Former Steamboat resident creates cultural dissent documentary
Steamboat Springs — Last summer, former Steamboat Springs resident and musician-turned-film-producer Alex Hebert made a stop in Winchester, Va., on a 7,400-mile road trip that he’ll never forget.
It was the home of Joe Bageant, a writer, vibrant personality and cultural dissenter.
“He was just such an inspirational character,” Hebert remembered. “He welcomed us into his home. He treated us like we were part of his family.
“What we all really learned from him was we’re all kind of following in a grand tradition of questioning the system and questioning everything around us and being skeptical. There’s not a cohesive movement but there’s a lot of people out there who question what we take for granted.”
It hit Hebert hard that Bageant died before the fruits of that road trip — a documentary featuring an interview with the writer and several other contemporary thinkers — were released.
In the process of filming “Kingdom of Survival,” a documentary about modern skepticism and fringe philosophy, Hebert also crossed paths with Noam Chomsky and Mark Mirabello as well as an anarchist book publisher, a bushy-bearded folk singer and a man who lives completely off the grid.
All of these stories intertwine to weave a travelogue of sorts through the outliers of modern culture. The film premiered this summer at the Montreal World Film Festival.
The film and Hebert will make an appearance Friday night at a special screening at the Depot Art Center.
The movie screens at 7 p.m., followed by a Q-and-A with producer Hebert, director M.A. Littler and cinematographer Philip Koepsell. Tickets are $10.
Hebert hopes the film will touch the audience of his onetime home.
“I love Steamboat. It’s a beautiful place and friendly place; however, it is its own little bubble,” he said. “It’s its own reality. You can forget about the heavy stuff and go slide down the mountain on the white fluffy stuff.”
The film is “pretty heavy, but I know that most of the people in Steamboat are well-educated and thoughtful, and I hope they can all take something away from it.”
Hebert was born in North Carolina and spent time living in Katmandu and the Philippines as his parents’ jobs took him around the world. But from second to fifth grade, he lived in Steamboat Springs, and he returned again in his late 20s and worked his way up to head chef at the Swiss Haven. His parents since have retired to Steamboat.
After moving to Denver in the early 2000s, he played and toured with the band American Relay and started a management company and record label. It was at a blues festival that he met Littler, and the two discovered they shared views on life and world before Littler asked him to come on board German-based Slowboat Films as a producer.
Hebert said the crew went into the film with the intention of seeking out radical and alternative views on the state of affairs without any preconceived notions or agendas.
Any kind of propagandist agenda would have directly contradicted the messages of their subjects, which range from economic musings to house builder Mike Oehler’s philosophy that spirituality is the antidote to materialism.
“It seems to mean different things to different people and different populations,” Hebert said about the film. “Some people might find it bleak at first, but if you think about it, there’s a lot of hope in the film.
“It’s an open-ended question.”
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com
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The 20th anniversary season of Opera Steamboat will kick off this month with a new series, the “Variations Piano Series,” bringing world-class pianists from across the country to Steamboat Springs.