Extreme Movie

For the fourth consecutive year, this highly regarded festival made its way to Chico and drew a standing-room-only audience. The 25-year-old festival has grown from a small annual event in the Canadian Rocky haven of Banff to an international festival that this year attracted 213 entries, from which there were 44 finalists. The list was distilled down to 25 films that made a tour of 24 countries.

For extreme-sports enthusiasts, this is the Academy Awards. While the collection definitely had a young, gonzo attitude, there was a nice balance of cultural exposure and social/political awareness—all artfully done to the accompaniment of appropriate music.

The evening began with Nurpu, a short film about extreme kayaking mostly in Nepal. Expert kayakers were shown descending through narrow chutes, playing in giant waves and plunging over huge waterfalls (sometimes successfully, sometimes not).

We moved to No Strings Attached, a film about bouldering (climbing small walls and large rocks with no protection) in British Columbia. The climbers went for moves that they would not attempt on higher walls while their mates stood below ready to catch them (or get squashed) if they fell. My hands hurt just watching them grab rough rock and lose their grip.

Next came the big winner of this year’s festival—para-sailing in Nepal. We began in the Chugash Range Alaska with a group of young men from Telluride searching for the “perfect line” in the premier helicopter skiing site. After they found what they were looking for in skiing, they moved on to para-sailing, eventually making their way to Nepal, where they glided above steep, green terraced Nepalese valleys within sight of the highest mountains in the world.

But the high point of the evening for me was a five-minute film about a mountain unicyclist who defied gravity and any semblance of common sense with leaps across rock chasms, balancing on thin railings, jumps up stadium steps, riding within inches of certain death at the lip of Half Dome in Yosemite. The guy was amazing.

My only complaint would be the two films of wipeouts—one of a group of women mountain bikers and one of female skiers and snowboarders. While they probably garnered the most "oohs" and "aahs," I’d rather see the thrill of victory then the agony of defeat. Otherwise, it was an entertaining, three-hour evening of outdoor film entertainment at its finest.