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New Film Fearlessly Documents Emotions and Philosophies of Five Black Fly Anglers

Blackwaters: Brotherhood in the Wild; directed by Chad Brown and written by James Mills. Presented by Truth Films, 41 minutes.

Written by Ross Purnell

Here’s something you don’t see in the fly-fishing universe very often. Actually, we’ve never seen this . . . ever. Blackwaters is a 41-minute film about five black men on an expedition to the Kobuk River in Gates of the Arctic Circle National Park. Throughout their lives, these five men have been challenged by trauma, loss, fear, and layers of social injustice, so why not highlight those challenges with a trip to one of the most remote, inhospitable places on the planet? They document their emotions and philosophies in an open, fearless manner that helps us all make a journey to places that perhaps we’ve never even considered.

As the film itself points out, there is a societal profile, perception, or expectation of black men, and this film sinks those stereotypes with an eye-opening account of adventurers who are both comfortable in the outdoors and comfortable in their own skin. Through their experience in the Brooks Range, we learn about their lives, their hopes for the future, and how being outdoors has helped them heal, succeed, inspire others toward positive masculinity, and be role models for BIPOC young men.

The story is told by five different people, so the story and the messaging are as complex as humanity itself. The cast includes Chad Brown, a professional photographer and cinematographer, founder of Soul River Inc., and a U.S. Navy veteran who participated in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, served at Guantánamo Bay, and saw combat during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. For more than a decade he has been a leader in using fly fishing and outdoor experiences to combat his own PTSD and help others cope with it as well. His compatriots include journalist James Mills, a contributor to National Geographic magazine, a fellow of the Mountain & Wilderness Writing Program of the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, and author of the multimedia The Joy Trip Project. Jahmicah Dawes is owner of Slim Pickins Outfitters, an independent outdoor retailer in Stephenville, Texas. Nick Brooks is founder and owner of Outdoor Gear and Beer, an outdoor clothing and equipment retailer in Atlanta, Georgia. Alex Bailey is the executive director of Black Outside Inc., a San Antonio, Texas, company that provides life-changing outdoor education experiences for youth of color.

You can view the trailer here.


September 27, 2023

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Ross Purnell

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