Wilder seeks a personal definition of wilderness by investigating my upbringing and family history in Northern Michigan. The film attempts to redefine wilderness through an assemblage of National Geographic magazines, watercolor paintings, paper puppets, and found objects. My fascination with wilderness stems from my family’s business as boat captains within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. As the film unfolds, the audience is introduced to my hometown of Leland, MI, and the surrounding Sleeping Bear Dunes. Through interviews with my family about our connection to the land, I explore the nuances of defining wilderness. The struggle to define wilderness is in itself a limitation, as there doesn’t appear to be a singular definition.
Wilder critiques an idealized wilderness lifestyle associated with iconic male figures like Jack Kerouac, Jack London, and Henry David Thoreau. The film poses important questions about the scale, gender, and privilege traditionally associated with wilderness. How big is wilderness? How wild does it need to be?