(Boulder, CO) Jesse Spiegel and Vitek Linhart are best friends, climbing partners and adventure enthusiasts. They look the part, from their second hand wardrobe to their callused hands and lackadaisical grooming habits. Despite their sometimes scruffy appearance, both are well spoken, college educated men with a history of successful startups. They are also two of the founders of the Rewilding program.
Just over a year ago, Jesse and Vitek visited the Bronx to forge relationships with prison transition programs. Their goal was to find formerly incarcerated young men, their age, to join them on adventure focused odysseys in the outdoors. Most of these young men never imagine travel or adventure to be a realistic options but instead see jail as inevitable. This perspective matches the statistics which show that 1 in 5 black men in in the United States will be incarcerated in his lifetime. Despite their background differences, Jesse and Vitek have been able to connect and create profound friendships in this community. The bonds formed have surprised all sides involved in the program.
On a trip to NYC, Jesse interviewed 25 recently incarcerated young men interested in participating in the first filmed Rewilding adventure. The level of enthusiasm among the candidates surpassed all expectations; there seemed to be something primal in their craving. Having never left the city, been in the woods or near a mountain, many of them imagined and yearned for a Last of the Mohicans type experience; hunting, making fires, eating bugs, getting dirty. It was a difficult decision, but in the end they chose one young man named Anthony.
Anthony Dejesus, 27, grew up in The Bronx, NYC. Abandoned by his parents at 8 he was left to be raised by the system and was passed between 6 foster homes. At 13 he joined The Bloods; at 19 he found himself incarcerated, and by his twenties he was homeless. This past summer, Anthony spent 7 weeks traveling the Western United States in a van with Jesse and Vitek on the first Rewilding adventure. The journey was filmed and is the focus of the Rewilding documentary.
The Rewilding Film is a launchpad for Jesse and Vitek's big vision, the Rewilding Alternative Retreat Center, which will offer transformative experiences to people from all walks of life, including those that typically don't have access. Rewilding The Film tests the concept in a peer to peer program. Young adults from totally different backgrounds travel and adventure together as equals; with no hierarchy or titles, these men travel, climb mountains, practice yoga, farm, and embrace life. Even more powerful than the adventure itself are the interactions, sharing, and exchange of trust & love that occur as challenges are overcome along the way. The Rewilding philosophy is that through an unwavering practice, display and expectation of radical honesty between people, the strongest friendships are formed.
This differs greatly from all other outdoor adventure and wilderness therapy programs that draw clear lines between facilitator and participants and in doing so create a hierarchical system.
Jesse Spiegel describes his ability to relate, bond and have transformative experiences, “I believe everyone yearns for a community that gives them love. Love is based on trust and trust is based on honesty. When I meet guys interested in joining us, I’m honest. I don’t dress up, I swear, smile, laugh, and even cry. Most of these guys have had to play a tough guy role, but when I’m vulnerable, that wall comes down and out comes this sweet guy who’s playful and loving. When given the chance to explore that part of themselves for a month or more, feelings and ideas are planted that can’t be unplanted or unknown.”
Matt Stan (Director) describes the film as “emotional pornography.” “It was a really challenging trip for Anthony. Everything he saw, did, spoke about, even many of the feelings he experienced were completely new to him. For 7 weeks he faced challenges and was pushed to meet and overcome them. As much as the love and bonds push this story, so do the conflict and tears.”
The Rewilding film is currently in post-production, and is planning to premiere in Spring 2016. Its trailer will release for the first time ever online 12.10.15 (plz don’t share before). Follow our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages for inside looks at the adventure and film, or visit rewildingthefilm.com for more information about the film and organization.
Please contact Suzanne Spiegel for additional information or to set up an interview.
Media contact: Suzanne Spiegel, Suzanne@rewildingthefilm.com, 914-563-6080
Rewilding Press Kit, Hi-Res Images, Team Bios
Trailer Release 12.10.15 (plz don’t share before)
Film Premiere, 2016