SIFF DocFest Closing Night: The Sanctity of Space Q&A

Last night, I saw the US Premiere of The Sanctity of Space – the Closing Night film of SIFF DocFest. And since it’s a held review, that’s all I can tell you about it.

Just kidding, I can give you a synopsis. The movie is about three climbers: professional climbers Renan Ozturk and Freddie Wilkinson (erroneously named on the program as Freddie Wilkerson, and both spellings appearing on the webpage), and experienced climber Zack Smith, and their attempt to tackle The Tooth Traversal in Alaska, inspired by Bradford Washburn’s photo of the mountains. The movie is also about Bradford Washburn, who still inspires climbers with his aerial photographs of mountains.

Beth Barrett introduces The Sanctity of Space

Unlike other films in the series, Opening and Closing Night films were introduced by Artistic Director Beth Barrett. She also moderated the virtual Q&A with directors Ozturk and Wilkinson. Here are some highlights from that Q&A.

  • When asked by Barrett if they knew going in that they were making a film, Wilkinson answered, “When you’re going on a trip with Renan, you’re always making a film.”
  • Answering a question from the audience, Ozturk revealed that recording the experience can change it “for your partner,” as Smith made a decision in the film that was partly influenced by the constant filming. Wilkinson agreed that it can change the scope and nature of the experience, and then commented on how professional many of these kinds of videos look online, dubbing it “a golden age for adventure docs.”
  • Responding to a question by Barrett about whether there was a moment when they could see the film coming together, Ozturk referred to what they call “the search,” which is that instinct to keep creating and exploring. Wilkinson pointed out that, even now, they’re not sure if the whole thing’s done.
  • They have enough extra footage to tell an entirely different story. Ozturk said the National Park Service could use their photos for education, especially their aerial photographs.
  • When asked by Barrett if the footage could be used for future climbs, Ozturk said, “It already has. I’ve used it.” Though he points out that it’s so easy to get current aviation photos that his photos won’t have the same impact as Washburn’s.
  • After the world premiere in Vancouver and the US premiere at SIFF, the plan is to take the film to other festivals. It’s slated for a theatrical release in April.
The Sanctity of Space Virtual Q&A. Wilkinson is in the top left, Ozturk on the bottom, Barrett in the top right.

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And that’s a wrap on SIFF DocFest! I had fun covering eight of the thirteen offerings (even if the review for The Sanctity of Space won’t be posted until next year). So, a few housekeeping items before I go:

  • When I initially posted my reaction to Flee, I incorrectly gave Stan Shields’s title as Lead Festival Programmer. I listened closer the second time and have since corrected it to Programming Manager.
  • I received a press release that listed all the Q&As, and while it matches what’s on the website in most respects, it diverges on two of them. First, it lists Storm Lake as hosting a virtual Q&A with directors Beth Levison and Jerry Risius. Second, it includes two of Balanchine’s former dancers as guests for the In Balanchine’s Classroom Q&A. If anyone saw either of those movies in-person and can vouch for the validity of either of these statements, feel free to comment below.
  • I neglected to mention that Becoming Cousteau states in the end credits that carbon credits were purchased to offset the carbon footprint of the production. Good for them!
  • Finally, thanks to InJoy Studios (who handled all press requests for materials, screeners, and tickets), Cargo Film & Releasing (who provided the press screener for The Conservation Game), and everyone at SIFF for a great festival! And all the people who had a hand in making the films that were shown! It feels good to be going to the movies again. It feels even better to be reviewing them.