Autana & Odyssey
I usually have a rule in that I don’t review books or films by mates, but I’m breaking the rule today as I’ve watched two pretty cool films in the last week and both deserve some plaudits.
The first was Autana by Alastair Lee of Posing Productions. Alastair has turned out some very good climbing films over the years and has been responsible for the last few ShAFF trailers, including last years’ which has now had 125,000 views! Autana is his latest creation and yet another partnership with Leo Houlding and Berghaus. Cerro Autana is actually a tepuy in Venezuela (tepuys are table-top mountains or mesas found in South America). The film is essentially a 57 minute story of a team climbing its East Face. It features arguably some of the best cinematography across the genre of climbing films, not just of the climbing action itself, but of the surrounding landscapes and skyscapes. As well as his impressive list of films, Alastair has published a number of photographic books featuring similar imagery to what I am talking about. It’s a visual feast. The climbing team consisted of Leo, Sean Leary from the USA and Jason Pickles, plus some local guides, Alastair and fellow camera man Dave Reeves. Jason has featured in a number of Al’s previous films as a bit of a sidekick to Leo, but in Autana he has really taken more of a leading role alongside Leo and Sean. Perhaps this was because the film features as much of the expedition story – jungle bashing, witch doctors, and insect swarms – as it does hard climbing, but I suspect that Jason’s sense of humour is being given a wider airing as he seems to thrive on the discomfort which seems to pervade Al’s trips! The climbing itself does look equally entertaining, dicy, and hard, with some great camera angles, but for me it was the bigger picture of a close-knit team pushing where others dare not that made it so watchable. That and the score. If you think Al pays close attention to his cinematography then he’s equally fastidious about his choice of music which steers the film along very nicely indeed.
Autana will be heading out on tour around the UK later this winter. If you would like to host it in your climbing wall / village hall, please get in touch.
The second film I watched last night, and that was the latest instalment from Paul Diffley at Hotaches Productions: Odyssey. Earlier this year Hotaches accompanied Hazel Findlay, James Pearson, Hansjörg Auer (Austria), Caroline Ciavaldini (France) in a big yellow truck on a British climbing road trip sponsored by The North Face. As I began watching the film my immediate expectations were of yet another road trip movie, something that’s been done to death, but it was quickly evident that with these four climbers, and Paul and Dom Bush responsible for the filming and editing, that we were in for something a little more absorbing. The trip takes in Northumberland, North Wales, The Lakes, Pembroke and Nesscliffe. It seems strange to have omitted the Peak, Scotland, and a number of other places, but given the fact that they probably had a finite amount of time, and we have not exactly been blessed with much good weather this year I think they did a pretty good job of sampling the best of British rock. The climbing at each venue looks fantastic. In between rain showers they seem to have managed to climb on some iconic crags in some beautiful light. At times it is elegant, at others it is sketchy, but it is always engaging. As is so often the case it’s the interviews and sound bites with the protagonists that give the film its charm. At the beginning of the trip Caroline, a supremely talented French sport climber can’t really get her head around the pointlessness of risking your life for a bit of rock on whilst traditional climbing above wires and cams, but by the end of the film she has dispatched an E8 at Pembroke, and sums up her change of heart and understanding by saying that British people visit France to taste wine, but that French people should visit the UK to taste rock (it’s a testament to her amazement at how many different rock types we have here, and how our history and ethical code have meant that we have treated it all with respect). It’s not a film for non-climbers, but if you’ve an interest in British climbing, ethics, and watching some very gifted climbers climbing some hard routes and talking about them in a very laid back manner, then you should definitely watch it.
In an interesting marketing move Odyssey will premiere at The Climbing Works on Nov 10th, and at the same time will be released online to stream for free for 10 days. During this time the DVD and download price of the film will be reduced.