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Newport festival short film ‘Chasing the Distance’ melds running and Grand Canyon conservation

Ian Shive's short film, "Chasing the Distance," which follows ultra-marathoner Rob Krar at the proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument in Arizona, will play at the Newport Beach Film Festival on April 23.
(Courtesy Ian Shive / Daily Pilot)

When Ian Shive found out that the land surrounding the Grand Canyon was at risk of being mined for uranium, he knew he had to do something. So he decided to make a film that would showcase the land in a way that would help people understand what’s at stake.

“I wanted to introduce this place that nobody really knows about,” said Shive, an award-winning conservation photographer who specializes in capturing images of national parks. “I wanted a human story, two people passionate about the environment, and I wanted to shoot it on the location of the place we were trying to bring attention to.”

His four-minute film, “Chasing the Distance,” follows ultra-marathoner Rob Krar and his wife, Christina Bauer, through the proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument to address the interrelated themes of running and conservation.

It will be shown at the Newport Beach Film Festival on Saturday.

“Unlike other outdoor sports and activities, an ultra-runner goes through 100 miles of territory,” Shive said. “That’s symbolic of the idea of connectivity, tying together the different places, wildlife and landscapes in one area.”

Throughout the film, Krar, who holds the fastest known time for the 40-plus miles across the Grand Canyon, rim to rim to rim, speaks about the importance of running, not just on his physical health, but also on his mental well-being.

“An ultra-marathoner is seeking to find peace within themselves,” he said. “Running seems to be the one thing that’s provided me enough peace to keep going.”

Shive agreed.

“You don’t just run because you’re trying to lose weight or increase your cardiovascular health,” he said. “I run because of what happens in your mind, the things you think about, the problems you work through and the way you feel afterwards. That’s what running is about.”

But the main purpose of the film, Shive explained, is to drum up support for turning this federal land into a national monument —something President Barack Obama has the power to do through executive order.

While this territory was originally slated to be part of Grand Canyon National Park, it was later excluded, and today, the land is being considered for uranium mining. But by turning it into a national monument, the area would be protected from drilling.

“It would be toxic and detrimental to the environment,” Shive said of the proposed mine. “The ecosystem is part of a whole, and these areas that surround the Grand Canyon are beautiful and exceptionally important to the wildlife and the people who live in this land.”

To make this case, the natural world features prominently in “Chasing the Distance.”

“I wanted this to be something so captivating that you couldn’t stop watching,” Shive said. “I wanted to go out with just a camera on my shoulder and say, ‘This is how beautiful and important this place is.’

“I feel like nature itself is so spectacular that I’ve always taken the position as a photographer and as a filmmaker that if you want people to appreciate nature, you don’t need to fake it. You just need to be true and represent it the way it is.”

This year Obama designated three new national monuments in California — Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains — a move Shive looks at with optimism.

“Beginning with our home in California, I hope this is part of an eastern expansion to Arizona,” he said. “I hope this is something we’ll continue to see.”

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IF YOU GO

What: “Chasing the Distance”

When: 11 a.m. Saturday

Where: The Triangle, 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa

Cost: $15

Information: newportbeachfilmfest.com/event/chasing-the-distance

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caitlin.kandil@latimes.com

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