Experience “Precious Leader Woman” on the Banff Center Mountain Film Festival World Tour

“Precious Leader Woman” tells the story of Canadian Olympic snowboarder Spencer O’Brien. The documentary can be viewed as part of the Banff Center Mountain Film Festival World Tour.
Leo Hoorn/Kiddo Films

After being canceled in 2021 due to weather, the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center is bringing back the Banff Center Mountain Film Festival World Tour this weekend. What started as a small event has grown to reach over 550,000 people worldwide at approximately 550 locations in over 40 countries.

For the Breckenridge stop, all proceeds from the film festival benefit programs at the Outdoor Education Center for Adapted Recreation. Door prizes will be awarded at the intermission each evening and members of the public who vote for their favorite stand a chance to win gift certificates.

More than 400 films entered the annual festival, and the education center selected 14 which are divided into two separate lists of award-winning films and audience favourites. The films are centered around inspiring stories of adventure, sports, the environment and more.



One of these movies is “Precious woman leader.” Premiering on Friday, February 25, it tells the story of Canadian Olympic snowboarder Spencer O’Brien. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2013, just two months before the Sochi Winter Olympics and has since become an advocate for millions of people who suffer from rheumatic diseases.

The film also highlights the legacy of O’Brien growing up in the small village of Alert Bay, British Columbia, which has a large population of First Nations residents. O’Brien is part Haida and part Kwakwaka’wakw on her mother’s side, and her advocacy continues through her work with Indigenous organizations. The film’s title is O’Brien’s Haida name given to it in 2018, and 90% of the licensed music is from Indigenous artists.



Australian director Cassie De Colling was aware of O’Brien’s accolades as a snowboarder herself, but it wasn’t until she visited Alert Bay while working on another documentary that she realized. was inspired to make a feature film about O’Brien. She saw the athlete featured in a museum and got in touch with a documentary about three years ago.

“He’s the most dedicated person I’ve ever met,” De Colling said. “She has so much willpower and is just plain ruthless.”

The original pitch grew from a 15-minute short to a 45-minute feature, but the coronavirus pandemic slowed progress. It was finally given the green light in October 2020 and funding came in January 2021. De Colling conducted interviews with over 30 people involved in O’Brien’s life – friends, family members, seniors, coaches and competitors – on Zoom while O’Brien was filming. in the hinterland.

“She was at a point in her career where she was sort of transitioning to the backcountry and leaving competitive snowboarding like the X Games and the Dew Tour and being on the World Tour for, ‘OK, how am I doing? I monetize backcountry riding?’ or ‘What does backcountry mean?’ And that metamorphosis started to put her more in the wild, to think for herself and to understand and unlock some of that fidelity to the land that comes with being indigenous,” De Colling said.

De Colling then developed a timeline and narrative to guide the production of O’Brien’s story. They’ve shot re-enactments in Whistler, like when O’Brien crashed at the X Games, training at the gym and more. De Colling wanted to make the story of people chasing their childhood dreams as relatable as possible.

“There were times when I literally thought I had lost my mind thinking I could do this project and times when I didn’t feel worthy of having my story come to life,” O’Brien said. in a press release. “In the process, we told my story in a way I never could have anticipated, and throughout it I discovered that a part of myself was missing that I didn’t know was there. “

Spencer O’Brien was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2013, just two months before the Sochi Winter Olympics. O’Brien has retired from competitions but now rides in the backcountry.
Leo Hoorn/Kiddo Films

The dream of perseverance and success also resonates with De Colling. She faced rejection from film schools for three consecutive years. She was driven by the challenge of being able to make the snowboarding and environmental films she always wanted.

“It’s like you always get a B when you wanted to get an A,” De Colling said.

“Precious Leader Woman” is De Colling’s first commissioned film. De Colling also does commercials, but she finds documentaries faster and easier to shoot. She likes to make them with small teams – especially if it’s a snowboard movie, to better navigate the terrain and conditions – while having the freedom to experiment.

More importantly, she makes documentaries because she wants to give a voice to those who don’t have a platform. The purpose behind the films piques his curiosity, and for De Colling, it’s about being in the right place at the right time to discover a topic that clicks.

The empowerment of women is also a major theme in her work.

“Precious Leader Woman” is about the Indigenous roots of Canadian Olympic snowboarder Spencer O’Brien. The name of the documentary is the Haida name of O’Brien.
Leo Hoorn/Kiddo Films

“It’s just something that I really enjoy,” De Colling said. “Again, it’s like lifting women up and helping to work with each other to come to the fore. It’s something that’s close to my heart and I want to keep pushing that far and changing the perception of equality.

The Banff event isn’t the first on the festival circuit for “Precious Leader Woman,” and the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival and Salt Spring Documentary Film Festival are slated for next week. A distribution plan is still in the works, but De Colling said she appreciates how the film’s tour connects the documentary to small communities around the world. She can’t make it to every event — and she won’t be at Breckenridge — but she’s getting ratings from viewers who enjoyed the job.

“These people would never have seen the film if it had only been shown at the biggest festivals in the big cities,” De Colling said.

Although the festival in person only lasts two days, two other film lineups are available to view virtually. Films can be rented digitally until October 23.

Australian director Cassie De Colling directed ‘Precious Leader Woman’ after visiting Spencer O’Brien’s hometown of Alert Bay, British Columbia, Canada. De Colling strives to use her films to give people, especially women, a platform.
Kelly Russ/Courtesy Photo

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