Minnesota made documentary '40 Below' brings toughest race in the world to silver screen

Just as we're experiencing record-breaking heat for this time of year, a new movie is shining a spotlight on Minnesota's extreme cold.

A documentary filmed in the state will have its world premiere at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival this weekend.

"I can't wait for the world premiere and to have it in the state where I filmed this documentary and in the state of Minnesota where I live," said director Marius Anderson.

"40 Below: The Toughest Race In The World" follows extreme endurance athletes competing in the Arrowhead 135. It's an ultra marathon, usually held in late January, where participants run, ski, or bike along a 135-mile stretch of a remote snowmobile trail from International Falls to Tower, Minnesota, which can take two days to finish.

Anderson heard about the race from his father-in-law after moving to Duluth from Germany five years ago. He says crews shot the documentary during a polar vortex in 2019 and shooting in the extreme cold wasn't as difficult as getting enough footage.

"You never know what's going to happen, who's going to be where, at what time, and where something interesting is going to happen," said Anderson.

Duluth geologist Leah Gruhn is one of the two subjects of the film. She attempted her first Arrowhead 135 on skis but didn't cross the finish line. Then she bought a fat tire bike and has now completed the race 10 times.

"It's there. It's a fun challenge. It's something to do in the middle of winter. It's something I look forward to all year," said Gruhn.

Anderson says the film was named after how cold it got and only a third of the competitors finished the race. But he believes audiences will be inspired by the documentary the same way the participants inspired him.

"It's just incredible for me to see what these people here can go through in terms of temperature and just not giving up," said Anderson.

The first two screenings of "40 Below" at the film festival sold out, so organizers have added a third showing. Information on tickets can be found here. To view the documentary trailer, click here.