Rebecca Rusch Wins Emmy for Her Documentary ‘Blood Road’
Last night, Rebecca Rusch adventure athlete, world-champion mountain biker, author, race promoter, and part-time firefighter added another title to her long list of achievements: Emmy Award winner. Rusch took home the prize (in Outstanding Graphic Design and Art Direction) for her 2017 documentary Blood Road, produced by Red Bull Media House.“When everyone works their asses off and you get accolades for something you all poured your hearts and souls into, it feels really good,” Rusch, 50, told Bicycling. “For me, the more recognition this film gets, the more I can fulfill my dad’s instructions and to clean up over there.”By “over there” she means Southeast Asia, where a staggering 80 million unexploded cluster bomblets still remain in Laos, more than 40 years after the Vietnam War’s end. Rusch’s father, Stephen Rusch, was a US Air Force pilot who dropped tons of bombs and napalm on the country as part of his mission during the war. Before his death in 1972, when his F-4 Phantom was shot down over Laos, he sent letters home, expressing his struggles with the killing and ending each with a signature plea to “be good.”
In 2015, Rusch set out on a journey to find her father’s crash site and connect with the man she had never really known—she was only 3 years old when he was shot down—but from whom she had inherited her sense of wanderlust and adventure. With a film crew in tow, she used her bike and legendary endurance to face the past and to do her best to make a positive impact on the present and future.
She paired up with Huyen Nguyen, a decorated Vietnamese cross-country mountain biker, to retrace the 1,200-mile Ho Chi Minh Trail, a historic secret network through Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos that the Northern Vietnamese once used to supply battleground forces to the south.“The bicycle was the essential tool that enabled supplies and weapons to be moved under the radar, hidden by the thick jungle canopy,” Rusch said. “It’s also where my father’s plane was shot down. The bicycle seemed the natural way to go back and explore the terrain, meet the people, and dig into the stories of the war and my family… and to find him.”
Blood Road documents that journey and weaves together historical footage, Steve Rusch’s correspondence, and stunning imagery of the landscape today. The film earned numerous accolades, including the Audience Award at the Sun Valley Film Festival last year, before clinching the Emmy last night.
“I never in my life thought I would be on a stage holding an Emmy. It’s like the Olympic medal of documentaries,” Rusch said. “My dad has given me so much, and those gifts just continue. This was an amazing moment and I’m going to continue that momentum to do good and ‘be good.’”
Those two words are inscribed on the bracelets made from unexploded weapons that Rusch sells as part of her work with the Mines Advisory Group to raise money to help remove bombs, mines, and other live ordnances from Laos.