Growing up in Carbondale, CO, Aisha Weinhold attended a copious amount of adventure film festivals. The small mountain town, which neighbors Aspen, is home to the Five Point Film Festival and just down the road was Mountain Film, in Telluride. On the big screen she noticed a common theme: there weren’t many women. The stories were always incredible, but she was disheartened when female narratives were left out of the discussion. It became her goal to challenge this dilemma, but Weinhold grappled for years on how to approach the situation. It would take sailing on the Pacific Ocean for the right idea to finally come to her: a women’s adventure film festival.
No Man’s Land Film Festival (NMLFF) is the product of that fateful day at sea. Weinhold would spend the next two years searching for content. The biggest critique she received was there weren’t enough female adventure films to fill a festival program. Turns out the critics were wrong. In 2015, they launched their first event and have hosted stops all around the world ever since. This year, they embarked on their biggest endeavor yet, a four-day flagship festival that encompassed more than just films but also activist workshops, panel discussions, and outdoor adventures in the Rocky mountains.
Robin Van Gyn finding the goods in Slovenia, her segment along with a few other TGR segments will shown at the event this Friday. Nic Alegre photo.
We are beyond thrilled to be hosting Jackson’s first ever No Man’s Land Event this Friday! Helping us bring the event to life is the Jackson Hole Babe Force, a local non profit, which empowers women who want to become stronger, smarter, and more confident in the mountains. There will be a raffle fundraiser to benefit their intiatives with prizes donated by SRAM, Roam Events, and many local Jackson artists.
Meanwhile we caught up with the woman behind it all, Aisha Weinhold, who balances the festival with teaching skiing at Aspen Snowmass and running her consignment gear shop, Ragged Mountain Sports. She shared with us more about the festival and how it has evolved in the past three years. Here's what she had to say:
Mothered by Mountains, one of the NMLFF films, follows the story Nepalese climber Pasang Llamu Sherpa Akita with Kathmandu punk rocker Sareena Rai. NMLFF Film Still.
Who is NMLFF for?
AW: NMLFF is for everyone. The flagship festival is usually 60/40 women to men and I’d love to see more men come. I think there aren’t many spaces that are female-focused that encourage men to come and be part of it. That’s what I want NMLFF to be and I think we’re growing into that.
Editor's note: The term “No Man’s Land” actually refers to the land that is under dispute between parties who leave it unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty. So, within the outdoor industry, Weinhold is seeking to create a space for both genders to occupy.
What has been your goal with the event?
AW: Until very recently, my goal with NMLFF was to not need to exist in ten years. The hope is that the adventure film world would be so equal that NMLFF would simply be getting in the way and reminding us of a troubled time. I just wanted to show without juxtaposition how incredible women are—especially women in sports. Particularly giving those films a space to thrive without comparison. Forever, the film festival’s excuses were, “the content is just not out there.” I thought if I could show them that the content was there it would simply banish that excuse.
Now we’ve shifted a bit and we want to influence the content that is being generated around women. We want to make sure that stories are being told truthfully and articulately. As we delve more into sharing the narratives other minorities groups and the LGBTQ community, we want to make sure that story is being told with intentionality as well.
NMLFF founder, Aisha Weinhold, is excited for the next chapter in the festival's future: encouraging women behind the lens. Brooke Warren photo.
Can you describe your most recent flagship event?
AW: It was amazing! Doing the four days is a huge undertaking, but this year was fascinating. One of the special things about NMLFF is that we get to bring in whoever we want to speak and lead these incredible discussions. It instills you with so much hope. To see leaders of the industry actually banding together to create lasting change is really cool.
Editor's note: Athletes, activists, entrepreneurs, and scholars like Leah Evans, Katie Boue, Shelma Jun, and Katie Bono have spoken at the flagship event.
Do you have a moment that stands out to you from an event?
AW: I do! Particularly this moment with Elyse Rylander of Out There Adventures and Jess Johnson the co-founder of Artemis, a hunting and angling organization for women. First off I need to preface what this moment followed. Jess was speaking on a panel and someone asked the question, “what should all women do?” She ended up going on this really long monologue that ended with the idea that more women should run for office. It was really powerful and moved people to tears. Then the panel wrapped up, because that was the last event on the last day, and my husband and I drove the two of them to the airport. When I went to say goodbye they approached me and said
Aisha we have this idea for a film!
I stepped back and had this moment of awe. Under what circumstances would a hunter from Cody, Wyoming and an LGBT activist from Seattle, Washington come together and find this shared passion? It’s pretty powerful that the event can make these connections.
A still from the movie, Betty Bee. NMLFF’s films tell stories ranging from athletes to mothers and their daughters.
Does NMLFF just focus on films and media?
AW: We want to bring the change even more by encouraging and supporting women who are behind the camera. Ultimately that’s the best way to get an authentic story, is to work with someone who can emphasize and sympathize while telling a narrative.
If NMLFF is anything it’s about connection. That’s what it does. Everyone who I talk to who has had a positive experience at NMLFF is because they met someone they could connect with.