SHAFF Highlights – Operation Moffatt

MoffattI read Gwen Moffat’s Space Below My Feet early in my climbing career when women were still strange and exotic creatures in climbing circles and those that ventured out were treated to a quick top rope on a fiendish 5c by a surly boyfriend before being asked to return to tea-making.

Which goes some way to explaining why it blew me away. Here was a woman whose all consuming love for the mountains made my youthful infatuation with climbing look like a passing fancy. She deserted from the army in order to go climbing, lived for much of the time on fresh air and became Britain’s first woman Mountain Guide. She climbed barefoot, went wild swimming way before it became fashionable, wrote crime novels and conducted herself with a kind of new-woman sassiness that was way ahead of its time.

I was therefore thrilled to see Jen Randall and Claire Carter’s Operation Moffat win the Best Film prize. Being a labour of love doesn’t ensure that a film will be good, but it helps. Claire Carter has a healthy obsession with Gwen Moffat and seeks to emulate her heroine. The film interweaves an excellent extended interview with the woman herself, still sparky at 90 and a half, details of Moffat’s life and Carter’s very conscious mirroring of it.

The fact that Moffat did what she did when she did says much for her cussed nature. It was an act of the purest rebellion in more than one sense. She not only deserted the army but the prevailing sense of what a woman should and could do. She was a single mother, embodied a rebellious desire to immerse herself in the great outdoors and forge her own path. This film is both important historical document and inspiring glimpse of the choices most of us dare not make.

Playful, tightly edited, short enough to leave me wanting more, I’m happy to admit I’ve seldom seen as worthy a winner of the overall prize at SHAFF.

Details of times and prices HERE