Review of the Reel Rock Tour Premier

by Tom Markiewicz on September 11, 2008

You know you’re watching a great climbing film when your palms are sweating and you start trying to chalk up. Most of the films presented last night at the Reel Rock Tour gave me that reaction and I was pleasantly surprised. With so many trailers and clips floating around the Internet, I think I started to get a bit jaded; but the Reel Rock Tour delivered in a big way.

The night was divided into two parts. The first half of the evening showed the filmmaking contest winners followed by relatively short segments from Grand Canyon Walls, Dosage: South Africa, The Aerialist, and On Sight. After an intermission that went on entirely too long with a pull-up contest and gear giveaway on stage, the premier of The Sharp End was shown.

The first four films were simply amazing. Maybe it was because they sliced them down to the best bits to show us, but the video definitely highlighted some of the exciting climbing that is happening across the globe.

At the Boulder Theater last night, the entire crowd gasped as they watched Tommy Caldwell, Beth Rodden, and Chris McNamara climbing in the Grand Canyon. I’m sure the reaction stemmed from the fact that most, if not all of us, had never realized there was that much climbing there.

In Dosage: South Africa, Paul Robinson, Tommy Caldwell, and Daniel Woods take the viewers on a tour of the bouldering in South Africa. Again, there was some simply amazing footage here. It’s always enjoyable to watch elite climbers work though their methodology for successfully achieving their projects.

After the intermission, it was on to the big show. In what was probably one of the most visually stunning climbing films I’ve seen, The Sharp End delivered breathtaking footage and cinematography. Starting with climbing in Boulder, Colorado traversing the world before ending in Europe with Dean Potter’s free solo / base jump, The Sharp End provided the viewer a glimpse of how some climbers are pushing the edge of the sport.

There was a heavy dose of the historical throughout the film which I thoroughly enjoyed. While not a documentary, the transposing of old photos in classic areas like Eldorado contrasted the footage of climbers like Hank Caylor pushing themselves on X rated routes.

One aspect of The Sharp End that I was not so sure about was the heavy focus on base jumping. Not that it wasn’t enjoyable to watch, but initially it felt disjointed as in “hey, I’m watching a climbing flick why so much of this?” Granted it was climbers like Dean Potter, Chris McNamara, and Steph Davis performing the base jumping, but it was a good portion of the film nonetheless.

By the end, I understood why the filmmakers included the non-climbing aspects because of how it helps tell their overall story. Overall though, I found the slack lining, tower jumping and base jumping a little bit too much. Was it interesting? Yes, but I’d always prefer more climbing when possible. But while many climbing films simply show footage of climbing, The Sharp End tells a story and a good one at that.

While The Shard End isn’t a film I’d likely buy and watch over and over for the climbing; it was an excellent movie overall. An interesting story line combined with outstanding visuals make Sender Films’ The Shard End a must see.

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