The chaotic streets of Kathmandu may not seem like a typical breeding ground for world-class mountain bikers, but then again nothing is typical about Rajesh (RJ) Magar and his beat-up clunker. RJ’s story is one of boundless childhood dreaming and unstoppable determination, forged from junkyard scraps and tested on the rugged trails of the mighty Himalaya.
In 2018, RJ’s inspiring tale was brought into the spotlight at the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival in Joey Schusler’s epic nineteen-minute film RJ Ripper, chronicling RJ’s incredible dedication and commitment to the pursuit of his mountain biking passion. High up in the Himalaya, Schusler and co-director Ben Page were lucky enough to spend a month with RJ, getting to know him, his loved ones, his home of Nepal and his incredible talent.
As a professional mountain bike racer turned filmmaker, when Schusler came across RJ’s story in an online article, it “hit close to home”. As soon as he had heard of RJ’s incredible journey, Schusler was compelled to visit Nepal, ride with RJ and “help get his story out to the world”. Home to some of the tallest and most majestic mountains in the world, Nepal was a dream location for Schusler from his filmmaker’s perspective, who stated he’s “never been more excited to work on a film project”. Throughout RJ Ripper we see the colourful crowded city of Kathmandu where RJ grew up, contrasted with the rugged and remote mountain trails that he endlessly rides. They are all places that nurtured his passion and developed his mountain biking talent, skilfully shot by Schusler and Page across Kathmandu, Hattiban and Mustang.
As such a successful and beautifully shot film, it is surprising to know that this is the first time Schusler and Page have worked together on a project, and exciting to find out it won’t be the last! We can look forward to future films from the dynamic duo including one on a doctor who lives as the sole resident of a small village in the Caucasus Mountains during the winter months, and another following a three-week expedition down the Tatshenshini River through Yukon, BC and Alaska.
RJ Ripper seems to be just the first of many great films to come from this pair. A truly inspirational and well-documented film on one person’s perseverance and determination, we can’t wait to see what comes next for Schusler and Page. As for RJ, as Nepal’s youngest and reigning National Downhill Champion in mountain biking, as well as a 2018 National Georgraphic Adventurer of the year, we’re sure it’ll be something big!