Brit Rock IV Film Tour – Film Review
The Brit Rock IV Film Tour returns to Toronto on Nov 21, 2022. This year's tour features three films that showcase three distinct climbing styles in breathtaking locations.
The first film, Sea to Summit, follows the journey of five climbers as they paddle their way to a remote big wall in Greenland. You read that correctly, I said paddle. In an age where most climbing takes place a few hundred meters from a car and updates can be instantly shared on social media, these brave adventurers decided to abandon these conveniences and pursue a real climbing adventure. What unfolds in the next 30 minutes is the quintessential definition of type-two fun. Over 59 days, the team paddles 450km, portages kayaks, carries massive loads, fends off freezing conditions and battles clouds of insects, all in the hopes of bagging an FA on an unclimbed 800m wall. It's a next-level suffer-fest, which is in itself impressive, but what is even more remarkable is the team's ability to remain positive during the ordeal. And for me, this is the most rewarding aspect of the film. Sure, the natural landscape is impressive, as is the team's dedication to the audacious goal of the expedition. After all, they could have been air-dropped across the wall. Still, their camaraderie and high spirits in the face of such challenging and protracted conditions are the film's real highlights. In an era of climbing films obsessed with documenting the bagging of big numbers, it's refreshing to see a movie that puts the grade-chasing on hold and celebrates more human and universally appreciated ideals.
Queen Lines stars American Anna Hazelnutt as she teams up with Tom Randall to tackle a couple of UK trad testpieces. This film has all the prerequisite UK climbing tropes (quirky characters, dangerous routes and stunning countryside), so it's not surprising that it's an entertaining glimpse into the UK trad scene. The fact that Anna Hazelnutt has only been placing widgets for about a year makes her journey (and the film's narrative) even more compelling. That said, there is little in this film that's not been seen before other than the fact that the lead protagonist is a woman. For some viewers, this will be enough, but for climbers that have been following the UK climbing film scene long before the days of Hard Grit (guilty as charged), the film covers familiar ground. That's not to say it's not entertaining – the filming is excellent, Anna's enthusiasm is charming, and the barefoot dancing scene at the end is worth the price of admission.
The last film, Ephemeral, is the strongest offering in the series. While the two previous films had a whimsical air, this movie is a more serious exploration of Scottish winter climbing and the individuals involved in that scene. The filmmaker, Alastair Lee, explores this unique climbing area from the perspective of both the filmmaker and the climbers. By taking this approach, viewers begin to grasp the challenges involved with accurately capturing the essence of climbing in these challenging environments. The film follows Guy Robertson and Greg Boswell as they seek new climbs in the constantly changing Scottish mountain weather. Those unfamiliar with Scottish winter climbing may not realize the difficulty that is involved with this endeavour. Even during the best conditions, Scottish winter routes are ephemeral; in shape one day and gone the next. And the winter of 2021/2022 was particularly challenging. The film follows these climbers as they attempt to bag new ascents during some of these fleeting winter conditions. But rather than devolving into simple climbing porn, Lee also explores the region's history and the individuals who, via their ascents, legitimized it as a winter climbing area. The film maintains an understated tone that respects the subject matter and the seriousness of the climbing. This is a refreshing change from many climbing films attempting to create a dramatic narrative for less committing endeavours like bouldering and cragging. As climbing continues to grow and become more of a front-country activity, it's wonderful to see films like Ephemeral that celebrate the soul and history of the sport.
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