A Squamish runner and climber wants to drive home the message that there is room for everyone on the trails we run and rock faces we climb.
JoJo Das’s personal journey is the focus of the new 10-minute short documentary Sea-to-Sky Trail Series: Creating Space, at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival (VIMFF).
Das is the program director at Mountain Mentors, an organization that helps make backcountry mountain sports, such as skiing, hiking, climbing and splitboarding more accessible and inclusive.
Born in Kolkata India, and having travelled the world, Das settled in Squamish about a decade ago.
It is the 14th place across five countries that he’s lived in.
He says he doesn’t think anyone intended for outdoor activities to become dominated by white folks; however, regardless of intention, these spaces can be quite homogeneous, which can make it intimidating for People of Colour to get involved in outdoor sports such as rock climbing, skiing, or trail running.
“Whenever there’s conversations around equity and diversity, and inclusion in places that are, by definition, quite high-barrier, I think there needs to be understanding that I don’t necessarily think that it’s deliberately exclusionary,” he said. “I have a strong belief that the average human is quite kind ... Most of the time, you choose the people that you already know, already have a community with who are already proficient in that space.”
If you don’t know anyone like you who does the sport, it is harder to break into, he added.
In the film, he reflects on how he felt he needed to prove himself to belong in outdoor sports communities when he first came here.
Now he works so more folks feel invited to recreate.
He stressed that the film is his experience. He doesn't profess to speak for anyone else.
"My hope for the film is curiosity in terms of, what do these spaces look like? And how can an individual use the resources and knowledge they have to make these spaces more welcoming?" he said.
"I think a really big thing is, what does an invitation to these spaces look like? An invitation to inclusion isn't just 'come along,' but rather that 'I've made intentional space for you.'"
Das recognizes that it will be hard for some folks to understand why getting out to climb or run and the like has anything to do with race or background.
"If you have never felt unwelcome or if you've never felt unsafe, it's really hard for you to understand what that feels like for somebody else," he said. "So it's just trying to have that curiosity where, yeah, it's very hard to understand something you've never felt. I get that. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist."
The documentary, directed by Squamish’s Joel Fuller, has its world premiere during the in-person Trail Show on Saturday, March 4, at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver. Sea-to-Sky Trail Series: Creating Space will be available to watch online starting Friday, Feb. 24.
Other Squamish-related films at VIMFF include:
- Squamish adventurers Malin Ek and Mark Sky will present their story about completing the Sea to Sky Infinity Loop at the festival on March 2 at the Adventures in Canada show.
- Squamish climber Will Stanhope will be a guest speaker at the Arc’teryx Climbing Show.
- Trail runner Jenny Tough is the subject of the film Solo about her quest to run across a mountain range on every continent by herself.
- MuuxTuu: First of Many Together is a film about Indigenous trail builders on Vancouver island, directed by Squamish filmmaker Graeme Micklejon.
- Georgia Astle: Flip The Switch short three-minute film by Squamish director Scott Secco.