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VIFF: Journey on the Wild Coast

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Tonight WWF is hosting the North American premiere of The Mirror Never Lies, a gorgeous feature film from  Indonesian director Kamila Andini. There will still be some tickets at the door, so I hope to see you there.

In the meantime, I’ve got a packed day of interviews and screenings, starting with Mark Hall, director of Sushi: The Global Catch. We’ll be chatting just a few short hours before the international premiere of his thoughtful and eye-opening film.

Later this morning I’m seeing Journey on the Wild Coast, highlighting the rugged, breathtaking scenery of the Pacific coast. I had a chance to talk to director Greg Chaney earlier this week about this unique project, which documents the voyage of newlyweds Bretwood “Hig” Higman and Erin McKittrick as they hike, paddle and ski 6,500 km from Seattle to Alaska’s remote Aleutian Islands.

Greg lives in Juno, Alaska, and met the couple at the start of their journey. “They were headed to the outer coast, which is an incredibly place in the winter, so I was trying to convince them nto to go out there, but they’d heard that before,” he recalls.

He kept in touch with them throughout, and when they returned, he learned that they needed help turning countless hours of hand-held footage into a film.

“They weren’t really filmmakers, they were just adventurers with a  camera,” he says. They didn’t film key moments, such as their departure from Seattle, which Greg inventively pieced together using still photos and interviews with their families and friends. Erin’s journal helped him fill in missing parts of the tale.

Later, the couple accidentally sent Greg home movie footage from after their trip, which he also decided to include in the story. “They didn’t film the end of their trip, because that to them was an anticlimax,” he explains. “When I watched the footage at home I saw how much the trip had changed their lives.” The couple is seen embarking on new adventures in the wild with their young children.

Both Erin and Hig are committed environmentalists, but the film’s conservation messaging is not heavy-handed. “I really wanted to reach the middle audience – kind of the core moviegoing audience,” Greg says. “The core story is about a couple as a team that works together to overcome these obstacles in the wilderness. I wanted people to relate to the couple as individuals. I find if people hear the message from people they know and trust, they’re more likely to be open to it.”

Happy VIFFing – and hope to see you in the aisles today!