Pro snowboarder Tamo Campos brings radical action to Mountain film fest

As he reveals in a preamble to his film The Radicals, directed with Brian Hockenstein, Tamo Campos was a mere 10 months old when he went on his first tour of the backcountry. 

“Because of my parents,” says the professional snowboarder, “I didn’t have a choice. I was going to be a ski bum.”

As you might expect, glorious action footage of Campos hurtling down the side of a vast mountain ensues. But The Radicals has bigger concerns. For the next 60 minutes of the film, we see Campos and his partners in the nonprofit Beyond Boarding engaged in what he calls “our responsibility to the mountains”.

“The idea, basically, is that we wanted to challenge the community about their relationship with the outdoors,” Campos says, calling the Georgia Straight from Toronto, where he’s been screening the film for high-school students. And so The Radicalsvisits four sites of resistance. Touring B.C. with surfer Jasper Snow Rosen in a van powered by waste vegetable oil, Campos is alongside when community members confront the mining company that would turn Iskut in northwestern B.C. into a toxic tailings pond. Later, the duo joins Indigenous locals in a standoff with industrial salmon farmers in the Broughton Archipelago.

Another member of Beyond Boarding, Marie-France Roy, travels to the Bridge River Valley to learn about the dire impact of B.C. Hydro’s Terzaghi and Lajoie dams and the efforts being made to restore salmon-rearing habitats. In Haida Gwaii, retired snowboarder Meghan O’Brien reinvents herself as a Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw weaver.

“In the beginning of the film,” Campos explains, “we’re healing the land; in the middle, we’re standing up for it; and at the end, we’re talking about this different connection that we can have with the land through art and showing that resistance isn’t only done to protect the environment but also to protect culture.”

The upbeat snowboarder/filmmaker is happy to report that those school kids in Toronto got the message—to his delight, one of them handed Campos a note that read: “I love this film; it had information like other documentaries but wasn’t quite as boring”—and even happier to measure his own learning experiences.

“I’ve been able to work with these incredible, small, remote communities that have dealt with so much yet they’re still standing up; they’re still showing the world a different relationship we can have with place and they’re also winning, ya know? In a few short years, I’ve seen a small group kick out an LNG plant on the Skeena; I’ve seen elders kick out a copper mine up in Iskut; and the momentum over those fish farms is huge right now.”

Screening next Wednesday (November 14) at the Centennial Theatre, The Radicals is a great example of what the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival does best: celebrating the outdoor lifestyle with eye-popping cinema (Hockenstein’s photography is predictably spectacular) but also with consciousness, purpose, and a true reverence for an increasingly beleaguered planet.

Alongside its photography exhibit and wall-climbing day, VIMFF’s annual fall series (running from November 13 to 18) brings a program of climbing shorts (Reel Rock 13) to the Centennial and Rio theatres. With the filmmaker in attendance, the Rio also hosts a screening of Nepali director Deepak Rauniyar’s feature White Sun, about two brothers on opposite sides of the Nepalese civil war. More information is at www.vimff.org.

by Adrian Mack

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