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“Un-define the feminine:” Film festival explores identities in the outdoors

September 8, 2023

Amira Oguntoyinbo
NO MAN'S LADD: Attendees watch a short film at the No Man’s Land Film Festival. According to the group’s website, the festival seeks to “un-define feminine in adventure and sport through film.”

Yesterday, students, faculty and community members gathered on the Ladd House patio for No Man’s Land Film Festival’s return to campus, marking the second consecutive year the organization has held a screening at Bowdoin.

The event, co-hosted by the Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) and the Sexuality, Women, and Gender Center (SWAG), consisted of a series of short films that focused on “un-defining the feminine” in athletics and outdoor adventure.

“You have women athletes, but also nonbinary, and gender-fluid, and transgender folk who all kind of exist outside in their own ways,” BOC officer Andrea Rodriguez ’24 said.

Rodriguez originally brought No Man’s Land to campus last year after seeing a screening put on by the festival at her high school. The film festival travels around the world to schools, independent theaters and outdoor venues.

“I reached out to the [No Man’s Land] team, and they’re super responsive and super cool,” Rodriguez said. “Last year we had a good turnout…. We even had people from Bates coming.”

From skateboarding to rock climbing to skiing, the short films highlighted often underrepresented groups in outdoor recreation exploring—and in many ways reclaiming—outdoor and athletic exploration. It also cast the outdoors as a safe space for many of these people, praising the power of nature to equalize and allow disadvantaged groups to escape and find purpose. Rodriguez added that the festival brings critical dialogue surrounding participation in outdoor spaces to campus.

“It’s important to redefine what it means to recreate outside and who gets to recreate outside,” she said.

Fiona Jenkins ’27 said that the spotlight on queer stories was a highlight of the festival.

“I really liked [the film] about the gay couple who like to long-distance run [and] have been traveling around together, uncovering safe spaces in the South,” Jenkins said. “I’m from North Carolina.… That one just felt a little bit close to home. Finding safe spaces in the South and also outdoor recreation was really cool.”

Some attendees felt represented by the nontraditional outdoor enthusiasts that the films portrayed.

“I wanted to come because I love hearing stories like this. I’m someone who’s gotten into the outdoors pretty late in the game…. So I think just hearing stories about people who aren’t traditionally in it is super exciting,” Noah Goldwasser ’27 said.

No Man’s Land’s aim of subverting typical ideas around who can broadly participate in both the outdoors and athletics is a goal shared by both the BOC and SWAG.

“Sometimes when we think about who was in the outdoors, who’s engaging in some of the sports and adventures in the film series, we have a very specific picture of the gender of the person in mind. And so I think that part of the film festival is expanding who comes to mind,” Director of SWAG Natalie Turrin said.

Turrin praised SWAG’s long-standing relationship with the BOC.

“It’s an absolute pleasure because the BOC is the preeminent outdoors club in the country, and so getting to work with them has been great,” Turrin said.

Others agreed that the collaboration was a success.

“It’s just good vibes here,” Goldwasser said.


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