2011 Reel Rock Film Tour Kicks Off Tonight

2011 Reel Rock Film Tour Kicks Off Tonight

Tonight the 2011 Reel Rock Film Tour kicks off officially[1. There are simultaneous shows tonight in North Carolina and Minnesota as well] with two shows at Boulder, Colorado’s Boulder Theater.  2011 marks the 6th year for the tour, so I thought it would be interesting quickly review the prior five years before looking at this year’s show.  Here are the years and the movies that were shown as part of the tour:

  • 2006First Ascent & Dosage 4
  • 2007King Lines & Committed
  • 2008The Sharp End & a series of shorts about bouldering in South Africa, exploring the Grand Canyon, Dean Potter BASE jumping and onsight climbing.  2008 also marked the debut of first film making contest.
  • 2009Progression and episodes from First Ascent:  The Series
  • 2010 – No main film being shown but rather a series of shorts highlighting Chris Sharma’s work on First Round, First Minute, Daniel Woods and Paul Robinson climbing their hardest problems, Ueli Steck doing his thing and more.

This year’s tour follows the format of last year’s with each two hour show being comprised of several shorts [2. With Cold being a late but very welcome addition to the line up] and two winners from the film making contest.  The shorts cover a wide range of climbing—bouldering, comps, trad climbing, speed climbing, mountaineering, ice climbing—and herein lies the key challenge that tour co-creators Big Up and Sender Films are trying to overcome.  With an endless stream of free videos littering the internet, each film in the Reel Rock Tour, in my opinion, sets itself apart by not only impressing the viewer with great visuals but also telling compelling stories at the same time.

A good example of this is the Origins:  Obe and Ashima short, which chronicles the relationship between 9-year-old prodigy Ashima Shiraishi and coach Obe Carrion.  While the visuals of Shiraishi winning ABS Youth Nationals and sending hard boulders in Hueco[3.  The astute viewer will note that the “controversy” surrounding her dab on Right Martini was not mentioned at all in the film despite the tree brush being clear in the footage and the topic first being raised by Big Up at the time it happened.  They don’t, however, make any specific claim that she sent the problem either so one could understand how they decided to leave the debate over the nuances of dabbing for the interwebs.] are interesting in their own right, the stories behind not only their coach-pupil relationship but Carrion’s career in the climbing industry was what really made that film memorable.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L35qBS7XqvI&w=540]

The only film I didn’t really understand was the Slacklife piece with Andy Lewis.  I guess I missed the part where slacklining went from something you did on a rest day at Miguel’s to a full-fledged sport, but even without that lack of appreciation on my part, it was difficult to enjoy watching someone repeatedly risk his life for little purpose other than that of perhaps risking his life.  The film tries to touch on the danger inherent in Lewis’ lifestyle, but it’s hard to balance repeated acts of recklessness[4. Free solo highlining, BASE jumping with no experience, BASE highlining because he saw a video of Dean Potter doing it, etc.] with a few comments from friends expressing concern that Lewis may not be long for this world[5.  After seeing the footage, it’s actually surprising that Lewis wasn’t killed during the filming of this piece].  The decision to make this film the closing segment of the show seemed just as odd as including it at all.   The film is clearly intended to evoke a wide-range of emotional responses from people[6.  See, it got me], but it seems like the Reel Rock show could have ended on a better note[7.  Like how last year’s show ended, I think, with Ueli Steck’s Swiss Machine piece].

That complaint notwithstanding, the Reel Rock Tour is certain to be a hit yet again.  There is a nice mix of physical and emotional elements throughout each of the films that combine to tell interesting stories which should be more than enough to entertain audiences.

If  the tour is hitting a town near you I’d strongly encourage you to check it out.  It’s usually a pretty good party and a great excuse to check out some climbing on a big screen with a psyched crowd.  If you can’t make it or there are no screenings near you, then there’s always the DVD/download to look forward to.

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16 Responses to 2011 Reel Rock Film Tour Kicks Off Tonight

  1. Better than LT11. September 15, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    I was very disappointed with the rock tour this year, the bit on Andy made him look like an idiot ready and trying to die. Compared to last years I thought it was lacking… Uli’s piece was amazing and awe inspiring.. I thought the ashma piece was ok but not to the typical Big Up quality.
     
    It felt like they tried to make a movie that was not “climbing porn” but in reality that is what people want.
     
    I will add that it was much better than what LT11 is putting out.. but not by much… and that is a HUGE downgrade for BIG up and the Real Rock.
     
     

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  2. Nietzsche September 15, 2011 at 8:01 pm #

     “it was difficult to enjoy watching someone repeatedly risk his life for little purpose other than that of perhaps risking his life.”  I’m sure a lot of people would say that about people we tend to admire in the climbing community.  To each his own.

