Connectivity is in the water
I was once told that trying to explain a canoe trip to someone who wasn’t there was like cutting vegetables with a screwdriver. You can sort of do it, but it’s difficult.
The Reel Paddling Film Festival tries to bridge this difficult gap and succeeds in many areas.
Presented by The United Albertan Paddling Society (UAPS), the Reel Paddling Film Festival World Tour has been showcasing paddling movies since 2006 and covers all facets of water movement. With 20 films ranging in length from two to 20 minutes, Reel Paddling is a visual gift for paddlers anxious to start their season.
After viewing a few of the films, it became clear that each of them offered something different. Eyes of God was a study on a dream come true. Latvian Tomass Marnics had dreamt about paddling the Saryjaz River (on the Russia/China border) towards the Eyes of God—a mystical cliff face that looks like, well, the eyes of God. In realizing this dream, the team of extreme kayakers paddle, climb, traverse, repel, and portage its way across this rugged and gorgeous landscape. It’s a great introduction into what lengths a person will go to fulfill a dream.
The poorly named but wildly enjoyable Sea Kayak Around Ireland shows just what the title implies. Basically, two good friends and 40 days of paddling around the Emerald Isle. Counter Balance shows how paddling affects people who are in need of something extremely tangible, focusing on United States Army veterans who have problems reconnecting with their lives after coming back from service. Andrew Giles (a vet himself) takes a group of them on a four-day rafting trip down the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument Park in Colorado. The men laugh, cry and embrace the restorative powers of camaraderie and water.
The stand out of the films was a different one, in my opinion. It wasn’t extreme or altogether dangerous, it was more a nostalgic return-to-memory piece called Noatak: Return to the Arctic. In it, we join two men in their 70s revisiting a river they paddled together 35 years prior, namely, the Noatak (found in the Gates of the Arctic National Park). In this wonderful little work, “Tip” Taylor and Jim Slinger reflect on their friendship, their lives, and the perspectives they have gained from canoeing in the wilds and what rivers have taught them. At the end of the film, Slinger quotes American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay from one of her poems that couldn’t be more poignant, “My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends— It gives a lovely light!”
The over-arching through-line to all these films is friendship and connection. While it is hard to explain what it is like to paddle over a cliff, or to embrace the isolation of the unpopulated corners of our planet, Reel Paddling does a wonderful job showcasing humanity’s connection to one another in an intimate and solemn way. This is something that everyone can hopefully understand.
Tue., May 16, (7 pm)
Reel Paddling Film Festival
Metro Cinema, $15