Women who break down barriers, shatter records and thrive in the worlds of extreme sports and adventure are about to take centre stage in Bristol.
Shextreme, the world’s first film festival of its kind, returns to the city on Thursday, October 5 for a two-day celebration that will showcase some of the most inspirational stories, screenings and locations.
This will be followed by Bristol Social Enterprise Women’s Adventure Expo (WAExpo) at We the Curious on Saturday, October 7, featuring a panel of speakers, including Mollie Hughes – the youngest women in the world to successfully summit Everest from both sides.
Bristol24/7 speaks to Jessica Pearson, the filmmaker who documented Mollie’s incredible, record-breaking climb, to reveals the highs and lows for the women striving to succeed in largely male-dominated worlds.
“We are seeing more women in adventure on the screen, but I think what’s still lacking is women film makers” says the founder of Shimnix Films.
“It’s a two-way thing. It’s important for female filmmakers to have a chance, because both film and adventure are male dominated areas. For me, it’s not about excluding anyone at all. I feel if I ram inequality down people’s throats, they switch off.
“What Shextreme is doing is re-balancing.”
When the festival director, Dr Ruth Farrar, first put out the call for female filmmakers documenting the stories of women in extreme sports or adventure, it would take Jessica out of her comfort zone, but she was determined to give it a try.
Her Shextreme debut, The Space Outside, featured stories of inspiring women and earned her the best short film title.
Now, returning for the exclusive world premiere of Beyond the Highest Peak, the film depicting Mollie’s journey to the summit of Everest, the filmmaker remains as humble as ever as she seeks to inspire others to get out of their comfort zone and give things a go.
“Mollie and I hit it off and she approached me and said ‘I’m going to Everest – will you help me make a film?’
“She is so humble and lovely, I just wanted that to come across in the film.”
The 29-year-old followed Mollie through her training in Scotland and interviewed her family to capture not only the high adrenaline moments, but also the reality of embarking on such an epic journey and leaving your loved ones at home.
Mollie’s record-breaking achievement has made headlines and she has spoken on national TV, but Jessica said none of this was the key thing for the adventurer who “just wanted to get to know the mountain”.
Jessica has a rare perspective on life. From the age of 15 to 22, she suffered from a rare auto-immune illness, myasthenia gravis, that rendered her unable to talk, eat, smile or cry and meant she spent much of her life in a hospital bed.
“I bounced back and I have reclaimed my life and it puts me in a different place to most people – it’s hard sometimes, but I really try to live the most of my life,” she says.
An introvert at heart, Jessica loves surfing and coasteering, but says it is being behind a camera that helps her to find a voice.
On the importance of celebrating women in extreme sports and adventure, she adds: “Quite often film festivals will have different categories for women and it’s good they are trying to support women, but they are also putting them in a corner and that implies the rest is for men.
“Shextreme and the WAExpo both say that once they have the same amount of men as women coming to the events, then they will have done their job. It’s about changing the mentality, because there are still many men who see us as weaker across many different mediums.
“To just get a few more women’s voices out there – that is my aim.”
Shextreme launches on Thursday (October 5) with a film school at Paintworks from 7pm–9.30pm, followed by a programme of screenings and live panel discussion at the Arnolfini on Friday (October 6) from 7pm–10pm. Visit the Shextreme Film Festival website for tickets.
Main photo: Jessica Pearson.
Read more: Shextreme Film Festival