If you’ve spoken to me in the last few months, you likely know that Sheepscot is working on a documentary about the inspiring and then, suddenly, harrowing adventure of a young couple living in remote Alaska. (Yeah, sorry, I can’t stop talking about it.) A few weeks ago, I flew to Colorado to attend the Adventure Film Festival in Boulder. We wanted to know: What passes for adventure these days? And how are contemporary filmmakers approaching the subject?
Over the course of two days, I watched dozens of short films. Crews and cameras—predictably, lots of GoPros and drones—roamed from Tasmania to the Arctic, documenting the action. Here are the shorts that have stuck with me, the ones I’ve found myself thinking and talking about most.
Icelandic surfers reckon with the island nation’s fickle winds. The most surprising, genre-busting film at AFF. With sick surfing footage.
Two things I learned from what might have been my favorite film of the weekend: 1. Martin Litton prevented two dams from being built in the Grand Canyon. 2. In my next life, I want to be a whitewater dory boat captain.
Return to Zanskar
Soon, after centuries of isolation, a monastery in the Himalayas will be connected by road to the city. Thirty years ago, the filmmaker and his friend spent time there; in 2015, as construction nears completion, they go back to see what the monks make of the looming change.
Douglas Tomkins: A Wild Legacy
An amazing life story and legacy. Tomkins, who died in 2015, co-founded North Face and Esprit; famously climbed mountains with the founder of Patagonia; and most impressively, worked tirelessly with his wife to preserve millions of acres of South American wilderness.
The Last Ride
A love story—about a Peace Corps worker and the used mountain bike he buys in Honduras. Their intercontinental adventures over the next 13 years are recounted with a no-fuss production aesthetic, lots of heart, and a humility that’s missing from most adventure films.
The End of Snow
Climate change as seen by a snow scientist. Featuring a fabulously eccentric woodsman character.
China: A Skier’s Journey
Juxtaposing the demise in China of centuries-old, sustenance-skiing mountain communities with the nation’s fledgling consumer ski market.
Watching one adventure film after another, I couldn’t help wondering about the emotional well-being of their subjects, particularly when they’re not on camera scaling a cliff or mountain biking across the Alps. How well do these people cope with day-to-day life? Or when things go terribly wrong? Haywire begins to explore those questions.