Exclusive – This Mountain Life Coming to VIFF

What is life if you’re not pushing the limits? Are you playing it safe until you reach the end of the game? If at 90 years old I look back at my life and it doesn’t cause me to ask, how I survived and made it through the other side of a few treacherous adventures, then it might be time to jump out of a plane… parked on the tarmac with soft padded mats on the ground. After all, if I made it to 90, I shouldn’t push my luck.  


Great stories seem to come out of adventures with perilous risk led by people that were not content going with societies flow. They have a gene inside that scientists are still trying to properly identify. I just call it bravery with a side dish of adrenaline. They think outside the box. I mean, so far outside the box that when they inform others about their next adventure, they’re usually asked to repeat it in case they heard incorrectly. I myself have tested the limits on a smaller scale of 2 but it was really closer to a 2.7.


For those that do play it safe like myself, it’s always awe inspiring when you get to see how a small percentage of risk takers, thrill seekers, the brave and adventurous live when untethered by societies grip.  Martina Halik (photographer, avalanche forecaster, adventurer) and her 60 year-old mother Tania Halik (paramedic, life adventurer) embark on a six-month ski trek through the treacherous Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. The journey has only been completed once before and never by a female duo. Their adventure is immersed with beautifully crafted portraits of high-altitude human endurance and passion, as well as an avalanche survivor, a snowshoe artist, a snowbound convent; that are by turns captivating and inspiring. Within this uplifting story are vignettes of others who have chosen a mountain life: a group of nuns inhabiting a mountain retreat to be closer to God; a photographer that is buried in an avalanche; an impassioned alpinist; a focused snow artist; a couple who has been living off the grid in the mountains for nearly 50 years. What is it that leads these adventurous people to sacrifice everything like comfort, family, personal safety – for a life in the mountains?


I caught up with the co-writer and director of This Mountain Life, Grant Baldwin at a VIFF Press Conference at Vancity Theatre a short time ago. He was generous enough to tell me how the film snowballed into this amazing creation. I later watched the incredible trailer for this feature documentary. It truly took my breath away and I will post the link at the bottom for your own chance at wow inspiring footage of Titanic proportions.

“What inspired you to make this film?”

“I had met a guy that was buried in an avalanche and his story was really gripping. As I spoke with him he mentioned this mother and daughter that were about to embark on a 2300 km journey from West Coast Canada to Alaska in the winter through the mountains. I was little bit in disbelief that they could walk it or anyone else could, so we decided to start preparing and following them on the journey where we physically could.”

Grant continues, “It’s an amazing mother/daughter story; Planet Earth meets a road trip movie. It’s visually powerful but also emotionally because you get to see this mother and daughter work together to get through this journey.”

“Had the mother or daughter talked about their inspiration for taking on this journey?”

“Yes, Tania the mom had escaped the Czech Republic in the early ‘80’s. She was living in a world of oppression and she didn’t want her children living in that society. She loved the outdoors and escaped with her husband. They crossed borders through two rivers in the winter to find a better life and were eventually accepted into Canada. She lives her life with this sense of freedom and wants to push herself with the outdoors. It’s an inspiring story.”


“How long did the journey take and when did it begin and end?”

“They started in Squamish in January and finished the first day of summer in Skagway, Alaska. It turned out to be 2300 kms and it took just under 6 mths. and no one died, not even on the film side (chuckle).”


“Considering the film crew went along on the journey, how versed was everyone in survival skills?”

“I’m not an athlete and there were times where Tania and Martina did help me get through some sections I wouldn’t have been able to get through to film. I also brought another person with me that could travel fast and help carry food, the stove, camping supplies so I could carry the camera gear and film them. It was a two-person crew and we visit them 3 times on their journey but we did rely on them to film some of the journey themselves. When things got really bad it’s pretty hard for someone to pull out a camera and start filming. Some of it wasn’t recorded but they did capture some pretty amazing moments themselves.”


“Speaking about bad situations, what would’ve been one of the toughest challenges in their journey?”

“They were travelling through some pretty stormy conditions and the daughter Martina was in front and Tania behind. Martina got swept away by an avalanche and Tania had thought for a while that she had lot her daughter. She said she instantly regretted their last words together because they had been in an argument. She thought she’d have to live with that along with the decision to bring her on the trip. She descended down the slope and found her daughter on top of the snow, not buried. It was really sobering for her to watch what you say. She said it was a life lesson in kindness.”



Grant continues, “Given that some of the terrain was quite treacherous we were very grateful whenever they could film some of it.”

“Considering they survived this amazing journey, have they discussed another one in the future?”

“They’re always doing other trips in other forms but I don’t think they’ll ever attempt that one again. It was one of the coldest winters in 20 years when they went. There’re some sections they said they’d never go back to but they also said there were parts along the way they really enjoyed; it was a once in a lifetime kind of thing.”          


“Is this the first type of documentary you’ve made like this?”

“I’ve worked a lot in action sports and have always been part of promoting a brand of some kind, whether it’s clothing or skis. I kept meeting interesting people in the mountains that were there for other reasons and I wanted to make a film that featured these people that didn’t have logos in the movie. It’s not a film for mountain people, it’s for everyone else. This is the first time I’ve made one quite like this.”


The film premiered at Hot Docs and this will be its West Coast premiere.


“Did you finance this film out-of-pocket?”

“We worked with the Knowledge Network on this, they worked with me on our last film, Just Eat It, which is totally different. My partner and I lived off of discarded food for 6 mths. I think the 6 mths. is the only common theme in these two films.”


As I mentioned earlier, the trailer is incredible with images you will find nowhere else. It’s gripping and it will tow you along for a story of pure will, sacrifice, determination, a greatly tested relationship between mother/daughter and so much more. Please treat yourself to this years VIFF and see this film. You will appreciate life so much more!

Here is the link to the trailer.  /TML.url

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