3 Questions For: Ani Yahzid, on the Exposure film project

Ani Yahzid, a Boulder film student, is working with a hip hop artist from Atlanta to make the outdoors "cool"
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A Boulder filmmaker is bringing a hip hop artist from Atlanta into the backcountry for the first time, in an effort to make the outdoors cool for urban youth.

Ani Yahzid

Ani Yahzid // Photo: Courtesy

Ani Yahzid grew up in Atlanta, where hiking and spending time outdoors was hardly cool. But he got up early on Saturday mornings to go hiking with the Boys & Girls Club and Sierra Club, because he loved it. Now, he wants to help change the perception in urban areas that spending time outside isn’t cool.

The 18-year-old filmmaker, a freshman at the University of Colorado Boulder, will be heading out to Olympic National Park in Washington in June with Atlanta hip hop artist Quintavious “Namaste” Anderson and his producer, Keelan Anderson, for two weeks of hiking, camping, and backpacking. He’s currently fundraising for the project through Indiegogo. It will be the first backpacking trip for Namaste and Keelan.

What’s your ultimate goal?

The goal of this project is to do a creative film project mixing hip hop and the outdoors. I want to reach people like me, in Atlanta, and make it cool to get outdoors. The purpose of the films is to start a trend. I’m trying to capture the beauty of the outdoors, and the reality of the outdoors. We’ll be in Olympic National Park, in the backcountry, for two weeks in June. It’s notorious for bad weather, and it will be a tough trip. But we’re trying to capture the outdoors through the lens of urban culture.

Why isn’t it cool to get outdoors in Atlanta?

In my opinion, there’s really no connection. Growing up in Atlanta, if you haven’t really traveled outside the city, if you don’t have experience with the outside world, all you know is Atlanta. The only connection you have to mountains in Colorado is what you see on TV. I always used to watch National Geographic documentaries; I thought they were cool because I liked wildlife. But if you have no real way to research the outdoors, it’s all just romantic. It’s somewhere out there, but not a reality.

In Atlanta, our parents don’t take us hiking on the weekends as much as they probably should. You don’t get a connection to nature like that in a lot of places in Atlanta.

It’s similar in a lot of different cities in the U.S., in other urban centers where people are stuck in their bubbles and they do things because their friends do them. It’s hard to break out of that and go on a hike, if you’ve never been on a hike before.

This is going to be Namaste’s first time backpacking, and you’re planning to film the whole experience. What if he doesn’t like backpacking?

What’s important is authenticity. Whatever happens is what we’re putting out there. You can kind of tell when someone’s trying to influence you. If they don’t like backpacking, we’re going to capture it. We’re going out there to capture the beauty of the outdoors, and we’re going to capture the reality of the outdoors.

The idea is to keep them as ignorant as possible until it threatens our safety. But a lot of things, they’re going to have to figure it out on their own. I’m going to have them explore, and I’m not going to say “don’t touch that plant.”

Interested in helping out, or learning more? Email Ani at ayahzid@gmail.com, or check out the Indiegogo campaign here. If you’re in the Denver area, be sure to catch him in person on May 3 at the flagship REI in Denver, where he’s giving a seminar on how to be more inclusive in the outdoors.

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