There’s nothing like going on a great adventure, or even a small one for that matter. But for those in between times, we read outdoor books and magazines, watch You Tube videos or Red Bull TV, and every now and then for a special treat, we can attend one of the outdoor themed film festivals that go on tour every year. Recently, I had the opportunity to go to the Reel Paddling Film Festival in Waltham, Massachusetts. The event, hosted by Charles River Canoe and Kayak and sponsored by Northern Forest Canoe Trail, featured four films that were winners in their respective categories and offered plenty of inspirational footage to make me want to get off my ass and start getting wet.
Karrie Thomas, executive director at Northern Forest Canoe Trail, was super friendly and provided everyone with great information on her organization. The folks at Charles River were also great and offered up plenty of food and drinks, as well as a bunch of swag that was raffled off during intermission. But of course, the stars of the show were the films themselves, and I recommend that you check out their individual websites for more background information on the making of each movie.
I suppose that everyone will have a most and least favorite film during these events and for me, this was definitely the weakest of the four films. Expedition Q won the Adventure Travel Film category and although it has some badass whitewater kayak footage, it seemed to be little more than a bunch of GoPro footage slapped together. There was very little dialogue or story behind the film. Looked like a pretty cool adventure and I’m sure it was awesome to actually be there, but from a cinematic standpoint there wasn’t a lot of meat on the bones. However, at less than twelve minutes it still makes for a good watch while having coffee.
Kayaking the Aleutians
As part of her human powered circumnavigation of the globe, Sarah Outen decides that rowing across the Pacific just isn’t going to happen. So she heads north to the tip of the Aleutian Islands and links up with kayaking expert Justine Curgenven to complete this part of her tour de force and make it to mainland Alaska. Filled with great footage of the two main characters in action as well as insights into their character, this made for an enjoyable watch. We get to see some of the treacherous channel crossings, wildlife, and native Aleutian villages that Sarah and Justine come across, and it’s wrapped into a storyline that flows well for the length of the film. Can’t think of a birthday gift for that sea kayaker in the family? Kayaking the Aleutians is sure to please. You can get the DVD or high-def download from Cackle TV.
Paddle for the North
Winner of the Canoeing category, Paddle for the North follows six friends, or “mates” as they like to be called, as they paddle through the Peel watershed in the Canadian Yukon and into Alaska. The film is designed to raise awareness for the Peel, which is slated for heavy development in the near future by the mining industry. The mission of Paddle for the North is to inform the masses in southern Canada and the United States about the Peel, its people, and to persuade us that some places are worth protecting. The conservation message in the film was prominent, but not overbearing. We are not made to feel like villains for driving our cars when we could ride our bicycles, or for using disposable coffee cups. As a miner himself, one of the mates says, “It’s not about picking a side, it’s about finding a sustainable balance.” Packed with great paddling footage and a spirited atmosphere that can only be created by six dudes on an epic camping trip, this film strikes a good balance between making us contemplate our compatibility with nature in the 21st century, and just having some fun in the wild. The film’s website states that online versions will be available soon, but in the meantime, check out the trailer.
The Important Places
As the film opens, filmmaker Forest Woodward recites the poem that his father, Doug, wrote for him when he was born in 1986, a wish that his son always remembers the path back to the important places as he finds his way in the world. The viewer is brought on a month long rafting trip down the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon, as Forest watches his dad re-live the expedition that he had done as a young man. Through Forest’s time machine, as he calls it in the film, we see Doug experience life in a way that makes him find his own path back to the important places, a path that he may have considered overgrown and gone forever. In the ten minutes it takes for The Important Places to run, we are forced to consider where we are on our own path, if it is leading in a direction that we want to travel, and our relationship to the people and places that we love. This film was outstanding, a must watch. It was the winner of the festival’s documentary category, and my favorite of the night. You should take a few minutes to experience it. You won’t be disappointed.
Most of the 2016 Reel Paddling film screenings in the northeast have already come and gone. But the movies themselves will continue to be online. Visit Reel Paddling Film Festival’s website to see all of the Short List film trailers.