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In a bloat­ing world of ex­cess—higher, far­ther, more and faster, Harrison Men­del and Stu­dio Dia­log take a cine­matic stance for suc­cess: a good story. Brett Rheeder’s rise to star­dom is wrought with toil in a re­lat­able jour­ney metic­u­lously doc­u­mented through Robb Thompson’s vis­ceral photo es­say.

They fix­ate, fo­cus, en­dure and

over­come. It can be any­thing: Rid­ing, sav­ing money, fin­ish­ing a project, con­cep­tu­al­iz­ing some­thing seem­ingly ephemeral, re­or­ga­niz­ing a morn­ing rou­tine. Big or small, mun­dane or ex­tra­or­di­nary, it ex­ists and there are those driv­ing for per­fec­tion. Yearn­ing for it. Rel­ish­ing in the quest, haunted by the re­sult, tor­mented through the af­ter­math.

Not every­body chooses this route—and yes, ul­ti­mately it is a choice, but many do. And those who do can re­late. Trudgers of this path are not un­flap­pable, the quest for more is wrought with ups and downs. Roller coast­ers of emo­tions, suc­cesses, fail­ures and ex­is­ten­tial re-eval­u­a­tions. Stand­ing up to try again. Life’s dif­fi­cult in a for­tu­nate sort of way.

In­de­pen­dent film­maker Harrison Men­del, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with pho­tog­ra­pher Robb Thompson and the rest of the Stu­dio Dia­log crew, rec­og­nized these traits in Brett Rheeder. Men­del and Rheeder are close friends, film­ing al­most ex­clu­sively with one an­other for over six years while Thompson lives nearby in Ver­non, Bri­tish Columbia. In 2016, Rheeder’s slopestyle re­sults crescen­doed in a zenith all pro­gres­sive riders idol­ize: win­ning Red Bull Joyride in Whistler.

Yet grap­pling with ul­ti­mate suc­cess wasn’t easy for Rheeder, who braved a dark pe­riod fol­low­ing, only to re­turn with fo­cus and un­wa­ver­ing am­bi­tion. Men­del and Thompson first ques­tioned his seem­ingly out-of-place funk, then rec­og­nized their own toils over artistry re­flected in Rheeder’s reach for some­thing greater. It was re­lat­able. It was com­ing to grips with at­tain­ment while re­cal­i­brat­ing drive. All goal-ori­ented peo­ple face this when the pedestal is reached, the pass crossed, the line stomped or the tro- phy awarded. It’s a hol­low feel­ing. Where to drain tides of emo­tion, how to chan­nel dis­placed, aim­less as­pi­ra­tion.

“Beau­ti­ful Id­iot” poignantly chron­i­cles this jour­ney. It fo­cuses on Rheeder but re­lates to many, il­lu­mi­nat­ing tu­mult welling within those war­ring ir­re­press­ible dreams.

As can be the case with any pas­sion project, it hasn’t been easy. “It’s a chal­lenge for all us,” ex­plains Thomp-

“Beau­ti­ful Id­iot” Runs Deeper

than Life’s Ups and Downs

son. “Cre­at­ing this story is our own ‘Beau­ti­ful Id­iot.’” Ap­pease a crew of per­fec­tion­ists and you’ve done the im­pos­si­ble. Do so along­side work, in­jury, travel, for­est fire, com­pe­ti­tion, land­slide, fam­ily and life and you have “Beau­ti­ful Id­iot.”

Fol­low­ing is a photo es­say from Thompson, vividly whisk­ing reader with Rheeder on a portage for per­fec­tion over life’s bumpy road. —Will Ritchie

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