4 Wheel Bob, a film about the outdoor adventures of Livermore City Councilmember Bob Coomber, has been selected as a finalist in competition for the San Francisco Green Film Festival’s Green Fire Award, a new juried award with a $5,000 cash prize for the Best Bay Area Environmental Feature.
Directed by Tal Skloot, the film will make its USA Premiere at the festival. It follows Bob Coomber as he sets out to be the first wheelchair hiker to cross the 11,845 foot peak of Kearsarge Pass in the Sierra Nevada.
The 7th edition of the festival, which will return to San Francisco Thursday, April 20 through Wednesday, April 26, 2017, will be a city-wide celebration of environmental films and conversations for the week of Earth Day.
4Wheel Bob will be screened on April 22, 3:15 p.m. at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.
Coomber staes, "I'm excited that the film, '4 Wheel Bob' will be shown at San Francisco's Green Film Festival."
He says the film came about when local East Bay filmmaker Tal Skloot got in touch with him 6 years ago after an article about me appeared in the Chronicle. "He followed me around with a camera, employing a friend's help on the trail when needed. He was great to work with, no pressure, just do what I do. What could have been easier?" Coomber added.
Asked if it would be shown in Livermore, Coomber, said there are currently no plans to do so. However,t we will speak to local theaters when the film festivals have all been scheduled.
"I do anticipate a showing sometime in the very near future in town," declared Coomber.
Bob grew up in Piedmont, California, amid a family of avid backpackers. In his early twenties, he began training to become a police officer, but one day, while hiking in the Sierra he tripped and, as he says, "my leg exploded into a thousand pieces." This was the beginning of a long struggle related to juvenile diabetes and subsequent osteoporosis. He now must use a wheelchair to get around. After a period of severe depression, Bob recovered and adopted a philosophy of “no excuses,” leading to years of ambitious wheelchair hiking to get his health back.
Kearsarge Pass is a classic high approach into the Eastern Sierra, ten miles north of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the Lower Forty-eight. The steep and prolonged trail to the Pass unfolds with Kings Canyon National Park providing the dramatic backdrop. For Bob in his wheelchair, this adventuring is fraught with danger. He must deal continually with altitude sickness and the threat of diabetic coma, not to mention possible fatal or crippling falls in the steep terrain. The path is often blocked with shattered granite, and Bob must turn his wheelchair backward in order to push uphill using only his arms. Going downhill has its own hazards; the trail is narrow, and his wheels often skid on the loose rock.
Away from the Sierra, Bob is an advocate for the disabled. He takes groups from the wheelchair-bound community as well as war veterans on local hikes, teaching about ecology, animal and plant life, and ways to navigate in the wilderness.
Bob is an ardent spokesman for the parks, along with being an experienced and thoughtful outdoorsman. He serves on the East Bay Regional Park District advisory committee, consulting on accessibility issues and working closely with officials to extend and maintain the trail system. In concert with Bob, the District recently released an online accessibility guide that provides information about grade, cross slope, tread width, and notable hazards on its trails.
The director, Tal Skloot, states, "I first read about Bob in a newspaper article back in 2010. My first thought was 'That sure puts my life in perspective.' My second thought was, 'How the hell does he get up those steep dirt trails in a wheelchair?' I've been an avid hiker all my life, and can relate to how simply being outdoors lifts the spirit and connects us to nature and the glory around us. I contacted Bob out of the blue and we met for what was to be the first of many unconventional hikes together."
He continues, "What stuck about Bob was his easy going, sweet, and gregarious nature. During our first hike, Bob stopped and talked with everyone we met – a kid on a dirt bike, a fellow hiker, a woman walking her dogs and the dogs themselves. He shared a bit about the ecology of the area or talked about his upcoming hikes. I felt like I was hiking with a park ranger – someone who had a deep passion for ecology and who immediately and compassionately connected with others."
Bob hates being called “inspirational.” He views himself as a hiker and nothing more – one who just happens to be in a wheelchair.
Skloot adds, "I spent six years hanging out with Bob, and I'm grateful, above all, to have found a marvelous new friend. I walk in the wild world differently – a man who wheels rather than walks taught me that."
The Festival's Opening Night & Closing Night Premieres (April 20 & 26 respectively) will take place at the Castro Theatre, the Festival’s main venue is Roxie Theatre from April 21 through 25. Other Festival Venues include: FestHQ at 518 Valencia; Koret Auditorium at the San Francisco Public Library Main Branch; Bayview Opera House; Goldman Theater at the David Brower Center in Berkeley.
Tickets are $15 per screening or $225 for a full pass to the festival’s over 70 films, workshops, and social events. The full program and tickets available at greenfilmfest.org.