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I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote

- Herman Melville

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Featured

Jun 05, 2017

The Sound of Silence: Film ‘Being Hear’ Turns Up the Volume of Nature

When it comes to preserving nature, the United States is in a scary place right now.

WRITTEN BY

Alyssa Fowler

However, the continuous work of world-renowned sound recordist and acoustic ecologist, Gordon Hempton has inspired two filmmakers to head into Olympic National Park, appreciate silence and ask themselves—and everyone who watches the film—what purpose does nature serve?

This is the time to be alive. This is when we will make the big decision.
Will we, or will we not fall back in love with planet earth.

Emmy-award winner Gordon Hempton has spent the last three decades travelling around the world, searching and advocating for silence—not the absence of sound, but the absence of human caused noise. His life’s work has appeared in films, soundtracks and video games, but has transcended far beyond that, touching and inspiring many to recognise his ‘silence activism’.

Without hesitation, two friends and filmmakers, Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen knew: “We’ve got to make a film about this guy.”

Being Hear: Teaser from Palmer Morse on Vimeo.

Palmer and Matthew met during their time studying film, Palmer being interested in cinematography and directing, while Matt being interested in sound. After having heard about Gordon Hempton’s work, Matt was able to spend some time learning from and being mentored by Gordon.

I remember Matt coming back after spending that time with Gordon and learning about nature’s sounds. These two loves: nature and sound.” Palmer told The Outdoor Journal in an interview. “Fast forward 4 years later and we made the film. We took a trip out together, I got to meet Gordon and spend time with him and in turn, learned a lot from him and that experience.”

Photo of Gordon Hempton, courtesy of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen.

It turned out to be an experience that would also touch and resonate with a large audience as Being Hear became Official Selections at Banff Mountain Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, International Wildlife Film Festival, and many more.

It has also given its viewers something unexpected along the way—not to mention relief from a sentiment and an overused ‘c-word’ that we at The Outdoor Journal have banished from our vocabulary when speaking about nature.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is really about action, ‘conquering’ the highest mountains and doing it faster than anyone else,” says Matt. “People almost took an audible breath when Being Here started to play. It’s not about this ‘conquer nature’ attitude, it’s really about appreciating our place in nature and how interconnected with it we really are. Being in nature and seeking silence and just being able to sit there by yourself really allows you to ask yourself questions and think in a way that you’re not able to when you go to work and grocery shopping. We keep bringing up this word meditative, but I think it’s really about being able to engage in metacognition and think about the world and what your place is.”

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While Palmer was going into this concept fresh and without preconceived notions or expectations, Matt was already “biased and loved it.”  That’s why he knew that they wouldn’t need the type of meticulous planning that normally goes into making documentaries—by simply arriving at Gordon’s front door, he was sure they would come away with something powerful.

“He’s very well spoken. We’ve had a lot of people asking, ‘who wrote the piece that he narrated in the film?’, but that’s just how his brain works. That’s how he speaks in everyday life—these beautifully put together thoughts. So I knew that if we went out there and just put a camera in front of him, we would come out with something really, really interesting. And we were lucky that happened.”

The raw clip of Gordon simply sitting in the forest and speaking is nearly 2 hours long. Not exactly easy to condense down into a 10-minute video, both digestible for our fast-paced world and at the same time effective, but they did just that. This while introducing a concept that is rarely on people’s radar—even those actively aware of how we affect our planet.

Photo of Gordon Hempton, courtesy of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen.

Speaking on the rarity of our appreciation of sound, Palmer says, “This is just my personal opinion, but when we talk about specifically environmental issues, a lot of the environmental crises that we have, climate change, etc., most of the rhetoric is rooted in what we see and what we deem as ugly, and a lot of the health risks associated with such. Listening, sound and audio, are not discussed. One aspect I would take away from the film is that sound is important. Listening is a really good indicator to figure out if an ecosystem is unhealthy, if an environment is not as it should be. Obviously if you’re going for a hike in Hawaii, it’s beautiful, but then you hear a big highway in the background. You can imagine how that is affecting any species in that area. So although what we see on the surface might seem beautiful and okay, there are a lot more layers and complexity to it.”

Although we’re always behind those sweating to keep national parks beautiful, the relevance of sound is something we don’t think about enough.

