Black filmmaker explores the great outdoors
Wanting to break down stereotypes and curb fears and anxiety, filmmaker Analise Cleopatra recruited a few friends to travel with her across the Oregon backcountry.
The result was "Pedal Through," a genre-pushing adventure documentary about three Black women who bike-packed 132 miles of the Three Sisters Three Rivers Route of Central Oregon, starting west of Sisters and ending in Oakridge. Fit with an all-female film crew for the six-day adventure, the trio wanted to document how anyone can enjoy the great outdoors, if they desire, including female Black community members.
"I took on this project because I know that I'm not the only person who was interested in mountain biking, but also intimidated by it," said Cleopatra, a former Portlander who now lives in Miami. "Hopefully those folks can see themselves in my shoes and also be scared but do it anyway."
She added in the film: "There's gotta be something that happens to you when you're out there, in the solitude and serenity, and I want to know what this is about. This is a whole new world for me."
The 14-minute film, designed to address gender and racial representation in film and action sports, was sponsored by REI and made possible by the second annual Outdoor Adventure Film "Oregon's Outdoors Are For Everyone" Grant from the Oregon Made Creative Foundation and Travel Oregon. It can be viewed on REI's YouTube page.
Cleopatra was joined by best friend Day Toliver and professional mountain biker Brooklyn Bell. Cleopatra wanted to experience everything outdoors to overcome chronic anxiety, and she shares intimate details in the film with crashes, foibles, fear of bears and even her first poop in the dirt. It's meant to explore the joy, healing and community of mountain biking and camping.
Cleopatra had never camped or ridden a bike off pavement before planning the trip. For the first time, she experienced the sight of big waterfalls, old-growth forest and crystal-clear nights with stars out.
"The landscape opens to greet her as she learns to lean into uncertainty, accept support and trust herself on this wild ride," promotions say.
It was produced and co-directed by Aly Nicklas, who was five months pregnant at the time. Her film company is the all-female Wolf & Scout, which makes documentary films and commercial work addressing environmental and socially positive issues and brands.
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