HIBM: Her Inescapable Brave Mission
A disease might shape her future but only she defines her legacy...
Project type: Documentary Feature
Project status: Production
Director: Celia Aniskovich
Producer: Liz Yale Marsh
Producer: Wendy Eley Jackson
Executive Producer: Sam Pollard
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International human-rights advocate, Cara Elizabeth Yar Khan, deep in the throes of an aggressive, fatal, muscle-wasting disease, ventures out on a daring, 12-day Grand Canyon descent and expedition – on horseback and in whitewater rafts. The journey into the Canyon mirrors Cara’s personal journey, as she and her team battle physical and mental adversities that threaten to kill, wound, or undo them without warning. But a journey that begins as a quest for representation and dramatic advocacy quickly becomes an exercise in survival. When Cara suffers a serious head injury one hour into the descent, the team and crew realize that her life, and theirs, hang on each step, each handhold, each group decision. Cara’s journey to live an extraordinary life and shatter stigma against people living with disabilities unexpectedly becomes a deep dive into fear, trust and vulnerability. As the entire expedition team grapples with unanticipated dangers in a truly remote wilderness, they also come face to face with their individual demons, insecurities, and internal conflicts. Her Inescapable Brave Mission is a story of fear, adrenaline, ambition, determination, hubris, courage, and perseverance against the odds. An emotional and transformational journey for anyone who has ever found themselves, inescapably, on the edge of a cliff.
At the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Cara and her entourage of wild Mustang wranglers, Army Ranger husband, therapeutic riding instructor, and award-winning adventure film crew, are poised to begin a dangerous 5,000-foot descent. With Cara on horseback, riding along vertical, loose terrain into the country’s deepest canyon, Her Inescapable Brave Mission chronicles the journey of one woman’s relentless quest to attempt a precarious feat accomplished by less than 1% of the 5 million visitors to the rim. The Grand Canyon is the awe-inspiring and fear inducing backdrop of this journey, as well as the physical manifestation of everything Cara is up against in her own life. The 12-day journey forces the team to fight anxiety-inducing cliff drop switch backs, gusting winds, narrow paths not made for pack horses, multiple sustained injuries, glaring sun, a rushing river, and unknown wilderness predators. Once a person descends to the river, there is no easy way out. There is no hiding from the wilderness or wildlife in the Grand Canyon. There is also no way to escape Cara’s disease. There is no break from her struggle. This story begins as one woman’s quest to advocate for people with disabilities. On a personal level, Cara grapples with her own physical and psychological demons, as she lives with a fatal, quad-crippling disease. Underneath all of this, lurks a persistent and unreachable childhood trauma caused by an alcoholic mother who abandoned Cara by committing suicide when Cara was only 17. But the trip’s purpose is upended a mere one-hour into the descent when Cara, consumed by the terror of the cliff drop trails, is unable to hold herself upright in the saddle and suffers a serious head injury when smashes into her horse on a steep descent. The severity of her physical weakness is apparent for the first time and the team must assess their perilous situation. It’s clear that she and they have seriously misjudged their preparedness. There is a giant chasm between her ability and their understanding of her ability. Do they continue? Should they have started this journey in the first place? Are they prepared to risk her life? Who decides how far they push? Bonded together by Cara’s solidarity for the crew and a collective loyalty to the mission, the team decides to risk the descent. Their trip becomes a perilous quest for survival, a journey to self-discovery, and an honest and unflinching look at the unnecessary risks Cara took, and exposed the team to, to prove something to herself and the world. Cara never seriously considered calling off the trip, not even when her condition deteriorated at least ten-fold in the last few months leading up to the expedition. The team never discussed the dangers everyone else would face because of her disability. Cara was certainly taking her life into her hands, but this trip was no longer only about Cara, this could also be deadly for someone else.
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Meet the Filmmakers
Celia Aniskovich — Director
Celia Aniskovich is a New York-based documentary producer and director. Her career began in live broadcast news as an NBC Page, before she transitioned into narrative and documentary filmmaking. She has directed, produced, developed and consulted on numerous US & UK projects and her films and series have been broadcast around the world. In April of 2020, How to Fix a Drug Scandal, which Aniskovich co-produced, broke the top 5 most-watched shows on Netflix three days after it premiered. Her forthcoming projects include a new true crime documentary series for Netflix, an archive-driven political docuseries for CNN, and a historical feature documentary for Fox Studios. She has worked on multiple Emmy nominated television series, programs, and broadcasts including Amazon’s The New Yorker Presents and FX’s The Americans.
