You’ll thank me after watching these films

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Finding Traction, 2014.  Directed by Jaime Jacobson and Charles Dye.

This fifty-five minute action-packed documentary follows ultra-runner Nikki Kimball on her shot at cracking the fkt (fastest known time) on Vermont’s Long Trail: 273 miles, 4 days!  Just thinking about that makes my feet hurt.  No spoilers here, but I will say that at times watching this was tough.  Kimball has to run something like 70 miles a day if she is going to break the record, which is totally bonkers, and the camera misses very little.  The highs are high and the lows are low.  At one point Kimball breaks down and says she just wants to die, and all we can do try to empathize with what it might be like to put your mind and body under that much strain and still keep moving.

 

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A Walk in the Woods, 2015.  Directed by Ken Kwapis.

Based on Bill Bryson’s book of the same title, this film stays relatively true to Bryson’s memoir.  Of course, as with any film based on a book there are itetms he director chose not to include.  But it doesn’t matter.  The film is great.  Nick Nolte completely steals the show.  From the moment he shows up with his “trick knee”, to his expertise in “panty-ology”, to his harrowing escape from Beulah’s husband, this film ropes you in with humor and brilliantly delivers inspiration as well as an ecological message.  Definitely worth taking the time.

Six Million Steps: A Journey Inward (2011)

Six Million Steps: A Journey Inward, 2011.  Produced by Armando Caceres Jr, and Amanda Gail Smith.

This ethnography about hiking the 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail follows a number of hikers and let’s them tell why they do this and why it matters in their own voices.  There is no narrator, and only brief historical background on the Pacific Crest Trail and this is told through text on screen.  But that’s what makes this film so great.  No voice over or critic provides analysis for the viewer.  The pilgrims in the film talk about connecting with nature, the loss of self and destruction of the ego, how they might be running from or to something–a whole range of possibilities.  If you hike, or love the outdoors, you’re sure to connect with something in this film.

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Valley Uprising, 2014.  Directed by Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen.

By far the best documentary on the history of climbing in Yosemite Valley.  The documentary doesn’t go back to the establishment of the valley in the 19th century but that’s not the point of this film.  The film really begins it’s chronology in the 1950’s with a brief mention of John Salathe, before moving on to the historic rivalry between Warren Harding and Royal Robbins.  From there it covers climbing in the seventies and eighties with the Stone Masters, Lynn Hill, John Bachar, Ron Caulk, Jim Bridwell and eventually to the Stone Monkeys who are carrying the torch from those in the seventies.  A fascinating story, amazing cinematography and a great soundtrack all make this film worth your time.