Monday, 31 October 2011

Tomorrow I Will Be Gone - rock climbing movie review

"Tomorrow I Will Be Gone" is the first feature length production from Outcrop Films, which has previously produced a series of sumptuous shorts focussing mostly on bouldering in the Peak District. Based on the quality of these former forays into film making, I had high expectations for Tomorrow I Will Be Gone. These were compounded by the quality of rock climbing talent to grace this particular silver screen, to use a now defunct phrase - I suppose the digital screen would be a more apt descriptor these days. 

Some of the UK's finest boulderers made the jaunt over to South Africa's famous Rocklands, and the subsequent send-fest made news on the usual rock climbing websites earlier this year, so being able to witness the dispatching of some of the area's hardest problems was something not to be missed. Outcrop Films had whetted the appetite by releasing both a trailer and preview prior to the unveiling of the full-length film, which comes in at a weighty 44 minutes. Not the longest film, but remember it has been made available for free, so the three-quarters-of-an-hour long production is not to be sniffed at.

With the Rocklands seemingly the destination of choice for all the world's strongest vertical movers of late, it was only a matter of time before Team GB put together a cohort of top talent to represent. They included: Micky Page, David Mason, Mina Leslie-Wujastyk, Lucinda Whittaker, Sam Whittaker, Scott Gibson, Grant Bateman, Andy Banks, Richard Sharpe and Nick Brown (the latter two being the directors/producers/editors of the film). 

During their time in South Africa, the Brits dispatched boulder problems ranging from the mid-7s to 8B+, with the lofty ascents of v14 falling under the fingers of the undisputedly strong Micky Page. I can only assume, from the way his ascent of Black Eagle was edited together, he undertook siege tactics to demolish this Fred Nicole classic. And if it wasn't for the multiple falls over a number of days shown on the film, I would have thought he found it easy because the eventual send was so smooth he could have been cruising a v4 instead of 14.

Rocklands, South Africa

Without listing the whole gamut of problems sent, it's safe to say it's an incredibly impressive tick list - definitely worth a watch if you're on your way out to the Rocklands and want some last minute beta on whatever you've got your eye on when you get there. Unfortunately, the film gives no sense of time scale, so I'm unsure how many days/weeks it is based on, but either way you get the impression that not many problems stood up to the might of the team, who squashed slopers, crushed crimps, pulverized pinches and pounded pockets seemingly quickly.

The cinematography and editing of the film is generally very good - especially considering it is being given away for free. There are gorgeous shots of the scenery, although sometimes the film lingers a little too long on these; the climbing action is caught by multiple cameras, giving different angles and close-ups of crappy holds; and the pace is almost relentless, with the exception of a section of footage showing that sometimes, even in South Africa, it rains. 

However, this odd slip into the melancholia of a wet day comes from nowhere, highlighting one of the only downfalls of Tomorrow I Will Be Gone - there is no story arc to pull all the send footage together. The audience gets no sense of the wider trip - partly coming back to what I previously mentioned about there being no timeframe with which to base the action within. There are no interviews with the climbers, no footage of where they stayed or what they did in their downtime, and very little interaction between them. This means that the climbing footage just keeps on coming and coming and coming. The directors appear to attempt to break it up with scenery shots but, as I mentioned before, these tend to linger and sometimes look a little disjointed. There are also occasions when the screen turns black for a split second for no apparent reason other than to distract from what is happening when we get the picture back.

Now, this isn't to say I didn't enjoy Tomorrow I Will Be Gone, because I did - I thoroughly did. I've watched it twice already and now I am dying to go to the Rocklands. It is an exceptional film for a freebie and something that Outcrop Films can be very proud of. Hopefully it will spur them on to create more, as I would very much like to see future films from them.