Liz Yale Marsh — Producer
Liz Yale Marsh is an Emmy-winning documentary film and television producer. She recently produced The Preppy Murder, a 5-part documentary directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg that premiered on AMC and Sundance. During the coronavirus stay-at-home order, Liz created and Executive Produced a fundraiser for America’s Food Fund called Questlove’s Potluck that aired on Apple and Food Network. Liz served as Co-Executive Producer on the feature documentary film The Panama Papers, directed by Alex Winter, which premiered in the US at the Hamptons International Film Festival and internationally at IDFA. She is currently producing the feature documentary FU Georgia directed by Rudy Valdez, the documentary series Surviving Jeffrey Epstein directed by Stern and Sundberg, a biopic on Bruce Lee directed by Evan Jackson Leong, and is in development on a feature documentary directed by Dawn Porter about race in the culinary industry Executive Produced by Questlove. She was the creator and Co-Executive Producer of NBC’s Emmy-winning series GIVE. Liz consults for production company Bungalow Media + Entertainment as their Head of Documentaries & Premium Series, where her credits include Spring Broke (directed by Alison Ellwood) and the series 36 Hours with the New York Times. Prior to that, Liz spent five years at Radical Media, where she worked on Joe Berlinger’s Paradise Lost III, and the series Iconoclasts and Oprah Presents: Masterclass. Liz is a Founding Board member of UNICEF’s Next Generation, serves on the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Food and Drink, and is the Founder of the WestFlix Film Festival.
Wendy Eley Jackson — Producer
Wendy Eley Jackson has over 25 years of varied experience in the fields of film, television and digital media. She started out working as an Executive Assistant for the Executive Vice President SONY Pictures television, then transitioned into producing commercials for networks TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network. She founded Golden Street Entertainment where she owned and operated one of the largest faith based post production companies in the USA working on 20 shows per week. In 2015, she founded Auburn Avenue Films and began working with award-winning directors and producers such as Academy Award nominee and multiple Emmy winner, Sam Pollard, Daphne McWilliams, and Henry Adebonojo. For motion picture, she has recently received the Producers Guild of America mark for her work on the multi-award winning documentary, MAYNARD for Netlfix. She is producing the docu-series entitled, She The People, the Election of Stacey Abrams with mega producers, Malcolm D. Lee and Showrunner, Holly Sorensen. Wendy along with, Holly Sorenson, Vicangelo Bulluck and A.J. Morewitz, are developing the television series based on the New York Times best-seller, Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn for DIGA Studios. Wendy presently co-leads the advanced television writing program at the Carsey-Wolf Center in Santa Barbara. She also is on faculty at the University of California Santa Barbara where she is Lecturer in Film and Media Studies. Wendy is a board member for Women In Film Atlanta, Atlanta Film Society and the National Association for Television Arts and Sciences.
Sam Pollard — Executive Producer
As one of the most prolific documentarians in the world, Sam Pollard brings over 45 years of experience in entertainment. Director, producer and editor, Pollard began his career as an editor for feature length films for both scripted and unscripted features. Throughout his career he has been nominated for two Academy Awards for his work on When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts and Four Little Girls. He also is the winner of six (6) Primetime Emmy’s, Four (4) Peabody awards and two (2) Grammy nominations. He has produced, directed and edited documentaries for HBO, Netflix, PBS, Amazon, Discovery Networks, Showtime, and StarZ and also both domestic and international film festivals. His work with Frank Marshall, Alex Gibney, Andrew Kosgrove and Broderick Johnson on their HBO docu-series, Sinatra: All or Nothing, is one of the most watched docu-series on HBO of all time. By The People: The Election of Barack Obama for HBO along with his latest docu-series, Atlanta’s Missing & Murdered: The Lost Children, garnered some the highest rating for the network as well. He co-directed, Why We Hate, with Geeta Ghandbhir and is executive produced by Stephen Spielberg and Alex Gibney for Discovery and Amazon in 2020. Known for his cinema verite, his biopics which include but are not limited to, Maynard, Sammy Davis Jr: I’ve Got to be Me, and August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand, have had international theatrical distribution and educational curriculums distributed around the world. Pollard continues to create, share his wisdom and guide emerging talent as he is a tenured Professor at the prestigious NYU Tisch where he teaches Editorial. Pollard lives in New York City with his wife and their four children.
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