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    • Narc September 15, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

      I know what you’re saying but to me it’s not quite the same thing. In other movies that show people like Potter, Davis or Honnold doing things that are dangerous they often talk about how much work they do to minimize risk and how soloing is basically an exercise of being totally in control. There’s also something about free solo climbing that adds value to the experience other than simply facing off with death like the ability to climb a lot of ground much quicker than you could roping up. Obviously one could argue that free solo climbing is a pointless exercise that only serves to endanger one’s life, but there just seems something a little more purposeful to it than the free solo highlinging stuff. To each his own though like you said.
      The Lewis clip also made me think of that “Lucky Chance” guy who went viral with the clip of him nearly dying doing that death swing in Australia and now he’s in a coma after another accident. Obviously unfortunate news to hear about but also not terribly surprising.

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      • Nietzsche September 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

        Agree, but assigning (intrinsic) “purpose” to recreational activities is nonsensical.  There isn’t something different about it.  However, what I think is more distasteful is not what he chooses to do but that no matter how disclaimers the filmmakers interject in the film they are creating incentives for his extremely risky behavior.  I think that ethical line is blurred a heck of a lot more and matters a lot more than questioning his otherwise private motivations. 

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        • Narc September 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

          Sure, I think that’s a fair assessment. It’s not the first time really dangerous stuff has been promoted in movies before but there just something about this case in particular that really struck me.

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      • Eric September 16, 2011 at 1:16 am #

        These kinds of films make me feel uneasy too. I remember looking around the room at quite a few younger and perhaps more impressionable climbers in the audience as Steph Davis said, “You never know what you can do until you try it,” during her short on freesoloing/basejumping The Diamond and getting a strange vision of some gumbies heading out to go solo something above their limit because, hey, you never know until you try it.
           During Honnold’s short about soloing I was very nervous the whole time, even though I’d already read about the ascents and knew full well the outcome. Regardless, I was on edge and I didn’t like the feeling. I know I’m no soloist.

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      • Dylan September 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

        I tend to agree.  Highlining just feels more like contrived difficulty to me than things like free-soloing, though as you said I’m sure one could argue against that.  I tend to like the simplicity inherent in free-soloing, while the hours or days it takes to set up a highline for one crazy backflip/BASE jump/rope swing stunt seems to me like work going towards making something MORE dangerous.

        So perhaps the primary difference comes from the fact that in soloing, BASE soloing, and similar activities, the danger comes from reducing the complexity of the activity, whereas in highlining and rope jumps of the sort Dan Osman the most dangerous stunts tend to require the most elaborate setups that are designed to keep you alive, but only just barely.

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        • Nietzsche September 19, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

          I fail to see the significance of more/less complexity and how this significance supports the feeling of disapproval.  Contrived difficulty?  Bouldered much?

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  3. David Reifert September 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    I haven’t been able to track down any dates for when Reel Rock 2011 will be available for download or DVD, any news on that front?

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  4. Wesley September 15, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    How do you feel about Big Up manipulating history in some regards to their editing, as you referenced the dab and it not being mentioned.

    I remember last year watching the film on tour Sharma finished one of this problems by grabbing the chains before clipping in, but in the download when it came out they edited this out. I feel like doing things like this does a disservice to posterity.

    Not sure that this is the most important thing to take away from the films, but disconcerting nonetheless.

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    • Narc September 15, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

      In a lot of ways this has always been the unwritten rule for climbing movies. Many times the footage you see was spliced together from footage shot after the ascent, or in the case of Sharma climbing “Flight or Flight” in The Scene, before the ascent even happened.

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  5. Joe September 16, 2011 at 4:14 am #

    Narc Foster Wallace?

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    • Narc September 16, 2011 at 10:27 am #

      I had to look that up but well played.

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  6. Cadydreams September 16, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    The Ashima dab was well publicized when the climbing actually occurred or just right after the trip.  I don’t think they are trying to pass it off as a legit send, just showing where she is at skill wise.
    The Sharma climb you speak of is Neanderthal and I didn’t think the fact that he didn’t clip the chains ment that he hadn’t successfully completed the climb.  If you look the camera man is clipped into the anchors.

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    • Dylan September 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

      Yeah, my understanding of that incident was he didn’t have anything to clip the anchors with because he wasn’t expecting to send.  As it was, he made it up there and, from what doubtless was a good clipping stance, grabbed the anchors before jumping off. 

      Can you imagine the alternative?  “Nope, you’ve got to go down and climb this again because the guy filming you is hogging the anchor,”  or worse, “if you can hang on for who knows how long after climbing a 5.15b we’ll have someone bring you a quick draw so you can clip in and make the ascent valid.”

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  7. JMB September 18, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    I understand why people enjoy slacklining, but I don’t really understand why it belongs in a climbing film any more than say, a film about skateboarding, other than a lot of the people who do it tend to be climbers and it uses similar pieces of equipment.

    Reel Rock Tour doesn’t really interest me this year other than the piece about Gadd and Emmett climbing Spray On.

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