The 14th annual Paddling Film Festival came to Bloomington at 7:30 Sunday night. Screening at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, the festival has screened in more than 120 cities since its inception in 2006 to a cumulative audience of more than 282,000 people in the United States, Canada and the world at large.
The festival featured 26 films centering on paddling sports such as kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding. Among these films is “Feel of Vision,” a documentary about Indiana native Lonnie Bedwell, a veteran who became blind due to a hunting accident. Despite the accident, Bedwell learned to overcome his disability through his passion for kayaking and became famous for completing the first blind descent of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.
“I felt like I was stuck behind these walls that I couldn’t see over or around,” Bedwell said in the trailer for the film. “Now that I’ve been on the other side of that wall, I feel like it’s my new duty and mission to go back through that door and get as many people as I can and bring that to that other side.”
The preceding advertisements leading into the screenings were all for white-water sports, which played to an audience that nearly packed the 600-seat theater. The intended audience was adventure enthusiasts, as evidenced by the message that was handed to every patron that night, which reminded them that although paddling is a solo activity, they were part of a bigger community "that cares deeply about your safety and enjoyment on the water."
“As paddlers, we escape into the wilderness in small numbers, and being alone there is part of the charm. But we are not alone,” Scott MacGregor, founder and publisher for Rapid Media, which organizes the annual festival, said in the informational pamphlet.