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Reviews

Oct 18, 2018

European Outdoor Film Tour: Side-Splitting Hilarity

The 18th annual European Film Tour hits its stride, inspiring and cracking up thousands in 300 venues across 15 countries.

WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

For my first experience at a European Outdoor Film Tour event, I expected to see short documentary films about inspirational daredevils conquering fear itself and performing at the absolute peak of their sport. What I did not expect was the consistent comedy amidst the extreme in POV. Anyone standing outside the theater would think we were screened an advance release of Pineapple Express 2. Side-split and gut-busted, I returned home pleasantly surprised.

Order tickets here.

Now in it’s 18th year, the E.O.F.T presents a roundup of some of the most outstanding outdoors and adventure films of the year. The inclusion of an experienced host, who introduced each of the eight films over the course of three hours, generated a film festival atmosphere, as if I was attending the premiere of each film.

Launching in more than 300 venues across 15 countries, the EOFT promotes the spirit of adventure. There is no script, no actors and no CGI – only true stories of accomplishment and overcoming the odds.

Luxembourg Screening

With a packed house, the Luxembourg community showed its appreciation for the event. The Luxembourg screening took place at Rockhal, one of the top entertainment venues in the country. Situated in a former industrial site, with megalithic steel structures juxtaposed with futuristic architecture, Rockhal feels like some off-world planet in the Blade Runner franchise. However, the screening room itself did not quite live up to a cinema experience due to its smaller screen, uncomfortable chairs and painfully long concession lines. I’d vote to move the screening to Kinepolis movie theatre next year.

Rockhal, an industrial business and entertainment park in Luxembourg

The EOFT is a family-friendly event with mostly G-rated inspirational content. The only distressing scenes of the entire event were a relatively minor injury and the emotional story of Tom Belz’s struggle with cancer before attempting to summit Kilimanjaro.

The Lineup

From mountain biking in the Arctic Circle, to roller-skiing the length of North America, to world-record paragliding in Pakistan, the film compilation spanned the globe.

North of Nightfall

North of Nightfall started the show. A group of elite mountain bikers travel to Axel Heiberg Island, Canada’s seventh largest island that lies north of the Arctic Circle, in search of bottomless descents.

A to B Rollerski

A to B Rollerski stood out as my favorite. From the flamboyant 80’s fashion to Raimonds Dombrovskis’ bold personality, this is the one I’ll be re-watching every year on a creaky, scratched-up DVD. Raimonds Dombrovskis repeats the longest training run of his biathlon career, which covered 6,700 kilometers from the northern tip of Canada down to the Mexican boder, on rollerskis. As an added bonus, the director traveled to the event to answer questions and speak about the film in person.

Raimonds Dombrovskis rollerskis across North America to train to represent Latvia in the Olympics in biathlon.

Mbuzi Dume – Strong Goat

Perhaps the most inspiring film of the day was Mbuzi Dume – Strong Goat. The film follows Tom Belz’s journey to summit Kilimanjaro one-legged, as Tom’s left leg was amputated when he was just eight years old. Very skillfully and nimbly, and with exceptional grit, Tom uses crutches to traverse a variety of mountainous terrains.

Cancer survivor Tom Belz sets his sights on Kilimanjaro.

8000+

What stunt could be more ambitious or risky than paragliding among the Karakorum mountains in Pakistan for three weeks, alone? Antoine Girard defly maneuvers the upwinds with the aim to set a new altitude record in paragliding above the 8,000 meter mark.

Antoine Girard paraglides through the Karakorum mountains in Pakistan.

Viacruxis

After a 30 minute intermission, the show continued with Viacruxis, a hilarious stop-motion animated film depicting a mountaineering duo wordlessly toiling towards the summit through thick fog, falling rocks and butting egos.

This stop-motion animated film is the only unreal action of the tour.

The Frenchy

It’s impossible not to be charmed and won over by The Frenchy. 82 year old Jacques Houot is still an adamant multi-sport racer who has escaped death more times than you can count on two hands.

82 year old Jacques Houot’s stays young and fit by competing in downhill bike and ski competitions.

The A.O.

The lineup of films was presented as a crescendo leading up to the climactic climbing documentary of Adam Ondra (cue the debate between Adam and Alex Honnold here). Adam devotes himself completely, body and mind to accomplishing the first 9c difficulty level climb. We get a behind the scenes look at the non-traditional methods Adam experiments with to solve such a grueling problem. This film featured some of the most unintentionally funny scenes out of the evening’s lineup, with Adam mentally visualizing the route while groaning on the floor.

