Adventure Film Festival 2011

On Tuesday evening, I attended a premier in Leicester Square!  The Adventure Film Festival is 5 weeks of Adventure and Exploration films, shown in cinemas across the country and this was the premiere night: short versions of 3 films showing in the full programme, each followed by a Q&A with the stars and producers.  A goodie bag containing Maltesers (has there ever been a finer item of confectionary for cinematic consumption?!) was supplied to maintain sugar-fuelled excitement!

The evening was excellently compered by Jim Odoire, of Black Diamond, (who curate the event) and we began with an extended promo of Charley Boorman’s latest project - Extreme Frontiers: Canada.  Produced and Directed by Charlie’s long-time collaborative partner, Russ Malkin of Big Earth, the series makes a departure from his previous “A to B” adventures.

With the focus off transport-related shenanigans, Boorman could relax and enjoy the country in a way we haven’t seen before: Canada was the destination, allowing Charley (and us) the time to explore it properly.  With this more relaxed format, complemented with excellently researched activities and events for his participation, Charley came across as enthusiastic, likeable and engaging.

He talked about being able to, “really get to know Canada in a way he hadn’t any other country,” and being pushed to the limits in this enormous “Northern Playground.”  One audience member seemed suggested that the adventure wasn’t genuine because of the funding and support.  “Lucky us,” was Charley’s tongue-in-cheek response, but Russ took the opportunity to explain adventure-film-making.

“We try and maintain the integrity – to do it as real as possible - whilst working under the constraints and time-limits of filming a broadcast-able programme, book and website.  That does remove some of the aspects of a travel-adventure, but there are some advantages, yes.  It’s important that we have fun, if we can, but we’re not Lording it over people.” [youtube=]

And the film was a lot of fun: we saw Charley climbing a mountain, failing miserably at extreme cow-boying, and taking part in the Calgary Stampede.  Some of the more extreme aspects had been edited out for the promo, so it looks to be a very watchable series.  Charley really gives each of the adventures a go, some of which terrified me just watching (this is no molly-coddled celebrity on a show because of their fame) and his likeability suggests he might be the new Palin, for bringing the world into our living rooms.  Extreme Frontiers: Canada is on Channel 5 in December, so keep an eye out.

Rowing the Arctic was an expedition to reach the 1996 Magnetic North Pole by rowing boat, only possible now because of climate change (in ’96 the same destination was reached on foot).  The three vignettes we saw showed the challenges and isolation of this environment, but was most interesting in its telling of the human elements: cramped sleeping conditions, fear of polar bears and the challenges of following open leads.

In the Q&A, Mark Beaumont came across as a likeable, composed and focused sportsman of the Matthew Pinsent mould – but then he is an accomplished film maker and has cycled around the world!  He paid credit to Mark Barrett for time and effort required to put together the edit and compose a story out of the reams of footage.  Mark himself pointed out that, unlike many TV adventures that create drama for the story, this film had almost too much drama to fit in.  Combined with some beautiful cinematography, this will be a great programme when aired.

Jock Wishart was an intriguing character.  There can be no doubting his polar credentials, self-belief and ability to organise an expedition, and he paid great compliments to the crew.  Some bloggers have commented on this expedition and Jock’s exaggeration as to the magnitude of this particular adventure in comparison to other world firsts.  Whilst the expedition itself was certainly impressive, some of Jock’s statements as to “fortune favouring the bold” and “I’m the kind of guy who makes impossible things happen” didn’t necessarily fit with the self-effacing demeanour of great British explorers, such as Fiennes.

The final film was Follow That Fire Engine: Steve Moore’s efforts to drive a fire engine from Dorset around the world via Russia, China, Australia, America and the Sahara in memory of Steve’s father Garth, who died of lung cancer.  Raising money for 3 charities, Steve had told his father of the plan whilst Garth was in the last stages of cancer, and Steve’s sheer passion for the mission, as well as the toll it takes on him, is clear.

The film was a mix of comedy, reportage, touching video diaries and events (such as Boris Johnson being as entertaining as ever).  It was the honesty that shone through: crew members switching between feeling lucky and wishing they were home; Steve’s reflections on an attachment to an emergency vehicle; support staff explaining Moore’s sacrifices for the project.  In the Q&A, it was revealed that the only use of the blues-and-twos was to avoid a 9-day Beijing traffic jam, although there was some belief among the Russians that the crew were the solitary contribution from Britain in combating their terrible wildfires last year!  FTFE is on as part of the Adventurefest series, but they are looking for a broadcaster: any commissioners reading this should look them up, as it’s an incredible story.

Whether you’re looking for inspiration, challenge, wonder or emotion; snow, or rock; fire-engine or bicycle; there’s something for everyone at the Adventure Film Festival 2011.  So jump on the website and see what’s showing near you.  Some of these films may never be shown publicly again, so catch them whilst you can!