The last week I saw the eleventh edition of the “Reel Rock” climbing video compilation at a pretty full auditorium in Stanford.
Last year Big Up/Sender film's compilation got a bit of a stick for being a complete sausage-fest, and I was happy to see that the gender balance is a bit more representative of the climbing community this year.
The first film was about Kai Lightner and Ashima Shiraishi traveling to Flatanger to do some totally amazing groundbreaking accents, which didn't happen. And which would have been a stupid storyline anyway. Kai Lightner and his mother came off very well from this segment, especially his mother who seemed to be a wise woman and whose thoughts I would have liked to hear more of. Shirashi wants to be the best climber in the world, whatever that means. In particular it seems to mean that a pointless addition of some “success” in Kyushu had to be tagged on to the end of the segment.
The best-climber-in-the-world thing made me depressed and very uncomfortable, even more as the entire Flatanger trip jarred with false notes, so it was great that the next segment “Boys in the bugs” offered comic relief.
Boys in the bugs has some very old-fashioned story telling about a team (Matt Segal and Will Stanhope) trying to free a horrendously hard fingercrack in the middle of a big shield of alpine granite in the Bugaboos. The segment really celebrates the pointlessness of it all, where our heroes sacrifice relationships, comfort and money to reach some ill-defined vague notion of success. Edited to show lots of hard drinking and funny dialogue. This was the best segment out of the five.
The third segment was about some Canadian local hero. I didn't catch her name, but some time after I lost interest in the clip and was checking my twitter feed she soloed some 6b+ thing in Patagonia and talked about being completely alone on the wall, except for the camera team one supposes? Sorry, but I would have looked if I was payed instead of paying to see this. (Addendum: The climber is called Brette Harrington, she's from south of the border and you should read her account in Alpinist instead. It's amazing.)
The fourth film was called “Rad Dad” and showed a dude called Mike dancing in spectacular locations wearing funny animal masques. So that was funny. The film should have concentrated on that part. Instead, the story of the film was about Mike being mostly absent from his family while concentrating on his self realisation, which was OK because he volunteered for a lot of PTA meetings when he was home. Alas, I couldn't connect with him and his struggles at all as he seemed basically clueless. Actually, to Mike there seemed to be no struggle at all.
The conflict between realising selfish climbing goals and responsibilities as a partner or a parent has of course been unsuccessfully covered by several climbing films, e.g. “A Line Across the Sky” from last year's Reel Rock, and equally as unsuccessful by climbing literature like “Psychovertical” by Andy Kirkpatrick. There is however a large corpus of excellent literature, theatre and film by authors who have been neglected by their loved ones.
The final film was by far the funniest. “Dodo's delight” showcases Belgian humour and lots of really shitty rock on Baffin Island. Narrated by Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll, who's genuinely funny, it was full of an unenforced sense of adventure in the true sense of the word. I'm not sure it is different from the web-episodes though? I saw those a while ago so I cannot really remember.
Rating: 3/5. Wait until it appears on your local torrent so you can skip segments 3 & 4. Segment 1 is probably quite good, so if you're less uncomfortable then I am by hard pressure from sponsors, choaches & parents on a 14-year old I'm sure it's quite OK