Frozen Mind

Feeling a bit out of place, the showrunners screened one more film after The A.O. that was by far the least engaging of the day with cliched narration. Victor de le Rue and Pierre Hourticq navigate narrow crevasses – skiing down with their shovels – in Charmonix.

Snowboard dangerous chutes in Charmonix.

Read Next on The Outdoor Journal: Aqua Negra Film Review: An Introspective Spearfishing Adventure

All in all, the event was highly entertaining and I look forward to making the EOFT an annual tradition.

To learn more about the European Outdoor Film Tour, click here. And order tickets, click here.

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Images: European Outdoor Film Tour

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Reviews

Oct 31, 2018

Free Solo: This Portrait of Alex Honnold, is so Much More Than Just a Climbing Film

How do you offer a balanced film review, when it's one of the best documentary's that you have ever seen?

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

Directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin worked with National Geographic to produce hands-down, the best climbing movie that I have seen.

But, to be honest, this is not really a climbing film. Ok, well, it is a climbing film… but there is so much more to it than that.

Photo: National Geographic

The film’s plot is centered around a single climb that Alex Honnold is preparing for. El Capitan’s 3,000 vertical-foot rock face in Yosemite, California. Solo. No rope. No safety net. Simply him and the rock.

To put this into perspective, for anyone who isn’t a die-hard rock climber, and can’t relate to this feat… imagine climbing a ladder twice the size of the Empire State Building. But instead of the ladder having nice, big rungs to hold onto, it has pebbles jutting out one centimeter (or less) that you are expected to rest your feet and hands on. Oh, and making a mistake, falling, is simply not an option.

The whole film leads up to the suspense of this one climb. Will Alex be successful? Will he complete the climb and become the first person to ever free solo the famous El Capitan? Or will he make a mistake and plummet to his death?

Spoiler alert! Alex is still alive today. We all knew that the worst wasn’t going to happen. However, despite knowing that Alex is still alive today. Despite being aware that he had already completed the climb, my palms were so sweaty, I could barely grip the pencil that I was using to jot notes down for this review.

Even the seemingly very masculine man sitting next to me in the theater was falling into his seat with anticipation. He kept sinking further and further, at first I thought he was falling asleep, but when I looked next to me to check, he was gripping the armrest so hard his knuckles were turning white.

Read about Alex Honnold’s Free Solo climb up El Capitan here.

Rock climber Alex Honnold completes a 3,000-foot rope-free climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park on June 3, 2017. The historic event was documented for an upcoming National Geographic feature film and magazine story. Photo credit: Jimmy Chin/ National Geographic

So, how did Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi do it? How is it possible that even though I already knew the outcome of the plot, I was still so torn with suspense and anticipation that I experienced physical symptoms (sweaty palms, racing heartbeat) of anxiety?

The videography was superb. Every shot, every angle, every pan was thoroughly well thought-out. The crew was comprised of professional climbers with rope access skills beyond that which I am able to comprehend. Each camera on the wall was there because someone either climbed up the rock face to place it there, or rappelled down from the summit so they could dangle on a rope 3,000 feet in the air, for hours on end, in order to get the shot.

Even the soundtrack contributed to the suspense. Similar to any Hollywood-style movie, epic music would ring loud when a feat had been accomplished. When the story became tense, so would the music.

The production aside, the most exhilarating aspect of the film was the character development. It was a glimpse into the mind of a seemingly super-human individual. A mind that us mere mortals can only ponder about, but never empathize with or relate to. Alex’s emotional capacity is similar to that of his father, who as it turns out, had a mild case of Asperger’s Syndrome, a syndrome which tends to run in families. The film was a view into the relationship between Alex, this robot-like individual, and his girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, who is a seemingly strong-minded woman with a normal capacity for emotion. Their relationship dynamic is what separates this film from every other climbing movie out there.

With Alex’s inability to empathize with Sanni’s feelings, and Sanni’s attempts to understand Alex’s mind, the question comes up of how a relationship like this could work? But they make it work… and this is one of the most beautiful plot lines I have seen in an adventure film.

If I say much more I will risk giving away the entire film. So I will stop and just say that If you are a die-hard rock climber, you should go to see this film.
If you have only rock climbed once in your life, you should go to see this film.
If you have seen a rock climbing gym and considered going in, but not done so, you should go to see this film.
If you have never even considered going rock climbing, and probably never will, you should still go to see this film.

Find a theatre near you that is showing Free Solo, on the National Geographic website.

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