Jumbo Wild is a documentary film that exposes two contradictory world views about how we should approach land usage in one of western Canada’s most beautiful mountain ranges, the Purcells. In the hour-long film, director Nick Waggoner leaves the viewer to contemplate one big question; what is the value that we place on keeping places ‘wild.’ The context of wild is established mostly through a comparison to the European Alps, where development has occurred almost everywhere, including to the top of many peaks. The movie establishes the core arguments behind the sacredness of keeping big wilderness intact and also points out that once these kinds of places have been developed, true wilderness is gone forever.
In the end, Jumbo Wild is an anti-development film but the way in which the movie sways you is more passive that you may think. The movie shows a lot of footage of Oberto Oberti, who is the Jumbo Glacier Resort’s main architect and proponent. The strength in the documentary lies in the many clips of Oberti spanning the course of more than two decades as he makes public appearances during the resort approval process. The film does a good job of exposing Oberti’s motivations to build Jumbo Resort and they do not come off as sinister as you would expect. In fact, half way through the movie you wonder if the film is actually going to work counter to the intentions you assume it was made under, meaning there is a pretty strong case submitted as to why building Jumbo is amazing. Oberti is portrayed not as a greedy, profit hungry, capitalist but rather as an artist looking to build a giant legacy. A cathedral in the mountains that worships his true passion: skiing on good snow.
The point of Jumbo Wild is not to vilify Oberto Oberti or the proponents of Jumbo Resort but rather to explain the idea of what the loss will be to us if we do build it. The main premise is about exploring that idea of loss and what will occur by developing an area that could otherwise remain mostly untouched by humans. The film points out that resorts enable a mountain experience for those with a much lower tolerance or knowledge level of survival (aka the main stream). The comparison to Chamonix France with Jumbo is a good one because it makes you think of Jumbo operating as such. With all the amazing access that is available in Chamonix comes a massive influx of people and Jumbo Wild makes you wonder if this is a good thing? Clearly some will think it is a good thing. Shredders and climbers looking for amazing access flock to places like Cham. Also, with development comes possible economic riches, but at the cost of losing true remoteness. This loss of wilderness is a growing area of concern for many. As our world gets more populated the amount of true wilderness space on this planet gets smaller and smaller and Jumbo Wild puts forth the argument that there is a lot of value in just letting a place be and/or experiencing the area under your own power. There is also the tone that argues that past industrial activity in the area doesn’t mean it’s necessarily due for more.
Jumbo Wild is absolutely worth seeing. At 60 minutes it’s not a quick presentation and there are a few slow moments. It’s a quintessential Sweet Grass movie, with heartfelt and melodramatic voiceover but the production value, quality of the shots and the willingness to explore both sides of the issue make the film a must see for anyone who wants to educate themselves on the issue.