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Review: Vicarious thrills at the Mountain Film Festival

The Wānaka App

Staff Reporters

01 July 2024, 5:00 PM

Review: Vicarious thrills at the Mountain Film FestivalEvery claustrophobic step was felt when watching Subterranean.

The Wānaka App always enjoys the armchair thrills at the New Zealand Mountain Film and Book Festival, hosted right here in Wānaka, and this year’s offerings were no exception.

Subterranean (directed by Francois-Xavier De Ruydts) is a classic thrill-seekers adventure story which follows two groups of cavers as they try to cave further into two Canadian caves than anyone ever has before. 

You can feel every claustrophobic step watching the cavers as they try to wedge themselves through tiny openings, claw their way through mud-filled caves, and dive in deep, dark, never-before-explored underwater caves.

This reporter had expected heroism, but the humour throughout the film was a pleasant surprise.

Revisiting a 1993 base jump from the Great Trango Tower.

The cavers’ relentless enthusiasm for exploration goes some way in helping us non-cavers understand the appeal - but we still think it’s a sport better enjoyed by proxy.

Eternal Flame (directed by Nicolas Boassard) was something of a trip down memory lane, as it recreated the 1993 ascent of the 6258 metre Great Trango Tower followed by an historic base jump. 

This reporter saw the film in 1993 and vowed never to jump off anything again, so watching the remake (including split-screen comparisons with the 1993 film) in a comfortable seat 31 years later was a blast. 

Keeping it burning: Edu Marín, his father Novato, and brother Alex.

The two French climbers repeating the 1993 effort gave kudos to that team’s pioneering efforts. The 2023 duo said they were neither the best climbers nor the best base jumpers, but were just motivated. Well, okay. 

Technology has come a long way since 1993 (when the jumpers’ helmet-mounted cameras were enormous), but the emotional reaction to successfully completing the base jump seemed to be just as intense.

Keep it Burning (directed by Guillaume Broust) followed a professional Spanish climber who took his “dream team” - his brother and 70-year-old father - to free climb the Nameless Tower the Karakoram. 

This was a pleasure to watch, not just for the family dynamics (a hilarious, nuggety dad and his equally hardcore sons) but the extraordinary climbing on the flawless rock tower. 

Avalanches, altitude sickness, a very long storm, and a demanding route were just bumps in the road for this motivated family - making for a great experience for the armchair adventurer.