Staring Down Fate Wins “Best Feature Film”

High Point, NC - The documentary film Staring Down Fate follows Chris Lucash from working with the only wild red wolf population in the world to being diagnosed with ALS. It reveals groundbreaking research correlating ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases to environmental issues like pesticide exposure and over-fertilization. Staring Down Fate, directed by filmmaker Jeffrey Mittelstadt, won “Best Feature Film” with its world premiere this week at the Sunrise 45 Film Festival in Alpena, Michigan. The award is given by a group of judges to one feature-length film over 40 minutes in length and can be awarded to a film from any genre (drama, horror, documentary, etc.).

“It was beautifully shot and told a very moving story. I cannot tell you how many times I teared up,” said Gary Smith, one of the festival attendees. “It gave me a lot to think about. I will not soon forget this film.”

Staring Down Fate is an intimate and personal story that begins by taking the audience into the field in northeastern North Carolina, home of the only wild population of endangered red wolves. Chris and his team work to grow the endangered red wolf population from zero in the wild in 1986 to between 110 and 130 at its peak. But the story takes a drastic turn when Chris is diagnosed with ALS. 

Mary Ellen Jones, filmmaker and winner of “Best Short Film” at the Sunrise 45 Film Festival, reflected on the film describing it as, “A compelling, emotional story that I have not stopped thinking about."

The film becomes a deeply emotional journey to answer the question “Why me?” since experts say only 10 to 15% of all cases of ALS are purely genetic. While Chris searches for answers, the wild red wolf population he dedicated 29 years of his life to saving comes crashing down to an estimated 45 remaining in the wild. It challenges Chris as he explores meaning in mortality. Even when he is “staring down fate”, Chris finds meaning in the hope that he can help bring people closer to nature.

“This is an incredible honor and a beautiful way to begin the next stage of Chris’ impact,” said Mittelstadt, president of the non-profit WildSides. “Chris inspires us to find comfort and passion in living with purpose and to continually strive to make this world a better place.”

Learn more about the film at To find out when and where you can seeStaring Down Fate in the future stay tuned to the WildSides website,, or contact the filmmaker by emailing