Kashmir is located in the northwestern region of South Asia and is surrounded by India, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan. It is nestled in a valley between the Himalayas and Pir Panjal mountain range and is home to some of the most stunning mountains in the world.
Since the late 1940s, Kashmir has been greatly effected by a territorial dispute involving India, Pakistan, China and the people of Kashmir. The dispute has left the subcontinent war torn and left with very little.
Although Kashmir was once deemed the “most dangerous place in the world,” Anthony Bonello of b4apres Media set out to document the beauty that lies within it. Besides the stunning landscape and people, Bonello also wanted to capture what he considers some of the best skiing in the world. We recently sat down with Bonello to learn more about Kashmir and talk about his upcoming film Azadi: Freedom.
How did the film Azadi: Freedom come about?
This is my first film ever. I got the idea for the film after going to Kashmir in 2009 and after coming back wanted to document what was going on there. So, I made some moves to make a movie happen, got a camera last November and put it all together.
Azadi: Freedom is not your typical ski movie. Along with great skiing there is some social commentary as well. Can you explain a bit more?
To start out we didn’t really know how it was going to come out. There were some “characters” that I knew I wanted to incorporate. Then, with their skiing and help came a remarkable story that also included cultural and political commentary.
For example, it’s amazing to see that using skiing, the Kashmiri people, who ten years ago were in direct opposition to the military, are now working with the military to build bombs to open a ski resort and make the slopes safe. Skiing in Kashmir connects the past and present, plus it is bringing people together.
Who are some of the “characters” you described?
There were a handful of us who went over there. Forrest Coots, Colin Puskas, Chad Sayers and Peter Velisek are established semi pro skiers in North America. So I took them, but we originally went with the goal to showcase how beautiful Kashmir is.
We also filmed with some Kashmiri locals like Billa Bakshi who we call the “original Kashmiri freerider.” He is just a young dude who parties, drinks beer and is basically a ski bum. We also skied with Arif Khan who is trying to make the Olympics for ski racing and travels around the globe to races preaching the good word about Kashmir and skiing in India.
People are always a bit blown away by the fact that there are good skiers in India.
Do you have any other plans for showcasing your film besides at IF3?
Well, logistically it’s a tough task. We will be at IF3 for sure and it is a long winter so I’d like to think I can pull off some shows across North America throughout the winter. I’ll also be submitting it to Banff, Telluride, and other film festivals across the globe giving it opportunities to be seen by all.
Do you have any plans to get back there this winter?
At the minute, the bank account says no, but weâ€™ll see. If the film does well we will think about doing something else, but at the moment, just going with the flow.
What makes Azadi: Freedom stand apart from the other ski movies coming out this year?
This film is stunningly beautiful. Skiing is skiing, the world over, but this is a particularly unique and picturesque film. There are characters and people in the film who are ski bums just like you and me, but their circumstances are different and that is interesting. The whole thing from the story to the skiing is engaging and interesting. It may not be the park skiers, or groms cup of tea, but it’s a film with skiing in it, and really beautiful skiing in it.
For more info on the film Azadi: Freedom visit www.b4apres.com or check out their Facebook and Twitter.