The Runner

After suffering from suicidal depression, Darius Sam, a 20-year-old from Lower Nicola First Nation, finds running as a catalyst for transformation. Within a matter of months, he attempts a 100-mile ultramarathon in subzero temperatures to raise awareness for addiction and mental health in his community.

Credits / Collaborators / Cast

Featuring: Darius Sam, Danielle McDougall, Mark Nendick, Shane Charters

Director and Editor AMAR CHEBIB
Executive Producer GEOFF VREEKEN
Cinematographer JASON MANNINGS
Production Manager MIA METZ
Drone Operator ROB ANTILL
Sound Designer and Mixer MATT DRAKE

In Association with KIDDO FILMS

The story behind the film

I first heard about Darius only two weeks before his planned December run. Upon reaching out to him, we immediately connected and have since developed a close friendship based on love, trust, and respect. I am unendingly inspired by Darius’ sensitivity and resilience at such a young age. Making this film has been an emotionally transformative experience and I am grateful to be able to share it with you now. My hope is that people, particularly young men who might be less drawn to mental health conversations, are drawn to Darius’ story and inspired to take care of their own well-being while striving to be the best versions of themselves.

This film was shot over the course of a fast and furious five days. We didn’t have time to scout locations or do much prep so we had to hit the ground running and figure it out as we went along to make use of as much time before the run as possible. We spent these three days sketching a portrait of Darius, his family, as well as his insanely rigorous training regimen.

The highlight for me was showing up to Darius’ grandfather’s ranch just before sunset and feeling like we just landed in the late 19th century Wild West. The 100-year old barn had all of these antlers and ox skulls hung up on it. Besides being an accomplish long-distance runner himself, Shane, his grandfather, was a legit cowboy that lived off the land and obviously had a massive influence on Darius. Getting to film them talking and riding horses together was an absolute privilege that I will never forget.

The last two days of the shoot were the run itself. This was a huge unknown as we didn’t know how long it would take, hadn’t scouted the route Darius was running, and weren’t able to track his progress remotely as there was no cell signal on that route. Alternating between A-camera team and our drone team, we shot around the clock in 4-hour blocks, going back to the hotel to rest for a few hours in between.

I remember getting up at 3am and driving in the pitch black for miles looking for Darius. Finally we came across the headlights of the follow truck. We filmed him on the side of that dark freezing highway as he limped along for hours. I wanted to find a way to represent the nightmare-delirium he was experiencing on-screen. So we shot handheld on long lenses with a double fog filter to capture the little details like his feet, eyes, the power lines above, the train passing, and flaring the lens intermittently with a portable light to simulate car headlights. In the edit I pushed this even further by layering sound design to create this eerie industrial feeling.

Darius finishing the run was an incredibly moving experience. The love his community had for him and the general euphoria was infectious. When Darius gave his shoes to a young boy from his reservation I just about lost it. His last words in the film will always stay with me…
“You can do anything. You can literally do anything. This person standing in front of you… I invented this person.”

As with my previous film, Joe Buffalo, Darius has been included in the filmmaking process and we have done our utmost to ensure he has been comfortable with how he has been represented every step of the way. He aspires to turn professional as an ultrarunner and we hope to leverage the film as a vehicle to gain sponsorship for upcoming runs as well as health & wellness programs he is leading within his community.

Our production team was just under 40% Indigenous. Hayley Morin, a filmmaker from Enoch Cree Nation, was my producing partner as she was on my previous film, Joe Buffalo. Olivia Golosky, our Métis line producer, helped ensure we followed protocols when filming Indigenous ceremony as well as on reserve. We shared the film with and received the blessing from Darius, his family, several elders, and Chief Stuart Jackson of Lower Nicola First Nation.


Genre: Documentary
Country: Canada
Language: English
Length in minutes: 17
YEAR: 2022