Much like a climbing expedition, you'll need to pack wisely for Return to Mount Kennedy. Leave the pick axe, rope and oxygen at home. Instead, bring your hunger for adventure, appreciation for history and keen sense for perspective.
Return to Mount Kennedy is a journey across time and terrain that you will not soon forget. It harkens to a more innocent 1963, when Seattle-born Jim Whitaker became the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Soon after, Whittaker (who would go on to become a peace activist and CEO of REI) was honored at a high-profile White House ceremony by then-U.S. President John Kennedy. Whittaker and JFK became fast friends and his kinship with the Kennedy clan has spanned generations.
When JFK was torn from life by an assassin's bullet, then-Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson challenged his nation's Parliament to identify a still-unclimbed mountain and claim it as Mount Kennedy as a tribute to the slain president. But the peak in the far reaches of the Yukon territory was considered by many to be inaccessible with temperatures, even at the height of summer, dipping to 35 degrees below zero. In 1965, Whitaker would indeed lead the Mount Kennedy expedition that would include then-Senator Bobby Kennedy, untrained as a mountaineer but undeterred in the goal of honoring his late brother.
That story alone might make a fabulous documentary, but in Return to Mount Kennedy, filmmaker extraordinaire Eric Becker adds layer after history-making layer to craft a must-see film. Becker's lens follows Whittaker's son Bob (now 48) as he recruits Bobby Kennedy's son Christopher (52), to literally follow in their fathers' footsteps. Both men were ill-equipped to scale one of the planet's most challenging peaks, and their journey was fraught with life-threatening risk, but Return to Mount Kennedy, which has been feted by film festivals around the world, is worthy of your heart.
Idaho native A.J. Eaton didn't set out to make a feature documentary about rock legend David Crosby. In fact, his familiarity with Crosby was cursory at best. Like most of us, he grew up with Crosby's music indelibly etched into the American songbook. Eaton had heard or read anecdotes about Crosby's mercurial professional and personal hits and misses. But Eaton's brother Marcus, a virtuoso guitarist, was recruited to join a crew of then-unknown musicians to perform with the music legend in what Eaton would later call "Crosby's creative reawakening." And what began as a modest film project on a shoestring budget evolved into David Crosby: Remember My Name. A delicate balance of tender and tumult, the movie burst from this year's Sundance Film Festival as a critical success and is already being whispered as a possible Oscar nominee for Best Feature Length Documentary.
Don't expect Remember My Name to be an archetypal biopic stitched together with the jukebox of Crosby's musical history (his songlist from years with The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is a playlist like no other). Crosby himself dubs such self-serving docs to be "about as deep as a bird bath." Nor should you expect the film to be a cliched Behind the Music-style doc, solely dedicated to Crosby's notoriously stormy relationships. Instead, Eaton widens his lens to capture Croby's rediscovered love for music, while framing the narrative with an uncompromised acceptance of brutal truths: including ravaging addictions and serious prison time. Eaton's film mentor (and fellow Idahoan) Michael Hoffman (The Last Station, Soapdish), urged Eaton to protect his independence in crafting such a genre-busting documentary. And a happenstance meeting with Oscar-winning filmmaker Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire), would help stir the film's much-needed alchemy (Crowe would ultimately come on board as producer). Soon after its ovation-filled Sundance premiere, the picture was snapped by Sony Pictures, in one of the festival's biggest distribution acquisitions. The doc is just now getting a full tilt North America distribution, and Eaton himself will be on hand to shepherd the film when it opens at The Flicks in Boise. Don't miss it.