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"You can’t do an adventure film without falling in love": Meet the filmmakers behind ShAFF 2022

Yzabelle Bostyn chats to four filmmakers featured at Sheffield Adventure Film Festival, whose submissions all won awards at this year's festival.

This year's Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (ShAFF) spanned from the Peak District to Alaska, with activities featured including tree climbing, snowboarding and surfing. Despite the diverse range of outdoor pursuits on offer, each film in the programme shares qualities which capture the essence of ShAFF: sustainability, adventure and storytelling.

We spoke to four winners of ShAFF awards to learn more about their films and what makes the Sheffield festival so special.

Climbing giants

Climbing Giants

Dir. Sol Sun Media // Gold, Best Activism Film

For many UK climbers, the opportunity to climb a tree as they would a boulder seems far-fetched, but Costa Rican strangler fig trees offer this unique opportunity. Perfectly made for climbers, the trees’ roots grow up around the trunk, forming unique routes and holds.

Climbing Giants follows a group of climbers as they tackle not only the climbing 'problems', but the environmental issues facing the area. To co-director Noah Kane, this activism is key to adventure film.

“Adventure sports give you a sense of place and a reason to want to protect the outdoors. Something happens to us when we do adventure sports – all this adrenaline and endorphins builds a bond between you and that place.”

Forming this bond through climbing, Kane says, is a journey of self-exploration experienced as a physical, emotional and mental challenge.

“Adventure houses so much storytelling potential because it’s people going out and pushing their limits, their physical and mental capacities.

“Often these people are unique, fun, interesting individuals doing crazy stuff, and ShAFF invites people into these worlds.”

Trailer: Climbing Giants

If you give a beach a bottle

If You Give the Beach a Bottle

Dir. Max Romey // Silver, Best Activism Film

The remote island of Katmai, Alaska may seem like paradise, but look closely and you will spot a tidal wave of marine pollution.

According to director Max Romey, this "affects everyone’s world. Every piece of plastic that we pick up on these Alaskan beaches started in someone’s home."

Max’s decision to create a film inspired by children’s picture books to create awareness of this issue may surprise some.

“I wanted to use art to make what is a really depressing, really overwhelming topic just a little bit more accessible."

In documenting the pollution of the island, Romey lost himself. He admits: “You replace what you take with your heart which can be wonderful and awful when those places are in danger.

“You can’t do an adventure film without falling in love with the place you’re working in.”

Some may question what is adventurous about marine pollution, but it's exactly these ‘quiet’ adventures that Romey says are most important.

“We used a small sketchbook to make a small film about a short trip, but I’m amazed at the global impact this has had. We need the small stories to make the big difference.”

Trailer: If You Give the Beach a Bottle

Days off credit Richard Baybutt Cotic
Richard Baybutt (Cotic)

Days Off

Dir. Liam Higgins // Gold, Best Made in Sheffield Film

A snapshot of one doctor’s respite during the pandemic, Days Off is a homage to mountain biking in the Peak District.

Although an ‘adventure’ story, director Liam Higgins says the film is a portrait of anyone using a hobby to escape the difficulties of everyday life.

“Regardless of what difficulties you’re going through, having an escape is really important.

“This is a biking film but the story could be anyone going through a hard time.”

The quiet and meditative soundtrack invites the viewer to take a moment to escape, whether from the cinema or the Peak District.

Midair

Midair

Dir. Louis-Jack // Silver, Best Soundtrack & Bronze, Best Made in Sheffield Film

Midair attempts to capture the out-of-body moment a climber falls, whilst meditating on climbing’s "strange pointlessness" to an intense techno soundtrack.

Bouldering, says director Louis-Jack, "is the most pure, poetic kind of form of adventure."

“You're not conquering mountains, you're doing something completely, strangely pointless. It might be a lifetime's worth of training building towards that moment. It is an incredibly profound thing that humans do.”

Climbing, says Louis, is a largely individual pursuit grounded in a supportive community. He wanted the film’s star, Jim Pope, to represent all climbers whilst communicating the "camaraderie, friendship and teamwork" behind each ascent.

The techno soundtrack was inspired by training playlists. To Louis, both climbing and techno are "an out-of-body experience, where the mind and body intertwine and those two worlds brought together create a euphoria and ecstasy," – the experience of being in mid air.

Trailer: Midair

Learn more

To watch the films when they are released online or to learn more, visit the ShAFF website.

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