Far From Home: Next, The Moon

Posted March 28, 2013 in

What do Uganda, snowboarding and Salt Lake City all have in common? The answer to that question has been almost two decades in the making and it all comes back to Brolin Mawejje. We’ve heard the stories of a war torn Africa and of those who have left to seek refuge elsewhere, but to hear about a journey to the top and back? Now that is an inspirationally rare occurrence and it is precisely why, on the night of Friday, March 22, Westminster students came together to help launch the production of Mawejje’s upcoming documentary, Far From Home.

This story didn’t happen overnight, so we start from the beginning. At the age of 12, Mawejje followed in his mother’s footsteps, packed his bags and made the trip from his home in Uganda to his new life in Massachusetts. As he stepped onto new soil, his expectations of liberation and opportunity were quickly lowered by the reality of abandonment and loneliness. He was completely alone. The boarding school and new language became Mawejje’s next tough cookie to chew and, slowly but surely, the darkness crept in––but not for long. “If you’re educated, you can escape,” says Mawejje.

The years went by, and at the age of 14, Mawejje had discovered that he could channel his demons into something great. This greatness came in the form of good grades and all sorts of sports, but especially snowboarding. This was also the time when he met his best friend and future producer of his documentary, Phil Hessler. Together, Hessler and Mawejje were able to explore their love of snowboarding through multiple ski trips with Phil’s family and, just like that, Brolin had become an inseparable part of the family. This support could pushed Mawejje as he discovered his passion for medicine, and, at the age of 17, he began his internship at Harvard Mass. General.

As we all know, the snow is always fluffier on the west side, and so, with the coming of the college years came the move. For the first time in their lives, the boys were off on the adventure of a lifetime to pursue higher learnin’ and deeper pow turns. A quick stint in Jackson Hole made headway for the final destination of Utah and Westminster College––the rest is history. Mawejje started pre-med and Hessler, the arts. Shortly after beginning his studies, it dawned on Hessler that Mawejje’s story was much too unique to be kept among friends, and the idea for a movie was born.

“We may not have the experience that seasoned filmmakers have, however, we do have the ability to tell a great story,” Hessler said to the audience in a completely packed Gore Auditorium at Westminster on Friday night. “This is only the beginning,” he added as goggle-tanned faces continued to pile into the auditorium, ready to watch the teaser for the upcoming film. However, this event was no solo mission from a bunch of student ski bums. Sponsors such as Jibbrand.com, Redbull, Saga Outerwear and the Utah Film Commission came out to show support and offer prizes for the raffle drawing that would take place later in the night. “None of us have ever seen a crowd like this at our events,” said coordinator Linda Muir from the Westminster Center for Entrepreneurship.

The roughly four-minute taste of the documentary-to-be was met with loud applause and cheers from supporters. Immediately after the teaser, Mawejje and Hessler were met onstage by Creative Director Dan Rosen, and Director Galen Knowles who took their bow and explained their work for the upcoming months. It turns out that even “cheap movies” aren’t cheap to make, with the majority of this film’s costs going into travel budget and editing. This small group of Utah film students has also teamed up with Los Angeles’ Parking Lot Productions, who have 25 years of documentary making experience, to help make this film as top-notch and film-festival-ready as can be. The next steps include a $15,000 Kickstarter campaign in May to help fuel film costs in destinations such as Uganda, Sochi Russia and locations across the U.S.

As if cancer research, studying to be an orthopedic surgeon and being a star in his own documentary weren’t enough of a workload to put on his plate, Brolin Mawejje’s ultimate goal for this film is to be able to represent Uganda for slopestyle snowboarding in the 2018 Winter Olympics. “All I need is the support,” said Mawejje. Although he claims Jackson Hole as his home mountain, Park City and occasionally Brighton Resort seem to be making do as he continues to push himself to the next level. “Right now my favorite trick is a front nine mute,” Mawejje said. In snowboarder talk, those are big words for someone who’s only been riding for five seasons, but at that rate, the sky’s the limit.

Like Hessler previously pointed out, this is only the beginning. If the moral of the story is persistence and support, then this film crew is going to need a lot of both to see the finish line and a gold medal. To watch the preview and to learn more about Brolin, go to farfromhomemovie.com and see what all the fuss is about. For those of you looking to give a little more, feel free to hop on the bandwagon and join the mailing list or do a level up and donate to the Kickstarter drive starting in May. Most importantly, remember the name and keep an eye out, because it’s coming to a theater or computer screen near you!

Far From Home Teaser from Galen Knowles on Vimeo.

(L-R) Brolin Mawejje, Phil Hessler, Dan Rosen and Galen Knowles head up the team for the documentary Far From Home. Photo: Tim Kronenberg