Short Film "Climb Your Dreams" Captures the Mental Escape of Climbing
Q&A with the film's director and subject on premiering at BANFF, Langston Hughes, and how to support POC in the outdoor space
For so many the outdoors and its related activities provide an outlet, a way of escaping the everyday and reconnecting with the natural world and likeminded individuals. For others still, a serious lack diversity and representation within that same space and those same activities can be discouraging. In the face of this glaring issue of much discussion we see Climb Your Dreams, a beautifully made short film by writer and director Joshua Greenwood, starring fellow New York City-based climber Raheim Robinson.
The poignant short film captures this aforementioned mental escape many are so intimately familiar with, juxtaposed against a scene of daily life that’s at once normal to nearly nine million Americans yet totally foreign to most in the “core” outdoor industry. Below, Greenwood and Robinson share their perspectives and experiences on making the film, and briefly, the greater issue of diversity in the outdoors at large.
What does it mean to you to have Climb Your Dreams premiere at Banff Mountain Film Festival?
Raheim Robinson, Climber: We went into this with the goal of creating something special that gave POC proper representation in the outdoor space. We decided at the very last minute to enter into BANFF and we were accepted. It’s an honor to have taken part in the festival even with us being the underdog alongside some amazing films.
It's a great feeling knowing that people all over the world who look like us have the chance to experience this film and be able to relate. Whether you’re a climber or not, if you have a passion that takes you away from your daily routine then you will definitely see yourself in the film.
In the film we see a dream sequence set to the iconic words of Langston Hughes. Tell us about this decision to link Mr. Hughes’ experience with the one you depict.
Josh Greenwood, Director: When we were editing the film, we wanted to tie the story together with some other themes and came across this poem [The Negro Speaks of Rivers] by Mr. Hughes that just felt right. I come from a family of black and brown folks who have explored and enjoyed the outdoors for a long time. The archival narration of this poem had a dream-like quality to it that reminds me of stories my grandparents have told me of the wilderness.
Where do you live and how did you get into climbing?
RR: I was born and raised in Harlem, but I currently reside in Brooklyn. I started climbing almost five years ago at a local gym in Brooklyn after my daughter (who is also a crusher) won first place in an obstacle course challenge. She took home the best time in the girl's category and I took home the best time for men. The prize was a year-long membership to the climbing gym and so it began.
JG: I grew up in Colorado climbing and doing lots of outdoor activities and I am living in Brooklyn now. I actually got back into climbing more seriously when I got to NYC because I was a bit homesick.
How can non POC be better allies in supporting these efforts? From an individual or community level?
RR & JG: It starts with awareness and really just acknowledging the issues within our community as well as in the outdoor space. And then, if possible, determining how you can help to support in fixing this long-overdue problem. I would say a big part of support is not just showing up with gear, logos, and questions. Part of it is doing the work of educating yourself so you can come to the conversation with a more enlightened perspective (read some books by POC authors for example). That way when you have these conversations, POC's and other minorities don't have to be tasked with synthesizing our perspective so much just for your comfort.
What organizations or events do you align with in the effort to achieve better representation within the outdoor and climbing communities?
RR: Josh and I have been involved with Brothers of Climbing for a while now which is a great group devoted to including and supporting all genders of people of color in the climbing community. Josh also has been participating and teaching clinics at the annual Color the Crag festival, which seeks to celebrate and promote diversity in the outdoor sports world.
JG: There is also Brown Girls Climb, Melanin Basecamp and a ton of other groups that have started that have really helped open up the outdoor community. Thankfully the list of groups is growing and you don't have to work as hard to find folks—but there is always room for more!