Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Amazing rock climbing films at ShAFF 2013

Adventure enthusiast? Extreme sports nut? Adrenaline junky? Or do you simply like to scare your socks off while in the comfort of a cinema seat? Then the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival is definitely for you. I said as much here.

That recommendation was based on the assumption the films selected for this years festival are amazing - which having browsed the programme I was pretty sure they were. However, I have been privileged with a preview of a few of the climbing films and I can now say with absolute certainly that you should attend.

I was sent a bit of a cross section of films: from the UK and abroad, some featuring bouldering, some sport climbing and others expeditions. I can’t pick a favourite because they’re all so very different. Some are short (at less than 15 minutes) and some are long (nearly an hour) but each holds your attention and each tells a story of an individual or group absolutely committed and hugely, infectiously enthusiastic about what they are doing.

I am a pretty dedicated boulderer, doing the odd bit on a rope now and again, but every time one of the films reached its conclusion I felt like emulating their efforts (to some degree anyway!). For example, by the end of a sport climbing flick, I was ready to dig the rope and quick draws out and start on the endurance training. I couldn’t help but be envious of the escapades that these adventurers were getting themselves into. And this leads me nicely onto the first film I’d like to touch upon… Autana.

Autana is the story of three climbers, Leo Holding, Sean Leary and Jason Pickles, on an extraordinary journey. Their goal, to climb the first ascent of the east face of Cerro Autana in Venezuela, a remote and spectacular tepui in the depths of the Amazon jungle. The group had to overcome various obstacles on their journey, including the authorities, the local tribes people, and the hot, bug-infested jungle, before they could even begin their climb up the mud and vegetation strewn 400m face of Cerro Autana. No easy task and the strain and hardships the group overcame makes for compelling viewing. Not only that, but Autana is one of the most professional looking independent rock climbing / expedition films I’ve ever seen. You must keep an eye out for all of Posing Production’s work.

Another story of dedication, gruel and toil is that of Wide Boyz
. Many will have heard this story before, some may have seen it on the screen already, but it is definitely worth catching at ShAFF if you haven’t. It follows Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker on a two year training journey before they embark on the trip of a lifetime, dispatching America’s hardest off-width crack climbs. Having spent countless hours hanging from home made apparatus in Tom’s cellar, they eventually come face to face with their ultimate goal, Century Crack, 120ft of horizontal hand, leg, arm and, well, whole body jamming in a 6 inch gap between two gigantic roofs. It is something to behold.


A couple of other home grown climbing films include Dave X and Push It. To start with the former, Dave X is about the well-known all rounder Dave McLeod. I say all rounder, but in this particular film he shows his bouldering prowess, dispatching some of Switzerland's hardest problems. The real highlight, however, is hearing from the man himself, on his thoughts about performance, training and generally about getting better at climbing. The latter of the two previously mentioned films, Push It follows Jen Randall and Jackie Sequeira on their quest to conquer the world’s most famous big wall, El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. A feat that is not easy in itself, but being as neither have climbed a big wall before it becomes an even bigger challenge to overcome. The underlying story arc of Push It is also worth watching the film for, as it touches upon the standard of female climbers in the UK, briefly profiling Mina Leslie-Wujastyk, Natalie Berry and Vicki Mayes.

Speaking of which, another of ShAFF’s rock climbing films takes a quick glance at this subject as well. La Dura Dura
features the world’s strongest sport climbers as they tackle some of Spain’s toughest routes. The cutting edge of sport climbing caught on camera, with Sasha DiGuilian and Daila Ojedia pushing at the door of, and occasionally walking through, the mythical grade of 9a. The real focus of the film, however, comes from Adam Ondra and Chris Sharma's battle with a potential 9b+ project, which gives the film its name. Not only is La Dura Dura a jaw-dropping joy to watch because of the sheer difficulty of the climbs, but it is also surprisingly funny. The source of the comedy comes from comparisons of the film’s two protagonists – I won’t say more. You must see it.


And finally, another must-see movie at ShAFF 2013 is that of Honnold 3.0
. Most of us will have seen the now world-famous Alex Honnold free soloing thousand-foot cliff faces with seemingly no fear. Well, this film shows more of that madness, and gives you an insight into his thoughts on why he does what he does. The main feature of the film is Alex’s attempt to climb 3 of Yosemite’s big wall routes in a day (something previously thought impossible). There is one scene in particular that is worth watching the whole film for, if you like your scenes toe-curlingly scary, as Alex reaches for a bolt to clip his daisy chain into for a short rest only to slip just as he catches it. Even the fearless Honnold goes white as a sheet for a moment as he comes to terms with what just happened.


Hopefully that whets your appetite for ShAFF. I will certainly being going along to watch a
 few more of the delights being shown at Sheffield’s Showroom Cinema over the weekend of March 1-3. Hopefully see you there! 

To find out more and purchase tickets visit the ShAFF website.