I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne-Flore Marxer, a world champion snowboarder turned filmmaker who has unapologetically fought and achieved equal rights in a male-dominated snowboarding industry for the last 15 years. As an outspoken advocate, Marxer is responsible for successfully getting women back onto the Freeride World Tour and equal prize money in freestyle competitions.
In her directing debut, Marxer tells the story about “A Land Shaped by Women”, Iceland, after hearing that they had been ranked first in gender equality by the United Nations for nine years in a row. The film has already been recognized 13 times by film festivals around the globe for its powerful yet positive message about gender equality and is available on demand here beginning March 5, 2019.
The film follows Marxer and her friend and fellow competitor Aline Bock as they travel to Iceland by van and explore the country through their beloved adventure sports, snowboarding, and surfing, respectively. As their travels unfold, the duo experience breathtaking mountain terrain, waves, and the famous Northern Lights, where viewers are introduced to iconic and influential Icelandic women who have broken barriers and pass on an important message about a world we all will want to be a part of.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In addition to being a pro snowboarder, I am also a sports journalist and have a passion for telling stories that deserve to be told. After being in my industry for over 15 years, I grew tired of constantly having to fight and justify being a woman in snowboarding and was in need of inspiration and strength. So, the day after winning the biggest competition of the season, I decided to go to Iceland as I heard it was at the forefront of gender equality and wanted to see it for myself. Once I got a taste of it, I knew I wanted to go back, spend a winter there, experience life as a local and make this film. It is so exciting to see the emotions this film has evoked all over the world is not only women but men as well. I love that it brings a feminine narrative to the outdoor practice, and encourages all of us to be part of creating the world we want to live in.
What also inspired me is that action sport/adventure films are a strong but niche community, but the vast majority is dominated by male filmmakers/athletes. So in a sense, through this process, I’m hoping to use what I’ve learned in the filmmaking process to bring a new narrative in the landscape of the action sports film storytelling.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this care
I’ll tell you a story of something I’ve loved doing. A couple of friends of mine had launched the idea of collecting outerwear across the Alps to bring them to refugees we’ve seen arriving in Europe from the other side of the Mediterranean Sea because of reasons of war and other life-threatening situations.
Inspired by my friends’ idea, I decided to join efforts and start a collection as well — me, my social media, a few girlfriends of mine who were willing to help pack all of it. It’s been so incredible to see the number of people who have contributed to it. I set up few collection points and received full support from several snowboarding brands, started receiving so many messages across Europe of people who wanted to contribute, and then others who also started a collection in their area as a result. I ended up filling up a full lobby in just 1 month of collecting on a local scale. I found 2 shipping companies who accepted to join the effort to bring all the boxes to the northeastern part of Italy where people arrive by foot and another friend of mine started a Kickstarter to help cover the costs of the trip. I discovered the wonderful solidarity of people helping migrants in Italy, a whole network indicating a contact in each village showing who was in charge of x amount of people, what they needed exactly, what size of clothing, etc.
Next, I decided to target the coldest area where a very large number of people arrived each day and was also one of the biggest concentration of people in need. With the support of 2 girlfriends of mine, we got on the road to distribute all the gear and stopped in places with most people in need along the way. We would distribute clothes, beanies, and scarves at night in the streets with the Red Cross and ended up in the forest, organizing distribution in direct with the migrants. We connected with them in such a way that we spent 2 days cooking with them under a tarpaulin, making a wood fire with branches and using an old rusty bike rack as a grill — and yet the food was so delicious!! They were distributing the food to other groups of migrants who would come and share their meal. We’d sit around the fire with them, singing with nostalgic feelings, exchange stories and building new friendships. Those moments spent with them were so meaningful, a true connection on such a ground level of humbleness it was true moments of connection and shared humankind. I’m still friends with them and those few moments were such a gift to me. I hadn’t felt so profoundly touched and connected to the real me in a very long time. At the end of the day, it was so heartbreaking to have to leave but those moments they offered to me have touched my heart forever.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
At the beginning of my career, there was a big national snowboard competition at my resort which my friends had convinced me to participate in it with them. There were 2 jumps — a big one that looked really fun and a smaller one where all the girls were jumping doing the most basic tricks, which was a straight jump double grab. I was a girl so I thought I should follow what they were doing and do the same tricks. However, doing that didn’t result in me qualifying for the finals. I got quite upset — I had played by the rules or what I thought the rules were and didn’t even get a chance to jump the fun jump in the end. So I grabbed my board and hiked to the top of the big kicker while the boys were jumping during competition and I pulled off a backside rodeo 540 and landed that trick when there was only one girl in the world doing it at the time — Tara Dakides and she was a snowboarding superstar. That day, I understood that I should follow my heart and trust my gut and it was the start of my long and great life’s adventure in snowboarding — doing what I was most passionate about my way.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Filmmaking opened so much inspiration for stories that would be worth diving into. There is this one idea, in particular, that’s dancing in my head but it’ll take the time to build it and find the finances for it before I go public with what it is.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
On my quest for women empowerment in Iceland for my film, I had the most inspiring encounter with Katrin Oddsdottir, a human rights lawyer and activist who took part in the writing of the new constitution after the crash of 2008 in Iceland.
