On Tuesday, June 20th, I had the opportunity to attend the New York premiere of the new Red Bull Media House-produced film Blood Road at the Intrepid Air & Space Museum. Blood Road follows Rebecca Rusch, an ultra-endurance mountain biker, as she traverses 1,200 miles across the Ho Chi Minh trail to reach the site of her father’s fatal crash during the Vietnam War. Although on the surface the film was a story of physical challenges, it contained an emotional arc that ended up being profoundly moving in so many ways.
The film was steeped in constant reminders of the long-lasting damage caused by war, and the event’s location inside what was essentially a WWII museum contributed to the underlying feeling that the violence of war lingers long past its end.
The film also focused on the growing friendship between Rebecca and her Vietnamese riding partner Huyen Nguyen. The fact that their fathers fought on different sides of the war added a fascinating element to their interactions, yet neither woman focused on individual wrongs. Instead, they focused on the cruelty of war itself.
After the film, Rebecca, Huyen and director Nicholas Schrunk held a Q&A session. It was wonderful to see Rebecca and Huyen together onstage, since the film ended with a bittersweet goodbye between the two women. After seeing the strength that the women drew from each other on their journey, it was inspiring to see how their friendship has endured in the year since.
The audience was very engaged and we were given a vivid snapshot of what life was like during filming. Rebecca revealed that even the Red Bull Media House crew on motorbikes had a hard time keeping up with the women biking and we learned a bit more about the relentless pace at which they rode to meet their destination. The Q&A made me feel a more personal connection to the film, and hearing Rebecca’s anecdotes made the story seem much more real.
The film’s cinematography was stunning throughout, in no small part because of the beautiful landscapes that Rebecca’s journey encompassed in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. However, the filmmakers did not shy away from showing the deep scars left on the terrain due to extensive American bombing during the war.
Thanks to a partnership coordinated by Picture Motion, the filmmakers highlighted the Mines Advisory Group, which removes and safely disposes of UXOs. Rebecca and Huyen spent a large part of the film navigating around some of the 80 million unexploded landmines (UXOs) scattered across the trail. These are thought to have caused over 68,000 deaths since the end of the war. Thankfully, all ticket proceeds from this event went to this organization, and representatives from the MAG also shared information and sold bracelets made from UXOs at the event. The audience walked away with an understanding of the need for organizations like MAG, and hopefully many people were inspired to donate or learn more.
Thanks to the relentless girl power that Rebecca and Huyen displayed, I left feeling both inspired and empowered. Blood Road demonstrates the difficulty of undertaking a journey like Rebecca’s, but also the emotional satisfaction that comes from such a feat. I would encourage anyone with the opportunity to watch this film. Blood Road is now available on iTunes here!
By Rebecca Strawn: New York City Intern
Rebecca is from South Carolina, but currently attends Davidson College, where she is studying English and Hispanic Studies. She enjoys working with social media, watching movies, and trying new restaurants. She has always had a passion for film and is excited to be a part of the social change that Picture Motion advocates!