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The story of the first person with autism to hike every trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is told in "Love, Trails & Dinosaurs." / Lookout Wild Film Festival Contributed Photo

Nearly 400 films, representing 38 countries, were submitted for consideration to be shown in this weekend's Lookout Wild Film Festival, says festival director Andy Johns.

Just over 60 were selected. Moviegoers at the 2020 Lookout Wild Film Festival will enjoy films about kayaking waterfalls in Patagonia, ice climbing in Kentucky, a long-distance hike through the Grand Canyon and a paddleboard expedition through the icy waters of Greenland's coast.

The annual festival opens Thursday, Jan. 16, at the Tivoli Theatre, continuing through Jan. 19. In addition to five screening sessions of films, the festival will feature live music, backstage yoga, a dinner with a filmmaker panel, a silent auction and an advocacy expo by area nonprofit groups.

While the festival has plenty of adrenaline-pumping adventure films, film selections don't shy away from thoughtful topics and inspiring stories such as veterans finding purpose through fly-fishing, Nigeria's fight against pangolin poachers and the story of the first autistic man to hike all 900 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

If you go

* What: Lookout Wild Film Festival

* Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

* When: Five screening sessions Jan. 16-19

* Admission: $15 individual sessions, $45 weekend pass

* For more information: https://lookoutfilmfestival.org

This year's films tell stories of a history-making climb by a group of Venezuelan women, whale shark researchers in the Maldives, one man's bicycle journey around the country sharing his music, a group of inner-city beekeepers creating pollinator habitats in Detroit and the first African-American man to achieve the hiker's Triple Crown.

"I always enjoy seeing the films exceed people's expectations," says Johns. "I think many first-time attendees come in expecting three hours of mountain bike stunts, but they're blown away by the lovable characters, the inspiring stories and the jaw-dropping natural scenery where the adventures take place."

While more than a dozen countries are represented in the films chosen for screening, the selection committee made sure to choose some films from Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and North Carolina as well.

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"Brotherhood of Skiing" is dedicated to creating a welcoming space for people of color on the slopes and supporting black youth in snow sports. / Lookout Wild Film Festival Contributed Photo

This year's lineup features a record six films from Tennessee, including a grueling ultra-marathon in the Cumberland Mountains, the importance of trail building near Monteagle, the fight to preserve rock-climbing resources west of Chattanooga and a profile on members of the Scenic City Trail Runners.

"LWFF films are always beautiful, but I'm excited to see this year's films in a state-of-the-art theater like the Tivoli," says Johns. "Whether you've attended each of our previous festivals or this is your first time, expect to be inspired, excited and amazed by the way these filmmakers tell their stories."

Johns says more than 4,000 folks attended last year's LWFF, and advance ticket sales are currently running roughly double compared to last year. Tickets are $15 for each of the five screenings or $45 for a weekend pass.

For tickets or more information: https://lookoutfilmfestival.org/

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