Vertical Life Film Tour brings outdoor sports documentaries films to Boston

Mountain Climbing (Photo by Brad Barmore/Unsplash)

By Madeleine Pearce
Boston University News Service

The Boston University FitTreks program hosted its first showing of the Vertical Life Film Tour, bringing highlights from the outdoor film industry to the Fitness and Recreation Center.

Vertical Life Film Tour, an event with international showings, showcases climbing and mountaineering documentaries created around the world. The first tour began in 2020, in New Zealand and Australia, in an effort to continue coverage of climbing during the pandemic.

Held on Friday, the Boston University showings were available to faculty and staff for free through funding granted by The Wellbeing Project, a new initiative “to support students’ health and wellness during their time at BU.”

Roni Deckard, a Boston University junior, said the free event brought in viewers who otherwise may have hesitated to attend.

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

The event featured three short films that focus on perseverance, including a documentary on 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 on a Spanish climber’s first ascent of one of the most difficult routes in the world. 

Benjamin Beck, manager of outdoor programs at Boston University, said the event was designed to bring the outdoor community together again following COVID-19 closures. FitTreks suspended its activities since March 2020, including all outdoor trips. 

“We’re hoping that people with all kinds of interests can come and see,” said Beck. “This is the start of bringing outdoor programs back to BU campus.” 

While more media exposure has increased participation in rock climbing, the activity remains less popular than most mainstream sports like soccer or basketball. 

Deckard said she appreciated attending an event focused on outdoor sports because she could meet people with similar interests. 

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

Boston University’s Climbing Club has seen an increase in membership activity during the fall semester as more students show interest in the sport. Jack Broddus, the club’s vice president, said the film tour allowed students to see the potential for adventure beyond the plastic holds and artificial rock found in indoor gyms. 

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

Vertical Life Film Tour will return for a second showing on Feb. 18 at the Boston University FitRec center with free admission for university students and faculty.

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