Responses and Images by Nate Dappen and Neil Losin | Day’s Edge Productions
How did the idea for this film get started?
Neil came up with the original idea to retrace the steps of older expeditions and recapture their photos to document the disappearance of glaciers on equatorial mountains. At first, we had our sights set on documenting the glaciers on Puncak Jaya (also known as Carstensz Pyramid) in Indonesia. But, as we did more research, it became clear that it would be logistic and financial nightmare to climb Puncak Jaya. So, we started looking elsewhere. I grew up in Nairobi, and my dad had climbed the Rwenzori’s in the late 80’s. So, when Neil and I found out that the first-ever expedition to climb the peaks had photographed their journey extensively, we knew that we were going to Uganda.
How did you get funding for the expedition?
Neil and I had won a film competition run the by WWF in late 2011 (The Runner). The prize for winning the competition was a commission by the WWF to make a new film. The original idea to document disappearing glaciers on tropical mountains was the result of a brainstorming session to figure out how we should use the WWF commission. But, for a variety of reasons, WWF turned the idea down. Then, Neil heard that Dos Equis, the beer company was starting a grant program called The Stay Thirsty Grant [link] that would provide $25,000 to help people achieve their dream, whatever it might be. To apply, we had to submit a three-minute pitch video [link]. Dos Equis picked three finalists but the ultimate winner came down to a popular vote online. We won! Dos Equis helped with the logistics and finances of the expedition from start to finish. They actually just started the third round of the Stay Thirsty Grant. Anyone out there with a dream that costs less than $25K should submit!
What did you do to prepare for this trip?
The Rwenzori Mountains are almost 17,000ft tall – several thousand feet higher than Neil or I had ever climbed. Further, we only found out that we won the grant about a month before we were supposed to leave. So, we were both a strict workout schedule for the month leading up to the expedition. Neil lives in Boulder, so he did most of his training by hiking with heavy weight on his back. I live in New Jersey, so I trained by lifting weights and running a lot.
The Rwenzori Mountains are also one of the rainiest places in the world. So, we purchased a bunch of gear that would keep our equipment dry and would enable us shoot in wet conditions.
Now that the expedition is over, what do you hope to accomplish with the film?
We have several goals with Snows of the Nile. First, we wanted to tell a new climate change story. When we talk about climate change, people are used to hearing about melting glaciers at the poles or rising sea levels, but few people think of tropical mountains in Africa. The Rwenzori glaciers provide dramatic visual evidence of climate change in place few people would expect. Further, the livelihoods of people from this remote region are being dramatically affected by climate change and that story should be in the mainstream media. In addition to the climate change message, we also wanted to bring audiences into an environment that few people have experienced or even heard of. The Rwenzori Mountains are unlike anyplace else. Visiting this amazing environment was the experience of a lifetime, so it’s exciting for us to be able to share that experience with people who may not get the chance to visit it.
What avenues are you taking to promote the film?
The film is currently available on Vimeo-on-Demand and will soon be available on iTunes. We are promoting the film on social media as much as possible and we’re trying to get organizations that have lots of followers to help us promote it. We’re also trying to get this story print in a variety of magazines. We took thousands of photos during the expedition and we’d love to see those photos published with a story about these mountains. Snows of the Nile has been in the film festival circuit for the last few months. So far, it’s screened as a finalist in nine festivals with more to come. You can keep up with screenings of the film if you like the Snows of the Nile facebook page or look at the events page at www.snowsofthenile.com.
What kind of feedback have you received?
So far Snows of the Nile has been selected to screen in some great film festivals. We’ve had the pleasure of interacting with audiences at many of the festivals, and it’s gratifying to see people enjoying the film and learning something new about the world.
One of the most common reactions to the film has been “I didn’t even know those mountains existed!” Even though the Rwenzoris are taller than the Alps or the Rockies, they’re quite poorly known outside of East Africa.
“I had no idea there were glaciers on the equator!” is another frequent response. There are three places in Africa with glaciers near the equator: Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, and the Rwenzori Mountains. Sadly, all three will likely be ice-free in the next few decades.
Many of our viewers have also discovered the Bakonjo people through our film. All the local guides and porters are Bakonjo – you’ll see them throughout the film. They are wonderful people who care a great deal about the health of their mountains, and we enjoyed learning about their history and culture. We never could have succeeded without their strength and endurance. They are unstoppable in the mountains!
The film has been in festivals for several months now, but we just released it online at the end of January.