Filmmaker Says Goodbye to the Dog That Taught Him to Be a Better Friend

Ben Moon shares the story of his best friend's last days.

If you’ve been touched by cancer or you’ve been blessed to have an animal friend in your life, you’ll want to watch Denali. As a juror at the 5Point Film Festival that awarded this film “Best of the Festival,” I can report that it was the one film the jury agreed we all wanted to share with our family and friends. It touches the heart, one way or another.

Watch the film then learn a bit more about photographer, adventurer, and survivor Ben Moon, whose story is told in this film, in the interview below.

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Ben Moon and Denali; Photograph courtesy Ben Moon

When did you know you were ready to share such a personal story, about your own fight cancer and your relationship with your best friend?

Toward the end of Denali’s days, I was filming an unrelated project with Skip Armstrong and Page Stephenson, and Skip suggested we focus the piece on the relationship between Denali and me. He had recognized the bond we shared, and I’m grateful that we captured the footage then as ten days later Denali passed away.

The gravity of the bond we shared through so many trying and formative experiences was evident in the tears that flowed freely for the following month. In experiencing that grief I knew then that it was important to share this story in the hopes it could touch other’s who have experienced deep friendship through hardship. It’s really a love story in the end.

What has surprised you about the response to the film?

I had hoped the story would resonate, and the response thus far has been nothing short of overwhelming. I’ve received so many messages from people sharing their own stories—it’s really heartwarming and feels like all the struggle to making the film come to fruition was truly worthwhile.

What did Denali teach you?

Denali taught me the importance of being there as a friend for someone no matter how tough things are, to listen and pay attention. He reminded me of the importance of being in nature, as he was never that stoked on being in the city but would truly come to life and be so joyful when we were on the beach or hiking into a crag. At the end when he couldn’t travel or do as much, he taught me patience and so much about pure love.

You made this film with two of your best friends. Did that make it easier for you?

I’m so grateful for both Ben Knight and Skip Armstrong, for their friendship and support, for seeing the potential in the story, and for putting the care and heart into using their talents to make this piece come to life. It was a true collaboration and I feel like our friendship shines through in the final piece. It was an extremely difficult story for me to share, but working with friends who cared about me made it easier to trust and allowed me to be vulnerable about my story.

Does having survived cancer change your perspective on outdoor adventure and risk?

Surviving cancer made me realize how connected we all are and the importance of true friendship. Afterward, I am much less enamored with achievements in the outdoors and have been focused more on having adventures with those I care about. I definitely contemplate risk, but know that to feel alive I have to push myself outside of my comfort zone often.