The John Muir

Every year, brothers Brian and Hank Leukart meet somewhere in the world to take on an epic adventure. When they set out — well past the end of the summer hiking season — to hike the 211-mile John Muir Trail (a.k.a. Nüümü Poyo), they find themselves up against a slew of unexpected physical and psychological challenges. As they make their way across the Sierra, they discover that conservationist John Muir’s legacy isn’t as straightforward as they once thought, prompting them to reevaluate their fundamental assumptions about environmentalism and mankind’s relationship to the natural world.

After I directed the film Bears Ears — which tells the story of Native Americans in Utah fighting for federal protection of their ancestral lands — I was inspired to continue telling stories of indigenous people native to the land that I hike through regularly. The fascinating, undertold story of California’s Native People in the Sierra inspired me and my brother to make this new film about our thoughtful trip on the John Muir Trail.

Directors: Hank and Brian Leukart
Awards: Breckenridge Film Festival, Official Selection

The Mars Academy

Four scientists travel to Brazil’s City of God, an impoverished Rio de Janeiro neighborhood, where they spend two weeks in a local school teaching kids about science. There, they surprise the kids with an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiment: the chance to do their own exploring on Mars using an actual NASA spacecraft.

Today, nearly 385 million children around the world live in extreme poverty, and, in our modern world, the days of high-wage, low-skilled manufacturing jobs are coming to an end. But, with a wealth of jobs becoming available in science and technology fields, science education has become the key to pulling kids out of poverty so that they can eventually find jobs and rewarding careers. Yet, governments are not providing adequate education to solve the poverty problem.

As a filmmaker, It was important to me to make Mars Academy to explore how caring individuals in non-profit organizations can solve these problems head-on, sidestepping the problem of governmental neglect. I hope that this film motivates educators to work toward incorporating more hands-on, science-based education into their classrooms and motivates science professionals to become interested in how they can help the disadvantaged become our future scientists.

Producers: Jeff Marlow and Hank Leukart
Director: Hank Leukart
Cinematographers: Felipe Carrelli and Anali Dupré
Awards: Borrego Springs Film Festival, Official Selection; SCINEMA International Science Film Festival, Official Selection

Bears Ears

When two paddlers head out on a backpacking and packrafting trip to explore Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument, the protected area created by President Barack Obama and recently slashed by Donald Trump, they discover a political battle that epitomizes the strange culture war sweeping the nation.

Director: Hank Leukart
Awards: Lookout Wild Film Festival, Best Film-From-Away Winner; Maine Outdoor Film Festival, Winner; Paddling Film Festival, Finalist; Waterwalker Film Festival, Official Selection

Packrafters paddle down the San Juan River.
Hank and Jake stand above Honaker Trailhead.

Umbrella Dreams

I spent four days at the 2014 Occupy Hong Kong protest camps at Admiralty and Mong Kok in Hong Kong and talked to everyone who was willing to answer my burning questions about why protesting for democracy is so important. I was struck by the students’ pure intentions and the complexity of the political issues, and I filmed as the Hong Kong Police tried to forcibly remove them from the streets. I turned the things I heard and saw into this documentary short.

Director: Hank Leukart
Cinematographer: Hank Leukart