing and having mountain adventures together," said long-standing Pinnacle Club member Adele Long. "We are delighted to win the Judges Special Mention award and we want to thank all the volunteers in the Pinnacle Club who participated in the oral histories, the many people who helped with the acquisition of images, the British Library for recognising the value of our Club’s heritage and agreeing to be the archivists for the Oral History Collection, and lastly Ed Cartledge for taking our ideas and material and making them flow into such a wonderful story."

Best Professional Film

The Wanderlust Women - Frit Tam (Passionfruit Pictures) Starring: Amira Patel and Aysha Yilmaz

There was a time when Amira Patel had never hiked, and upon her first 3km hike up Rivington Pike with her mother, Aysha, she struggled. A few years on, and Amira has now inspired and created an outdoors community of over 1000 Muslim women in a social hiking group called ‘The Wanderlust Women’. This is Amira and Aysha’s story of joint turmoil resulting in a discovery of the outdoors, as well as their experiences of diversifying the space as Muslim women. 

Upon recieving the award, winning filmmaker Frit Tam said: "Winning 'Best Professional Film' is such an honour. There were some incredible submissions by other professional filmmakers this year, and so, to have won in this category means so much for my career, and really acknowledges the importance and value of sharing these stories from underrepresented groups within the outdoors community. To top it off, sharing this success and joy with both Amira and Aysha (the protagonists in the film) at ShAFF in-person was an unbelievable experience that I won't forget. Thank you so much!"

Make A Difference Panel Discussion

From left to right: Judge and Host Rehna Yaseen and 2021 winners Frit Tam, Abbie Barnes and Amira Patel. Photo: Frankie Dewar

Hosted by competition judges Claire Carter, Lynn Robinson and Rehna Yaseen, they expertly facilitated a thought-provoking discussion with attending 2021 winners Frit Tam, Abbie Barnes and Amira Patel. Together along with the audience they explored the themes of the concept of mental health, LGBTQIA+ representation, and cultural diversity inclusion within adventure and filmmaking and ultimately, what is means to be able to Make A Difference through the medium of film.

Former BMC President and competition Judge Lynn Robinson said: "It was an honour to be on the film jury and host the announcement of the winners at ShAFF. The Making a Difference Session afterwards was pretty thought provoking - there would never have been a session like that 10-years ago, so even though we're not there yet - the BMC is creating a platform for conversations like to take place - phenomenal."

The panel was also livestreamed so watch this space for the recording and some tangible take-aways from the session.

Emerging filmmaker Frit Tam told us what attending the adventure film festivals like ShAFF mean to him: "Film festivals like ShAFF can bring people together in such a wonderful way that can then propel them into their next life-changing project. This is the power of film festivals! They can uplift the voices and stories that we're not hearing as readily, and sit them side-by-side with the big guns. They can educate, inform and entertain. They can change the narrative."

What happens next?

And so the competition cycle begins again. Next year the competition will be in its eigth year and as always we’ll be striving to make it bigger and better than before. It’s never too early to begin thinking about entering a submission for 2022. Grab your camera when you head out the door on your way to your next adventure, document them and use the Women in Adventure film competition to share your story with others searching for inspiration.

JOIN US: The 2022 Women in Adventure Competition Film Night and Launch Evening

📅 When: Thursday, 5th August 2021 19:00 – 22:00

📌 Where: Outside Cafe, Main Road, Hathersage, S32 1BB

Tickets on sale now!

Any questions, feedback or ideas about the competition can be sent to emma@thebmc.co.uk.

Need inspiration?

📺 Watch: 2021 Films

📺 Watch: 2020 Films

📺 Watch: 2019 Films 

📺 Watch: 2018 Films

📺 Watch: 2017 Films

📺 Watch: 2016 Films

📺 Watch: 2015 Films



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