The Refuge featuring Mahshid Hadi, was a collaboration with Well Travelled Collective—a female-led production company passionate about elevating women’s voices. We talked with Well Travelled director Darcy Hennessey about what drew her to Mahshid’s story and why it matters who tells our stories.
Well Travelled Collective
Liv: Tell us a little about you as a cyclist, about you as a filmmaker, and about how those two parts of yourself overlap.
Darcy: Well, I spent my teen years living and breathing mountain biking. I was a member of the Canadian downhill national team, and I eventually became a professional freerider at a time when there were only a few women following that path… but then again I’m old enough to say that it was before social media so maybe there were thousands of us and we just didn’t know each other existed! When I was in my late 20’s, I had a bad injury that took several years to bounce back from, and in that time, I did a master’s degree in international communication. That’s where I started studying film theory, and I made my final thesis project as a documentary. I fell head over heels in love with the process of filmmaking and very quickly afterwards retired from professional riding to pursue filmmaking as a career. Now I just ride for fun and often my best ideas come when I’m on a casual ride (or hike, or ski tour).
Liv: What drew you to Mahshid Hadi and her story? Why did you want to help tell it?
Darcy: I had just seen Mahshid speak at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival where one of my films was being screened. She was only on stage for a few minutes, but her words and energy were so powerful that it moved my friend and I to tears. She has an incredible presence and stands for so much more than anyone I’ve ever met. She deeply cares about human and women’s rights and is using her passion to help others—which is a truly inspiring and brave way to be in this world. I couldn’t stop thinking about her and when I saw that she was a Liv ambassador I knew it was a sign that I had to work with her and help her get her story out to the world.
Liv: Why does it matter that women’s stories are told by women filmmakers?
Darcy: I spent so many years as a professional athlete having my story told by men. The articles or films about me never felt like an honest portrait—there were always things enhanced or focused on (including my appearance) that were irrelevant to my story and didn’t feel true to myself. I felt pressure to perform and push myself to the extreme, despite injury, because I felt like I had to prove myself as an extreme athlete. It didn’t feel like a safe space. I want to create safe spaces for women on camera and give women (and all my subjects) deeper control of their own narratives. For me, it’s a collaborative process. Not top-down.
Liv: What advice would you give to aspiring women filmmakers?
Darcy: Just keep making things! It takes so long to build up a skill, and you have to start somewhere. So experiment. Make silly films just for you. Just make, make, make and learn from your mistakes. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out for mentorship, take classes online, and connect with those you look up to. The most rewarding films I’ve made have been personal projects that I made for fun. Sometimes it’s “type-two” fun, but still fun.
Liv: What else do you want to say to the Liv community?
Darcy: I’m grateful to be a part of it! We have the ability to elevate each other, hear each other, and support each other to make the world a better place—so let’s keep up the good work.