SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) spotlight shines brightly each year on local films.
This year, that includes "CLIMB."
Neil Myers' 57 minute documentary, his first, is a testament to the powerful embrace of Santa Barbara's community. Myers carries us through his own personal and excruciating journey from a near-death trauma to a full and extraordinary recovery.
It was August 2018. The triathlete takes the audience to the peak of Gibraltar Road's epic grade, a ride he'd done more than 100 times. But in the film, Myers pedals us only part way down the mountain.
"Today is about to be very different," Myers said in his narration. "Up the next blind turn there's a truck coming up the mountain."
In Myers' words, that's where his story begins.
"If you're a guy and ride Gibraltar, do not take your wife to this film because your bike's gonna be on Craigslist before you even know it," said Myers with a chuckle.
His summertime head-on crash with a truck left him broken from head to toe and along his spine.
The Santa Barbara filmmaker is adamant this documentary is not about his accident and recovery. It's really about the Santa Barbara community as a whole and, the staff at Cottage Hospital's Trauma Center.
"I was very fortunate. I was 61 when I had the accident and a lot of things had gone right in my life," said Myers. "I had a successful business, successful family, kids all through college and so forth. And, you feel like 'I got this, I'm a self-reliant person.' And I'll tell you what -- after the accident, the next 5, 10 minutes, I was zero self-reliant."
In the end, Myers said more than 300 people helped put him back together, physically and emotionally. Eventually, he competed in his next triathlon.
"What I saw was a community that really loves each other and came together and I wouldn't be here without that."
"CLIMB" is an example of an extremely well-made film with a very inspirational subject," said Roger Durling. "And, I think the audiences out there will definitely celebrate it. It needs to be seen."
Durling, SBIFF's Executive Director, is the creative force behind the film festival's 36 years of success. He is deeply devoted to showcasing the best in film, worldwide, and here at home. Vignettes that capture the texture, color, culture, crisis and resiliency throughout Santa Barbara's community.
"His (Myers) journey, especially with the way we're feeling right now and the trauma we've experienced this past year, his story definitely spoke to me," said Durling. "About just never giving up. About getting on that bike and just keep moving."
Once again, art imitating life. And for many during the COVID-19 pandemic, film has been a lifeline.
"You have the First Responders and I'm so grateful to all of them but art has always been a form of a second response. When there's trauma, when there's crisis, art has the ability to heal," said Durling.
"CLIMB" will have us all looking up at the big screen starting April 1, online, and, showcased with other local filmmakers to help close out this year's event April 10 at SBCC's drive-in venues.
"I think we need something like this, you know, a place to come together and celebrate," Myers said.
Click the highlighted link for this years SBIFF line up.