Boulder hosted the 2014 Adventure Film Festival last weekend. Friday through Sunday, crowds gathered at Boulder Theater to watch films focused on exploration, adventure, and the environment. Now in its 10th year, Adventure Film is “rooted in the concept of ‘making your own legends,’ empowering each of us to create positive change in our world.”
Here are The Boulder Stand editorial staff’s top picks.
The Burning Man Ultra Marathon
Many great films are known for their acting performances, technical precision, thoughtful cinematography, and moving scripts. The Burning Man Ultra Marathon had none of those qualities. But it was fun. Good, (mostly) clean fun. It didn’t make a half-hearted attempt at explaining Burning Man or question why we run. Instead, it gave us a glimpse at the inner monologue of a maniacally joyful fitness machine as he experienced a maniacally joyful event.
The Burning Man Ultra Marathon worked because it didn’t try to be something it wasn’t. There wasn’t even narration. Unadulterated snapshots of the intersection between two absurd worlds full of funny outfits–Burning Man and ultrarunning–needs no embellishment.
Michael Ramsey’s three minute celebration of America’s wilderness evokes wanderlust, nostalgia, and Dr. Seuss. The short film travels across mountains and dunes, through forests, and then underwater while two voices, bright yet raspy as only children’s can be, narrate in Ramsey’s whimsical couplets. Smiling young climbers clap chalky hands. Herds of animals graze. The young voices deliver rhymed observations in whispers and shouts.
Created for the Sierra Club in honor of the Wilderness Act’s 50th anniversary, I Heard is encouragement to explore and enjoy. Before jumping into a body of water, the two narrators remind us: “And the best thing of all, if we take care of these places, we can have them forever: our shared, magic spaces.”
Love in the Tetons
The story goes like this: 15 years ago, at-risk Los Angeles teenager Juan Martinez stepped off a bus in Grand Teton National Park and saw stars for the first time in his life. It was the beginning of a love story—not just between park and person, man and wilderness, but between Martinez and his now-wife Vanessa Torres, who fatefully worked as a ranger in Martinez’s beloved park.
Produced by Boulder local Amy Marquis, the film is a stellar start to the National Park Experience, a 10-part series designed to roll out over the next three years to celebrate the Park Service’s centennial in 2016. Sweeping cinematography softened by small touches—like a personalized park ranger wedding cake topper—offers the audience a simplistic slice of park life (and love) in a post-cable world that’s not to be missed.
Seeds of Time
Dr. Cary Fowler always seems to be one step ahead. Whether it’s negotiating with indigenous farmers, running international conferences and committees on agriculture, recovering from divorce, or beating cancer, Fowler is as resilient and ingenious a character as you’re likely to find. But his most ambitious project yet, captured in the marvelously realized documentary Seeds of Time, pushes the boundaries of human understanding.
His idea was to build a frozen vault in Svalbard, Norway, which today does preserve seeds of thousands of different varieties of crops from around the world. For Dr. Fowler, the threat of global climate change has combined with unwise farming practices to render agriculture an increasingly risky business. If varieties of major crop seeds—seeds with different genes, and therefore different propensities and personalities—could be preserved, humanity might bounce back from global calamity.
The film follows Dr. Fowler as he sits through laborious meetings, travels to harsh and beautiful places, and reflects on his instincts, drives, and sober optimism about the future. Under the skillful direction of filmmaker Sandy McLeod, Dr. Fowler’s transcendent vision of scale—from seeds to planets, and from incremental steps to thousand-year trends—is smoothly and compellingly crafted.
While a few oversimplifications might irk experts, like the connection between food shortage and violent conflict, Seeds of Time is sure to challenge audiences to think more broadly and proactively in the search for hope on a changing planet.
When Dogs Fly
When it comes to adventure filmmaking, Dean Potter is no rookie. Much of the climber’s allure stems from his penchant for pushing extreme sports even further into extremity. He’s especially famous for inventing FreeBASEing, where rock climbers use a parachute instead of a rope.
So it almost makes sense that he would strap his dog to his back and fly in a wingsuit through the Swiss Alps. Almost. Potter realizes what he is doing might be crazy, but for him it’s a logical next step. He’s pushed personal risk to the limit over the past few decades, and now he’s spreading that risk onto one of his most beloved companions: Whisper the dog. Potter’s obvious concern for his dog means he is risking more than ever before, and his candid narration proves that he doesn’t take such canine risks lightly.
All this pushes When Dogs Fly beyond standard climbing flick fare and into the realm of contemplation. And, after years of playing the fearless adventurer, Potter finally allows himself to be afraid.