Since trading her wheels for reels, former Canadian mountain-bike star Darcy Turenne is keeping pace with the film world’s most discerning tastes.
Chomping down tacos at La Mezcalaria on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive, the urbane Darcy Turenne sitting before me is nearly unrecognizable from the ubiquitous persona the mountain-bike world knew just a short time ago. She was a professional mountain biker, Canada Cup downhill champion, host of the Ride Guide television series and designed a female-specific bike for Norco. But now, in between bites, she chats the politics of identity, soviet film theory and how much she loves the city.
The breakout filmmaker is freshly back from the invitation-only Cannes Film Festival, where her most recent short work, Jackieland, played to the most celebrated gathering of art-house filmmakers in the world. This latest achievement follows on the heels of her feature-length film The Little Things—an award-winning documentary about what action-sports participants can do to help the planet.
“Until I was 25, all I wanted to do was be as good as I could be at riding my mountain bike,” admits Turenne. Jackieland is a masterfully paced 23-minute character study of an eccentric British Columbian woman whose life is simultaneously tragic and triumphant. Where much of Turenne’s previous work had some tie to the action-sports world, this marks a complete departure, both technically and narratively.
“Everything in my life has been happenstance,” she explains. After suffering a severe ankle injury in 2009, a conversation with a stranger on the beach led to a lasting professional friendship, grad school, and a thesis film about female Indonesian pro action-sports athletes that immediately won over festival audiences.
As an athlete, Turenne was one of those rare characters that bridged the gap into pop culture. She was even featured in Rolling Stone (though today she cringes at the over-sexed photos). After performing at the top level for so long, it’s only natural she’d aim as forcefully for the same heights in her new craft. These days, instead of hitting dirt jumps in her spare time, she studies film technique and theory.
“Darcy’s film arsenal is impressive,” says Kathleen Jayme, formerly a production coordinator at the National Film Board (NFB)’s Vancouver branch. “She’s a skilled writer, has such a great eye when behind the camera, is a great editor and has all the instincts of an amazing director. Not every filmmaker has all these qualities.”
Jayme explains Turenne was an easy pick for a recently awarded—and highly competitive—NFB grant to fund her next short film. Which highlights another of the ex-pro mountain biker’s distinctions from her action-sports peers: she makes movies just because she loves to—in between paid gigs producing films for companies like Patagonia and Dynafit. Jackieland, it turns out, is just a side project, but one that’s commanding adulation from the highest ranks.
“I found my real passion,” says Turenne without a hint of exhaustion, despite being hard at work on two feature scripts and pre production on a feature documentary about the history of freeride mountain biking. She says it’ll be her “thank you and goodbye” to the sport she started in. We can only hope the red carpet is buff and tacky.
Watch the trailer of Jackieland here: