40 Below: The Toughest Race in the World

Directed by Marius Anderson


Sat Apr 6, 2024 – 7:30 pm | La Casa Grande
Sun Apr 7, 2024 – 2:30 pm | Hendricks Arts Center

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40 Below: The Toughest Race in the World

Directed by Marius Anderson
Documentary Feature
United States | 99 min | 2021

It’s been called the toughest endurance race in the world … why would anyone do this, especially when it’s 40 degrees below zero? Set in Northern Minnesota, we meet Leah, a junk food eating scientist, and Bill, an accomplished ultra-marathoner who just can’t seem to finish this incredibly challenging race. They run, bike or ski 135 miles over three days in the solitary woods, sometimes hallucinating and barely stopping to rest or sleep in the snow without getting frostbite or freezing to death. What can we learn from them about life, love and happiness?

Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF)
April 15, 2023
World Premiere
2023 AUDIENCE CHOICE WINNER Documentary Feature

San Francisco Documentary Film Festival (SF DocFest)
June 4, 2023
California Premiere
Winner Special Jury Prize for Excellence in American Profiles Award

Breckenridge Film Festival
September 23, 2023
Colorado Premiere

Duluth Superior Film Festival
October 6, 2023
Sold out screening (600 people!)


“’40 Below’ documentary follows the frozen competitors in ‘the world’s toughest race'” MPR (Minnesota Public Radio – part of NPR)

“Minnesota-made documentary ’40 Below’ brings toughest race in the world to silver screen” FOX 9 Minneapolis-St. Paul

“Duluth’s Marius Anderson discusses “40 Below” film” Duluth News Tribune

I was inspired to create the documentary 40 Below when I heard my in-laws talking about a crazy race in the coldest city in the U.S. This is a place where temperatures reach, yes, 40 degrees below zero! They said that people run, bike or ski 135 miles while carrying all the supplies they need to survive. I thought … that’s impossible! I am from Germany and I have never heard of a place that got so cold. I couldn’t understand the appeal of doing that for over 50 hours with little or no sleep. I heard about people hallucinating (one saw a moose dancing in front of him) and how more than half the people who start don’t finish. The more I researched about the Arrowhead 135 in International Falls, Minnesota, the more I wanted to know. Why would anyone subject themselves to the toughest race in the world? What can we learn from them?

So, I decided to find out. I contacted the race director and asked for permission to film. Then I grabbed my cameras and my warm weather gear (by now I had some, because I live in Minnesota) and decided to see what it was all about.

I met Bill and Leah, the main subjects of the film, and spent time with them while they trained. Bill was fascinating to me because he tried seven times to complete the race, but never succeeded. Yet he kept coming back. He also had a past he was trying to purge. Leah, a junk food-eating scientist, has a different approach to competing. Her husband is with her every step of the way.

On the days leading up to the race, I interviewed other athletes and volunteers and I filmed the preparations. I also realized that on the day of the race I couldn’t be everywhere all at once. I asked around in my network of camera people who would usually leap at the chance to work on a new documentary project. As I explained the circumstances, everyone I talked to was suddenly very busy. I decided that, as a full-time director of photography myself, I would have to film as much as possible on my own. Though I did eventually find two additional stalwart camera people who were willing to help on the day of the race.

During production, I had to store spare camera batteries as close as possible to my body to keep them from freezing. I almost got frostbite, at times could barely move my fingers, but I did manage to sleep a few hours in a cabin near the race route. I felt lucky compared to the athletes. Over those 60 hours, I experienced the joy, the sadness and the defeat by observing some of the best endurance athletes in the world.

In the end, I learned that the most important thing in life is to try. This is a lesson that anyone can appreciate, not just outdoors enthusiasts or athletes. I hope that people who watch this film will get a sense of the camaraderie, community, and goodwill that springs from this race. And I hope they’ll begin to wonder what they can do to push themselves off the couch and out of their comfort zone and try something new, whatever that may be.

40 Below: The Toughest Race in the World - Poster

40 Below: The Toughest Race in the World - Marius Anderson

Marius Anderson

Marius Anderson is a German filmmaker based in Minnesota. He often works solo directing, producing, filming, writing and editing documentaries and news stories for networks around the world including ARD, DW-TV (German TV), SRF (Swiss TV), ARTE (France/Germany), and Great Big Story/CNN. He has also co-directed, filmed and edited the broadcast-length independent political documentary about the rise of the far right in Croatia “Rechts, zwo, drei – driftet Europa ab?”.

Marius is currently working on the feature-length documentary 40 Below about extreme endurance athletes on their quest to finish the toughest race in the world in 40 degrees below zero (yes, really!).
Marius is the primary cinematographer and editor of this film.

Recently Marius was the Director of Photography for a new sports documentary series “FC Bayern – Behind The Legend”, filming in New York City, Dallas and Kansas City and will be streaming worldwide on Amazon Prime Video in December 2021.

Read more about Marius on his production company website London Road Films: www.londonroadfilms.com

Film Information

Director: Marius Anderson
Country: United States
Year: 2021
Language: English
Runtime: 99 min
Rated:  PG-13


Producer: Marius Anderson, Melody Gilbert
Cinematography: Marius Anderson
Editor: Marius Anderson

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BIFF - Beloit International Film Festival
BIFF | Beloit International Film Festival