Hello friends! Our interview this week is with a seriously rad woman, Caroline Cote, an adventure filmmaker and photographer living in Montreal. Her past expeditions include paddling the Yukon River and cross country skiing in Antarctica. Her most recent trip took her to the northern Quebec & Labrador, where she documented three women run 100 km in five days through Kuururjuaq National Park for her new film Qamaniq.
For today’s interview, I asked Caroline about directing Qamaniq and what the film aims to represent for women in the outdoor industry. Speaking from her experiences, she offers sage advice to all the adventurous women, both outside and hoping to get outside more.
And for the aspiring trail-runners out there, you might be surprised to learn that the three women in the film were not experienced trail-runners, just strong women with determination and a drive to explore!
Some background: what is Qamaniq?
Qamaniq is a documentary following three women – Charlotte Qamaniq, Maryse Paquette and Pascale Venzina – as they crossed Kuururjuaq National Park over five days. The film was co-directed by Caroline Cote and Florence Pelletier. Kuururjuaq is a wild and remote park in northern Labrador, adjacent to the Torngat Mountains and features high peaks, deep fjords, and treeless tundra.
And who is Caroline Cote?
Caroline Cote, as she puts it, has “a passion for creating documentaries in the most extreme conditions of sailing and exploring the cold wild regions” of the world. Among her many accomplishments, she has paddled the entire length of the Yukon River (~3,200 km), spent over 40 days cross country skiing on the Antarctic Peninsula and has sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. Yeah, she’s pretty cool.
In between her expeditions, Caroline directs and produces outdoor documentaries. “My mission is to educate [people] about nature, engage the imagination and trigger the desire for adventure.”
Women in the outdoor industry
In addition to this, Caroline explained that showcasing women in outdoor adventure is a huge focus of her work. “My goal is also to put strong women in front in outdoor adventure sports with the pictures I’m taking.”
With Qamaniq, “we wanted to create a bond between the women that we don’t see normally in adventure documentary films. I would like the place of women in adventure sports to be equal in terms of the one we see with men.” It’s a reasonable request; women, especially women of colour and indigenous descent, are grossly underrepresented in the outdoor industry.
In her film, Caroline wanted to showcase what strong women are capable of and how they can work together to overcome challenges.
“Qamaniq was a trail-running challenge where the three women in front of the camera had rarely done trail-running before. For me, it was important to create a team of tough girls with big dreams and strong mental capacity, but it was not a problem that they hadn’t run before. I wanted them to collaborate together to be able to face problems and to be able to climb mountains helping each other if needed.”
While the runners faced physical challenge, the challenges Caroline herself faced were mental.
“On my side, trail-running is a passion so I had the chance to be ready for the expedition months before physically. But I was exhausted mentally, having just gone through a relationship break up, [while doing the] preparation for the expedition on the side.”
“Arriving in Kuujjuaq [town in Northern Quebec] and leaving Montreal was the best [way] to finally regain my energy!”
To all the women who watch Qamaniq, Caroline hopes they take away a message of empowerment.
“Don’t hesitate to take actions on your own. You have the power needed inside you to accomplish whatever you want, even if people say your dream project is too big.”
“You can’t ever have goals too big. Step by step, with good people around you, you’ll go through. One small step at the time. And you’ll see you’ll be on top of the challenge before you’ll realize it. Ask for help, ask questions and inspire people around you to join your dream.”
How to watch Qamaniq (and other badass female outdoor films)
So how can you watch Qamaniq yourself? The film is currently making its rounds with the Trails in Motion Film Festival. However, following that Caroline says “it will be distributed it on our social media next year so it can be available for everyone. Our work is not entirely done because we want to translate it to Inuktitut [the native language of Inuit living in the surrounding area] and show it in Northern Quebec.”
In the meantime though, there are “some great film festivals that offer you the chance to see rad girls do really good stuff, like No Mans Land Film Festival.”
“In December, we just started to film another project called Femmes Au Sommet, with Denali Films.” The film aims to showcase 4 to 6 other women doing a big expedition. “I can’t tell a lot, it’s still a secret!!” Even if there are men on this shooting it’s also good because the goal is not to exclude anyone, but include everyone.
So to all the women out there either already outside or hoping to get outside more, I hope you’ve found a touch of inspiration. Keep pushing forward to achieve whatever goal your heart has chosen.
All of these beautiful photos are from the film Qamaniq. You can learn more about the film here (disclaimer, the website is in French so you may need to use Google translate) or check out more of Caroline’s work on her website or Instagram.
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