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"Anthony Dejesus, a budding artist and former inmate of Rikers Island joins two avid rock climbers on an epic adventure that becomes a dramatic illustration of the conflicts surrounding race and privilege gripping our nation today."


Contrary to what every news report wants you to believe, there are still good people in this world. There are also those who make bad decisions at wrong moments but given the chance, are still inherently good people. 

Rewilding is a documentary about filling your lungs with fresh air; stepping away from those familiar four walls and grabbing onto a rock by your fingertips while your feet simply dangle; about discussions of race of anger of acceptance; and mostly, about three good people. Two of those are Jessie Spiegel and Vitek Linhart, two rock climbers and free spirits who were once offered a second chance. The other is Anthony DeJesus, a budding artist and former inmate of Rikers Island. Looking to repay the kindness once shown to them, Spiegel and Linhart decide to open their hearts and start a program that offers the outside world to inner city young men who need a change of scenery. They take DeJesus out of New York – for his first time! – and show him Moab, El Capitan, Muir Woods, and, why not, Las Vegas.  

Rewilding hits the beat that every great documentary jams to. The journey is rugged at times but the views are spectacular. And yet it is the inner turmoil that moves the story. DeJesus might enjoy his road trip but the stress – and desire – of the return to his urban confines infuriates him. His emotions are unquenchable. Added to this is the realization that in many of their stops, he is the only person of color. Dealing with the issues of race and privilege were unexpected topics for Spiegel and Linhart, who assumed that Mother Nature was beyond such restricting descriptors. Fortunately, these are rock climbers who are used to quickly dealing with issues thrown at them – and usually from several stories up. Rewilding unpacks those thoughts and opens the conversation. 

As beautiful as the documentary is, these are first time filmmakers and some of that final polish no doubt rubbed off on all that granite. The pacing is frequently uneven. Sometimes the overlapping narration and dialogue and music are all in competition with each other, and even in juxtaposition with the visuals. Rewilding, more importantly, has heart and this heart is full of love for the common man, the great outdoors, and the human adventure. 

And dogs, too. Gotta love that dog of Jessie’s, Gordo. 

This is an outstanding documentary about free will, open skies, and the human condition that truly must be seen.

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