It’s an intriguing idea: Take a bunch of young adult cancer survivors out into the middle of nowhere and send them on a remote 10 day river kayaking journey…. Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s film a documentary about it. Intriguing, and perhaps a bit unique, risky, and bizarre to say the least?
It’s a concept that might seem foreign to many, but not for 25 year old Mikey Lang. The day I first saw Mikey just happened to be the day that he and his wife, Bonnie, came forward in their church and announced with still disbelieving, downcast faces that the doctors had just found a softball-sized tumor in the middle of his chest. Mikey would begin his chemo and radiation treatments the following week, and the course of his life would be permanently altered.
But the Mikey Lang I saw then is not the same person today. To say there has been a positive transformation would be an understatement. And it is the source of this change that inspired Mikey with such an undertaking as this film. As a trained river kayaking guide for YD Adventures, Mikey had seen first-hand how expeditions in remote areas can bring about life change in an individual. So, the puzzle pieces fit together. What might happen if you take a group of young adults facing similar challenges, and guide them through a set of completely different challenges on a whitewater kayaking expedition? The result is what we get to experience as Wrong Way to Hope premiers this September 22nd.
A bit of a confession: I’m tentative in writing this article. I want to promote this film because it is powerful, and worth watching. I want to support Mikey, Hands On Films (Aaron Bryant and Fred Sprinkle), and all others involved because I got to see the amount of time, work, and passion they put into this project. I’m also a little biased. I know the people involved, and I got to work on some of the audio / music for it myself. So this is not exactly objective.
I will not give the film away, but there are a few things I want to say about it. First, when we hear that this is a story involving cancer, we may immediately gain the impression that this movie is going to be a downer. This is not the case. I found myself drawn into the stories of these individuals in a very moving way. I came away inspired, and I also came away challenged by my own outlook on life. There is a message to be told in this film that all of us can benefit from.
Secondly, I want to comment on the quality of this film. It is the first project of its kind for Hands On Films, and typically, when one decides to dive into the world of full-length documentaries, they might choose something a little less challenging than hauling professional cameras, boom stands, cranes, etc. down a river. No storage bus, no studio setup, sound room, or any other base to speak of. Not even level ground. Just the rugged, remote Owyhee river.
I am no professional when it comes to filmmaking, but given these environmental constraints, I was floored by the quality of the photography. It will truly be a treat to sweep across the panoramas of the Owyhee’s breathtaking canyons on the big screen, and to plunge beneath the murky greenish waters as a kayak suddenly capsizes.
It’s been a year and half of computer hardware and software headaches, at least 2000 hours of editing, research, vision casting, rough drafts and redrafts, until now. Some 80+ hours of recorded footage have been carefully boiled down into this 78 minute feature, and faced with such a challenge; I would say the team emerges victorious.
My fear is that I will raise expectations too high, as my temptation is to tout its praises as loudly as possible, but I don’t think you will be disappointed. Whatever you come away with after seeing Wrong Way to Hope, I’m confident that it will be time and money well spent. Don’t miss this opportunity. Premiers will be showing at the Lincoln Theatre in Mt. Vernon, WA on September 22nd, and the Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham, WA on October 7th. Buy your tickets at www.handsonfilms.com.
Posted by Mike Rauwolf
Photo courtesy of Sawaya Photography