Both Matt and Palmer were pleased to notice that after watching the film, people appeared to really understand and appreciate the importance of sound, “and not only listening as a physical thing, but as a metaphorical thing as well. Gordon says, which is one of my favourite lines in the film: ‘be like the wave, accommodate all things’. And if you think about that phrase, in a few different ways, it really changes how you move about the world.”

The real issue is that the option of actually being able to go outside and find places to do so, to just listen, is something we have less and less of.

Olympic National Park. Photo courtesy of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen.

“The ability to go into nature and listen to those sounds as they appear is disappearing because the level of noise pollution is slowly increasing, due to population density and transportation, etc.,” says Palmer.

Needless to say, Matt agrees:

“We, in the United States, currently have a president who does not care about the environment. I am pretty biased, but every action that our government has taken in the past few months has been anti-preserving of nature. And that is very scary for a lot of us, regardless if you voted for him or not. Public lands are being auctioned off, the EPA is being cut. We are in a very scary place when it comes to preserving nature right now.”

Not to mention the most recent events of President Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement.

“My ultimate question with this film is what are our national parks for? And it’s not a question we can easily answer. I’m a firm believer that the National Parks in the United States are one of the greatest asset we have a country. There is so much natural beauty, and what do these serve? Being Hear is really just trying to get people to ask themselves that question: what are our natural spaces for?”

These extremely important, but difficult questions have continued to trouble, inspire the filmmakers in their future projects. We at The Outdoor Journal have promised to keep our discretion about their next endeavour, but will have updates with their latest plans as soon as possible.

Head to the Being Hear website for more information about the film and how you can see the full feature. For more on Gordon Hempton, visit his website, The Sound Tracker.

Feature image: Olympic National Park, courtesy of Palmer Morse and Matthew Mikkelsen.

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Adventure Travel

Oct 18, 2017

EOFT is Back With 7 of the Year’s Best Adventure Films

The European Outdoor Film Tour or EOFT for those in the know, Europe’s largest outdoor film event is playing once again across 300 locations in 14 countries.

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WRITTEN BY

Apoorva Prasad

Here’s our review of this year’s selection. Keep reading for a chance to win free tickets! You can also click here to find a screening near you.

Choices
The show begins with ‘Choices’, an emotionally-charged portrait of Steph Davis – American climber, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer. Steph rose to serious prominence sometime in the early 00s thanks to her ever-increasing list of achievements, as well as the fact that she became one half of a famous couple – her late husband, the inimitable Dean Potter, kept the climbing world equally, if not more riveted.

But Steph has suffered several tragedies (read our review of Steph’s second book, ‘Learning to Fly’). Both her former spouse and second husband died in separate wingsuit accidents. As Steph climbs and BASE jumps in the film, her current partner reiterates that Steph’s choices in life are driven by her desire to constantly seek ‘ultimate freedom’. “Climbing makes me happy”, she says, and while that might sound simplistic to some, maybe even juvenile, in reality, it is a very deep and powerful statement when we drive deeper into the meaning of a life lived to the limit of absolute freedom. A great film on why outdoor athletes do what they do.

Ice Call
Short film on the European Outdoor Film Tour following Sam Favret freestyle skiing inside the giant Mer de Glace glacier, like it’s some kind of grownup terrain park. Whoa.

Follow The Fraser
A bunch of downhill mountain bikers downhill mountain bike some biggish hills in Canada. “The closest you’ll get to skiing with two wheels”. Nice shots. ’Nuff said.

Dug Out
“Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”, and our two British lads decide to not prove Noel Coward wrong by heading off into the Amazon jungle of Ecuador to live with the remote and isolated Huaorani tribe, where they ‘befriend the natives’, chop a tree, build a dugout canoe and paddle down the river back to civilization. Simple, right? (This reminds us of our very own Brit kayakers exploring and paddling remote rivers across India.)

Of course, hilarity ensues, including nakedness and survival on banana-water and maggots. The film ends on a deeply troubling, somber note, reminding us that the Amazon is today under a deep and existential threat from oil and logging interests. One of the best films of the tour.

