A look at some of the adventure flicks screening at this year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival | TheUnion.com
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A look at some of the adventure flicks screening at this year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a four-week series of Prospector and Spotlight reviews leading up to the 18th Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City and Grass Valley, Jan. 16-20.

Into the Canyon

When you think of extreme sporting adventure you don’t think of going for a walk. You probably don’t even think of a backpacking trek. If the route is the Grand Canyon … the 277-mile length of the Grand Canyon … deep in the Canyon where there are no trails … now you’re talking adventure.



When you’re talking several hundreds of feet scrambling up and down, because it’s not like there’s a pathway along the Colorado River, that’s extreme. Add the indentations and side canyon impediments to navigating a winding straight line, this “going for a walk” ends up being more than 750 miles.

The film “Into the Canyon” includes walking in the snow, in 100+ degrees, on cliff edges including some not too sturdy terrain. It includes searching for water and meeting up with food stashes orchestrated along the way.



This extreme sporting adventure captures the magnificence that is the Grand Canyon, including the poetry of slot canyons and the pain of bloody accidents. It invites you into the hardship, peace and appreciation of their journey.

Deftly, the film interlaces ongoing issues of development in this iconic region of preserved wilderness. Companies claim rights to mine Uranium. Helicopter rides by the hundreds change the character of sight and sound. A proposed tramway funneling thousands of people per day projects to impinge on Navajo homeland.

Do you like going for a walk? You’ll like watching these two guys walking “Into the Canyon.”

Take Back the Harbor

Could going to high school qualify as fodder for an adventure flick? Maybe, if the students studied diving, vessel operation, ocean engineering, marine biology, marine systems and aquaculture. Maybe high school could be an adventure gig if they’re part of the Billion Oyster Project.

Kids from all five boroughs of New York City gather at the Harbor School just below Manhattan to help implement a massive cleanup of polluted waters of a huge city’s huge harbor. Maybe they can regenerate what New York Harbor used to have a billion of — oysters.

Oyster stands in New York used to be common as hotdog stands. Besides oysters being good for eating, oysters filter pollutants from the water. One oyster filters 50 gallons of water every day. A billion oysters could filter all of New York Harbor every three days. When oysters proliferate, it not only encourages more animal life in the water, you could actually feel safe eating what you catch.

The students rebuild and manage artificial oyster reefs. Excitedly, they find wild oysters. A boatload of students sees a whale in the harbor. One student finds a sea horse and says she cried.

A graduating student says, “How many high school students can say they contributed to the restoration of an estuary.” Another student says, “I’m a 17 year old making an impact in this world.” Students gain knowledge of fish, tides, and weather and an affection for their marine ecosystem.

This is an adventure to the future well worth watching.

Gone Tomorrow

“You don’t need mountains to have adventure; you just need something to get psyched on; we get psyched on climbing ice in Kentucky.” The conditions in Kentucky are hardly dependable. Good conditions may be “Gone Tomorrow” – the name of the movie. You may not see workable conditions for a year or forever.

That said, the miles they trudge, the creeks they paddle in the icy cold, it’s all in their backyard. It’s right in their Kentucky. Woulda thunk it? These climbers aren’t California or Colorado types, and who wants to go thousands of miles to those places? “You can find adventure anywhere; just go out and find it.”

They ascend bad rock, dripping wet verticals, 40, 60, 120-foot routes. Just the concept of climbing ice doesn’t seem too surefire. Getting away with it seems to be a big part of the rush. “He just endures and pushes through,” they say of one climber.

Part of the film is hearing from a couple guys who did this ice climbing 40-plus years ago. They were even stupider – and also proud of it – and with old-style tools, fewer tools, no helmets.

Whether it’s waterfalls frozen in midair or the side of a gorge or a rough cut next to a road, these guys got their stoke on. Somehow, they make it seem like they’re stoking a different kind of adventuring than other people.

The River and the Wall

Here’s a way to do politics. Watch the film “The River and the Wall.” Spend less than two hours travelling the 1200 miles of the Rio Grande. Spend time with five people on foot, on bicycles, horseback and canoe, adventuring along the border river of the United States and Mexico.

See birds, bears, bison, goats, sheep, deer, tortoises, ocelot …. They don’t know there’s a border. See towering rock cliffs, steep rugged mountains, sprawling desert. How does a wall impede people more than that sort of wilderness terrain?

See farm and ranch land and wall logistics that restrict landowners from vitality-giving water and productive soil. Did the Washington policy makers ask border people for their input? See the wall that already exists. Does it stop someone escaping gang violence and abject poverty, someone looking for jobs Americans won’t do?

See the expanses of beautiful wilderness, including Big Bend National Park and the International Peace Park it could be, if all the players fully embraced the border’s operational problems.

Follow the adventurers as they deal with bikes on muddy roads, non-trails too rocky steep for the horses, boat tipping rapids, and a worrisome near encounter with drug traffickers. Enjoy the backgrounds of wildlife devotees, horse wranglers, park administrators, photographer/filmmakers. Two of them come from illegal immigrant families (and lived pretty responsibly good lives).

Listen to the adventurers, who spend some of their time on a months-long journey talking about what building a wall means. Mostly, appreciate how much there is to appreciate.

Chuck Jaffee of Grass Valley likes to plug people into the spirit of independent filmmakers. Find his other articles for The Union at http://www.startlets.com.


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