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Denise finds a hard-earned freedom in Colorado’s alpine skies

As a child, Denise Joi dreamt of becoming a pilot. Today, she’s the first female pilot employed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, hugging the grand curves of the Rocky Mountains in her small Cessna as she stocks fish in alpine lakes and helps track animal populations. However, as the short documentary Fight or Flight (2022) chronicles, her journey to the cockpit was hardly a straight line skywards. Rather, her dreams of taking to the air sprang from a desire to escape from childhood traumas, and were nearly thwarted by poverty – including periods of homelessness. Pairing Joi’s story with breathtaking views from her work high above the Colorado landscape and a serene string score, the US director Lindsey Hagen crafts a powerful story of persistence, strength and healing that aims to break stigmas around seeking help.

Director: Lindsey Hagen

Director of photography: Chris Naum

Producers: Dan Riordan, Dana Saint, Kate Woodsome

Website: gnarly bay