Steamboat Springs The glory, and sometimes pain, of making a documentary is the great unknown.
Stories become an ever moving part. Sometimes it seems like the end, but it’s just the beginning.
- Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Avenue, Steamboat Springs
But as T.C. Johnstone sat at dinner in 2005 in Rwanda, even he was surprised where the critically acclaimed documentary “Rising From Ashes” took him.
“If you would have told me it would have been seven years, I would laughed and said, ‘l’ll take the next one,’” said Johnstone, who directed the film. “It’s one of the hardest films we’ve ever made. I’m producing films all the time and there was a lot of risk with this one.”
But what a film it is.
“Rising From Ashes” follows the Rwandan cycling team from 2006 to African cyclist Adrien Niyonshuti’s bid for the 2012 Olympics in London.
During the film, viewers find the spirit of the people of Rwanda and how the bike isn’t just a tool for exercise but becomes a beacon of inspiration.
It’s a story of hope and redemption.
The documentary plays at 6 and 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Chief Theater. The cost is $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Advanced tickets can be bought by clicking here.
When Johnstone discovered the project and moved forward, he got in touch with old friends Ryan Scheer and Andrew Johnston.
Scheer, a 2002 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, and Johnston, a 2001 graduate, had met Johnstone in Steamboat.
The three had made little films together while in town and Johnstone reached out when he wanted to bring the Rwandan cycling team to the United States.
Scheer, who serves as a cinematographer for the project, and Johnston, who is a segment producer, traveled with the team for months across the United States.
“We had no idea what the outcome was going to be,” Johnston said.
The original plan was to follow the team and hope they made the 2008 Olympics. When that didn’t become a reality, the three sat back and took a break to see where the film would go from there. The film was on hiatus for a while, until 2010 when Niyonshuti emerged as a real possibility for the 2012 games.
Along with coach Jock Boyer, the first American to compete in the Tour de France, the film took an interesting twist.
At the time, Boyer had just gotten out of jail for lewd behavior with a minor. The story started to shift, becoming a story of redemption for Niyonshuti, Boyer and Rwanda.
Reception to the film has been good, Johnstone said. The film was released in 2012 and won 18 awards at film festivals across the country. The film also got Forest Whitaker to narrate.
In addition to showings across the country at colleges, the group has shown it to the United Nations and businesses like Goldman Sachs and Adobe, among others.
“It shows the bike as a freedom tool,” Johnstone said.
The film was completely funded by donors and allowed them to create the Rises From Ashes Foundation.
The foundation is growing through Africa and is looking to create cycling teams across the continent. It also hopes to eventually have an all African team in the Tour de France.
Following both showings of the film Johnstone and Johnston will do a Q-and-A about the film.
Johnstone currently is working on several other documentaries, while Johnston works from Denver for a large production company based out of Austin, Texas.
“As filmmakers, you go out and want to make a film about things that matter,” Johnstone said. “After seven years you look back and no matter what ask ‘Was it worth my time?’ I’ve never looked back on this one just because how it transformed Andrew and I and how it’s been received by the audience. We did something good in the world and it was worth it.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham