The Canadian Banff Mountain Film Festival has a night dedicated to action and extreme sports films, dubbed Radical Reels. Each year after the festival, the films tour around the world in the Radical Reels Tour. Radical Reels Tour 2013 recently paid visit to UAA’s Wendy Williamson Auditorium and didn’t disappoint the thrill-seeking and outdoorsy Alaskan crowd. A lineup of 11 films featured rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, long boarding, kayaking, BASE jumping, BMX biking and much more.
The intensity and athleticism of the people showcased in the films is enough to make one get up off the couch and try some death-defying stunts. The beauty of the filmography is also captivating and inspiring — so much that it could make one realize he or she might want to try out a filming class. All the films were great, but of the 11 films, three really stood out.
One of the more moving films, as far as filmography goes, in the Radical Reels lineup, was entitled “Of Soul+Water — The Shape Shifter.” Skip Armstrong directed the film. It features famous white-water kayaker Ben Marr, kayaking in northern Quebec, Canada, on ocean-sized waves. The film begins by showing various natural scenes in crisp definition as Ben Marr explains the thrill of kayaking and the intensity of the rapids he is about to go into. The film ends with Marr kayaking in the night with a waterproof flare attached to the back of the kayak. This created the dramatic illusion of the water being set on fire and was quite the feast for the eyes.
Another standout film of the set was “Reel Rock 7, La Dura Dura.” The film, directed by Josh Lowell, won the Radical Reels Night People’s Choice Award. The film features the most notable rock climbers of the age, Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra, battling to ascend Catalonya’s La Dura Dura, the first 5.15c face on the Yosemite Decimal System, making it the most difficult climb yet. The Yosemite Decimal System is used to rate the difficulties of walks, hikes and climbs. The class 5 range is used primarily for rock climbing. 5.0 is reserved for the easiest climbs, and as the number increases the difficulty does as well. At 28 minutes, the film is the longest of all the films, but the personal narratives and the intensity with which Sharma and Ondra climb keep the audience’s attention.
“Wingsuit Downhill Target Punch,” directed by Alexander Polli and Alexander Weibel, is another of the more notable of the films. In the film, Polli flies down a mountain and hits targets with his hand, showing his precision and ability at the sport of BASE jumping. BASE is an acronym that stands for buildings, antennas, spans (bridges) and earth (cliffs). Base jumpers leap from fixed objects, maneuver through the sky, often using wingsuits. Wingsuits are specialized apparel that increase users’ lift or suspension in the air. Jumpers then use a parachute to break their fall. The film questions the possibilities of human flight and showcases Polli redefining those possibilities. Polli also talks about how he and others have already have done the impossible by flying without wingsuits, called cracking. Polli said, “Well-studied lines and technical precision is required as speeds tend to be faster and you don’t have the wingsuit to help you gain lift.”
The Radical Reels 2013 films collection is abundant with intensity and extreme defiance of possibility and really are “radical.” They are incredibly interesting to watch and leave one in complete awe of what humans can do.