Runtime 70min. - Not Rated
3.5 Stars (out of 4)
3.5 Stars (out of 4)
For more information including the Homepage, YouTube page, fund-raising efforts, screening information, movie trailer, and an exclusive interview with Kate Imp.
As a film, "B.B.T.D" is a wonderfully entertaining self-contradiction. On the surface it's a documentary about a trio of thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. However, if you take an archaeological approach and gently brush away the dirt and rock, what you find is the fully formed skeleton of an urban drama. There's jealousy, rage, lust, pain and sadness. Thankfully, there's also humor, love, tranquility, and a major sense of achievement.
The film is the brainchild of Kate Imp, birthed by 2 years of diligent and tedious work. As I watched "B.B.T.D", I contemplated writing about how the isolation of The Trail had driven our subjects to the brink of insanity. Then I considered the fact that Kate Imp (with no prior experience) decided to direct, produce, and market a film that would require her to hike nearly 2,200 miles of unfamiliar wilderness stretching from Georgia to Maine. Her brother and best friend heard this plan and decided that instead of slapping her, they'd join the quest. So I'm not sure if The Trail brought the crazy to them, or if they brought it to The Trail.
During a Q&A which followed the screening I attended, Brandon Imp revealed that the 70 minute film was extracted from about 80 hours of footage. I didn't ask if the deleted scenes would be featured on a special edition 20 disc box set. Brandon also gave us an unofficial up-to-the-minute epilogue which reinforced the point that what you see in the film isn't hammed up for the camera. That was an important aspect to me because the trailers gave me the impression that the trio embellished the drama. I'm now totally convinced they did not.
In part of my online interview, Kate told me,
"A trip like this either makes a relationship stronger or tears it apart. That’s the risk you take, and most people aren’t willing to take that risk so they hike alone. We took that risk, and it’s up to the audience to decide whether the risk was worth it."
Things do get pretty intense. The group averaged 25 miles per day during their journey. It occurs to me that this gives any minor grievance a chance to fester, ferment, and evolve into something bigger. The starting place for Kate and Emily is speed. Emily is naturally athletic and had no trouble hiking at a brisk pace for the better part of a day. She became less and less enthusiastic about slowing her pace for Kate and Brandon's convenience. When Emily meets a boy, with the slightly foreboding nickname of Prophet, she's even more distracted from any potential bonding time with her comrades. The three of them address these issues at length with the camera, but rarely with each other. When the two women do attempt to converse, it usually ends up an unproductive shouting match.
Brandon Imp has a natural screen presence. He serves as the voice of reason and comic relief for the viewer. For his sister, Brandon's company is an uplifting refuge from the daily grind of maintaining a friendship. He manages those roles perfectly while also riding his own emotional roller-coaster. His turmoil is rooted in issues with more tangibility than the ladies', mostly induced by news from home and the occasional close encounter with wildlife.
Every hiker earns a "trail name" before reaching the final peak on Mt. Katahdin. Collectively this group was known as "The Traveling Circus"; Lightning (Emily) for her speed, Ringleader (Kate) for heading up the project, Monkey (Brandon) for his naturally humorous personality. Despite their names, they all take turns being the sad-faced clown.
Was it worth it? I say absolutely. The friendship between the girls was pushed to the breaking point. This raises the essential question at the heart of the film. If your friendship is tested and doesn't pass that test, was it really a friendship worth keeping? These young women have so many life-altering events in their future that it may be a blessing to know whether they'll be able to support each other equally, and in a way they both deserve.
As for Brandon, he wasn't very excited to start hoofing it through the mountains. He and the girls were covered in scratches and bruises before they reached the final summit. Instead of becoming mired in his trials, he persevered and embraced his accomplishment with a sense of pride; a fit reaction considering only 20% of thru-hikers achieve their goal. It's a rare treat in life to exceed one's self-expectations. In addition, he welded the bonds that existed between he and his sister. Their relationship is the envy of so many siblings.
For the experienced hiker, there are plenty of Trail references. We're taken to the famous visitor center of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. We're treated to some sterling examples of "Trail Magic" and even meet a "Trail Angel" who makes me proud to be born in the mountains. If all of this means nothing to you, don't worry. It's really an elaborate disguise; a ruse that keeps viewers from realizing they're watching dramatic documentary story-telling that features three city folks.
I've announced my vote that the experience was "worth it" for the trio, but is the movie "worth it" for the viewer? Again I say unto thee, absolutely. This form of film-making is so personal that one would have to be void of all sympathy not to become invested in the characters. The on-screen journey is riveting and it's aftermath is quite the adventure as well. This project is being paid for by a few sponsors, a fund-raising campaign, and a screening tour where Brandon sells raffle tickets and t-shirts. It doesn't get any more rudimentary than that. The current efforts are a physical example of the passion Kate and Brandon have for this undertaking. Fortunately for the viewer, that passion is just as evident on the screen.