In 2012, 67% of the Icelandic people voted in favor of the new constitution in a referendum, but it got then evicted by the conservative political party in power at the time. From my research on the recent history of women in Iceland, I reminded Kata of how Icelandic women had shaped the political landscape by bringing women’s issues on the political agenda in 1922 and again in 1983 with the Women’s Alliance. Even though the new constitution was still not in place at this point, the new constitution is now embraced by several major political parties, meaning the politics in Iceland understood they needed to include the new constitution within their program for the benefit of their political party’s success.
When I made the parallel with what was happening with the New Constitution, she blushed and confessed to me it had been her mother who had re-launched the Women’s Alliance. I think she then realized the massive impact her mother had brought in her time and showed her the coming longevity of her own activism.
She wrote a full article expressing how she had rediscovered her project of the New Constitution by looking at it through my eyes with fresh hopes for it. In the film, she talks about the notion of equality being a commonwealth making us stronger as a group and stronger as individuals. The least I can say is that Kata and I share a bond of mutual inspiration which I feel the most honored about.
Kata is now leading yet another movement through women to bring the New Constitution on the front of the social debate and it is massively growing as we speak and publicly supported by President Vigdis who now wants to see the film.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I found myself in a situation of burnout, and this is why I decided to go to Iceland. It’s quite funny how I regularly find myself quoting the women in my film to help me face moments of doubts or adversity. Here is one from Una Torfadóttir that’s helped me a lot :
“There was, of course, some negative feedback to the piece. But something that I learned from my mother is that negative feedback only proves that your message was worth it. Because if nobody cared nobody would think it was important, nobody would be fighting back.”
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
If I learned one thing from living my life in a high-risk environment, I understand that life is short. I choose to spend my time usefully and I’ve been trying to use my platform for good. I like to feel that I can contribute to something bigger than myself. We are either part of the solution or part of the problem. I like to think that we can all contribute to creating the world we want to live in. I’m not really replying to your question and I’m not sure I have a great answer for it, but I don’t think I should start a movement, I’d like to see each of us contributing in the ways we can.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?
The best advice you could give me would be not to give me any. I like to go find my own limits, put it on the line, crash and try harder. I like taking risks and finding learnings from my own experiences.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I sometimes say making your dreams come true means a lot of hard work, a lot of struggling and a lot of disappointments. But if you fight long enough, you will come to that day you will reach your summit and the summit can be just your goal and your view from there is filled with endless opportunities.” — Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir
If I happen to wake up with an idea, I just go ahead and do it with all my heart.. and then I hit such strong difficulties and such big struggles in between, but I will always dig deep in determination to get to the end of what I started. And somewhere along the way, magic happens and I find myself in a whole new adventure which I would have never dared dream of.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I truly feel that I learned so much from living in an unequal environment. So really, I’d like to thank the adversity I have found along the way. They have given value to my accomplishment and gave me the challenge to go after. It’s been one of my biggest learning in life, that each person I meet is a gift one way or another, and I’m fascinated by how life always has another surprise in store for us. My best friends have appeared in my life from organic means and have become the most precious relationships to my heart.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I would love to attend a conference of Recipient of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, Professor Muhammad Yunus, who is internationally recognized for his work in poverty alleviation and the empowerment of poor women. He has successfully melded capitalism with social responsibility to create the Grameen Bank, a microcredit institution committed to providing small amounts of working capital to the poor for self-employment. He is the foundation of the philosophy of Social Business as a stronger movement in Social Entrepreneurship.
To know more details about his actions, read his book “Banker to the Poor” or watch this documentary “A New Capitalism” by Henry Grazinoli
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Anne-Flore Marxer Instagram: @annefloremarxer