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Why This All-Female Adventure Film Festival Is Moving to Denver

In search of a more diverse audience, the No Man's Land Film Festival is bringing a lineup of female-centered adventure films from Carbondale to the Mile High City.

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Seven years ago on a sailboat in the Pacific Ocean, Aisha Weinhold was mulling over an issue pervasive within the adventure-sports industry: “Why in the world were the only athletes being shown in outdoor films all dudes?” It was this question that drove the Carbondale native, who is also a private ski instructor and filmmaker, to create the No Man’s Land Film Festival, which is making strides toward more equal representation of all genders and identities. 

The festival kicked off in 2015 in Carbondale—a hub for adventure and mountain creativity. But located 30 miles from Aspen, one of Colorado’s wealthiest mountain towns, Carbondale also lacks diversity, which is what the festival was attempting to support. So in early January, after five years in the Roaring Fork Valley, Weinhold and executive director Kathy Karlo announced they’d be moving their flagship festival to Denver in an effort to broaden their reach.

According to Karlo, cheaper airfare, more affordable lodging, and a more diverse population drove the decision. “I feel pretty passionately about bringing the film festival to the people. And people just happen to live in really big cities” she says. “I’m really excited to see what kind of audience we can draw. With a space like this, we may be able to bring in more men.”

This year’s No Man’s Land takes place March 5–8—notably the same weekend as International Women’s Day—and includes free presentations and workshops in addition to film screenings. “We’re making these open to the public because we want people to experience other people’s lives and the work that they do. And we don’t think that should be monetized,” Karlo says. Workshop panelists include climbers Madaleine Sorkin and Nina Williams, with more names being rolled out in the coming weeks. Beyond the free workshops, the festival is anchored by its films, which are chosen based on a few key criteria:

  1. The film predominantly features a woman.
  2. It’s a narrative that highlights a female or women-identified experience in the outdoors.
  3. It’s got to be good.

The need for women-driven stories is so strong that the festival has grown from one day in the first two years to a four-day event with 65 films screening. “We’re killing it” says Weinhold. And according to Karlo, about 44 percent of the films shown this year will be more inclusive, meaning they’ll showcase women of color and diversity.

The festival also features a start-up film accelerator program called Pitchfest. The process begins with a 500-word application from which 10 finalists are selected to compete by delivering a live proposal to a panel of judges. The winner receives a $2,500 purse, a guaranteed debut in the 2021 festival, and face time with top brands in the outdoor industry. Last year, 20 people applied, and 10 were selected to present at the festival in Carbondale.

Other notable events taking place during the festival include a live recording of the SheExplores podcast, a standup performance by comedian/filmmaker Katie Burrell at Thursday’s filmmaker’s dinner, and a double film screening on Saturday night (film TBD). 

Whether you go for one screening or the whole weekend, you’ll be supporting female adventurers who are telling their stories—and you might just walk away with a better appreciation for these badass ladies.

If you go: No Man’s Land Film Festival takes place March 5–8 at the Riveter, 2734 Walnut St., and Cultivated Synergy, 2901 Walnut St. Tickets are $11–$20 and can be purchased in advance online. If you can’t make the flagship festival, No Man’s Land has a few upcoming tour stops, including Durango on March 26 and Paonia on March 27.

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