Three Questions with Brian Hockenstein
words:: Ben Osborne photos :: Brian Hockenstein
The confluence of environmentalism and outdoor recreation is a complicated space, but 39- year old Whistler, B.C., resident Brian Hockenstein occupies it well. Originally from Montreal, Hockenstein landed his first published photo soon after moving to Whistler—the cover of Snowboard Canada. He spent the early new millennium filming in the Whistler backcountry, helping define what was possible with sled-access snowboarding at the time. The experience delivered a passion for storytelling, and he eventually longed to do something more closely aligned with his values.
When snowboarder and environmental crusader Tamo Campos and surfer Jasper Snow Rosen invited him to join them in northern British Columbia for a deep dive into a story worth telling, he leapt. From it was born his award-winning 2018 film The Radicals. Following a crew of snowboarders and surfers inspired to social stewardship by environmental connection, the film explores the fight by Indigenous communities to protect traditional lands. Weaving adventure, education, and action, The Radicals inspires all to do something to protect the places we love. —ML
What’s behind the title, The Radicals?
The idea was to use different athletes to explore different styles of activism—from frontlines to more subtle approaches—to show there’s no right or wrong way to be an “environmental activist.” That phrase is heavily stigmatized, as is the word “radicals,” used as a derogatory term to belittle activists, so this was a great opportunity to flip the script and reclaim it.
As outsiders, how was your crew received?
The opportunity to work in these often-maligned communities was only possible because of deep connections built over many years by Tamo and Jasper. But I was welcomed with open arms—despite my sometimes lack of knowledge or context for the issues faced. It wasn’t always easy, and mistakes were made, but the patience and guidance of many special people is something I’m eternally grateful for.
What surprised you most?
My biggest takeaway was how Indigenous communities aren’t simply fighting to protect lands, waters and wildlife for themselves, but for all of us—often with no expectation of thanks or reward. It’s not something they choose to do, but rather something they must do. First Nations have a fundamentally different approach to this great gift of the environment we’ve all been given, and it’s hard to go back to thinking the way we’ve been taught to our whole lives. This project was the most transformative experience of my life and I’ll carry that forward into everything I do, both professionally and personally. —ML