Into Twin Galaxies
The world’s only female Master Polar Guide Sarah McNair-Landry (read an exclusive interview with her here), and two dudes decide to kite-ski across the Greenland ice cap so that they can maybe, possibly, kayak a river they think they might have spotted on Google Earth. Erik Boomer and Ben Stookesberry went on Google and found a meltwater stream from a Greenland glacier they thought they could make a first kayak descent of.

So they got Sarah involved as the experienced expedition guide, took a boat to the eastern edge of Greenland, to travel 1000km across on foot dragging their kayaks and supplies to the western edge to a place they call “Twin Galaxies” (no, it’s literally just a location on a map with no inhabitation or life of any sort). Is this river actually flowing? Is it even kayakable?

They don’t really know. Kiteskiing across the ice cap is the only way to do it without support; and well, I guess it does make it more of an adventure. Unfortunately, <<SPOILER ALERT>> on Day 3, Sarah’s safety gets stuck during a gust of wind and she breaks her back… But they carry on. <<END SPOILER ALERT>>. Of course, to kite-ski you need wind, and some days there just ain’t any, so each person just has to haul that 100-kilo pig with their kayak, sled and supplies. On other days it’s booming, so they do “10-on, 2-off” – ten hours moving, two hours resting, repeat.

My level-headed hiking friend next to me whispered that she couldn’t understand what drove these people. It seemed a bit too insane for her. But rest assured, it’s a beautifully shot movie and I’d watch it again.

Ushba
My heart skipped a small beat when the lineup announced Ushba, a movie about skiing in Georgia. I was in Georgia last year, in Mazeri village at the base of Ushba and I’ve been worryingly developing an obsession with this peak, and this part of the world.

Unfortunately, after the epic nature of the previous films from the European Outdoor Film Tour, this seemed to be a pretty random, “dude, that was extreme!” kind of film with some good images of skiing, but an abrupt shift from the pensive, exploratory and environmental nature of some of the other films.

Good shots made want to get back to surfing some snow soon, but I could barely tell if they were even on Ushba, fearsome killer mountain, testing ground of Mikhail Khergiani, Tiger of the Caucasus? A bit unfortunate.

MARKUS EDER, SVANETI, GEORGIA

La Congenialita
The legendary Italian mountaineer Simone Moro has one of alpinism’s most storied careers, as the only person to have made first winter ascents of four of the world’s eight-thousanders. This film about the relationship between him and his much younger climbing partner, Tamara Lunger, 30-year old ski alpinism champion during a 2017 expedition to attempt the world’s highest traverse on the Kanchenjunga massif, shows how the mentor-mentee equation has begun to invert with the passage of time. Touching and also one of the best films of the tour, especially for anyone who’s followed Moro’s career.

And if you haven’t already seen it, here’s the trailer:

All images copyright the photographers / EOFT 17/18.

Love the outdoors? Love good cinema? We’re giving you and a friend the chance to get FREE PASSES!*

Step 1: Subscribe to our newsletter here.
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Step 3 – Join The Outdoor Voyagers Group.
Good Luck!

*Competition Rules & Guidelines:

· Entrants must follow The Outdoor Journal’s Facebook Page and publicly share the competition post on their profile. Entrants must also subscribe to The Outdoor Journal’s email newsletter, and request access to the Facebook group “The Outdoor Voyagers”.
· Entrants must clearly enter their complete name and email address on the subscription form. Incomplete or inaccurate entries will be rejected.
· Only one entry per person. All eligible competition entrants must be at least 18 years of age.
· The winners will be randomly selected via a draw on Monday, October 30th, 2017. Two attempts will be made within 24-hours to contact the selected winners via the provided email. If at the end of the 24-hour period the winner has not replied, another winner will be contacted and the process will repeat until winners are selected.
· The winner must present a valid form of identification in order to collect the passes at the screening of their choice.
· Winners may choose from any of the approximate 300 screenings of their choice in Europe.

· The Outdoor Journal does not accept liability for any lost, stolen, unclaimed or expired prizes. Any unclaimed or expired prizes will be retained by The Outdoor Journal. The winner agrees to allow The Outdoor Journal to publicly use their name and likeness in association with the competition and agrees to present The Outdoor Journal, EOFT and any other partners in a positive light in any interviews, social media posts or other public communication now and in perpetuity.

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