It’s the film review that won’t go away. Promise,
this will be my last blog about the backcountry skiing movie ‘Sanctified, reviewed in a previous blog.
Film maker Sam Pope contacted me yesterday, with concerns about my overall poor impression of the movie. Sam asked me what I’d suggest for making Sanctified better — good blog fodder!
Sam’s main goal with his backcountry skiing film was to get the point across that our environment is heavily threatened and non-motorized winter recreators (especially backcountry skiers) need to do something about it (along with everyone else). I don’t totally agree with that point of view, but in the interest of fairness to Sam, as a creative person here are some ideas for improving the film (caveat: I have no wish to play filmaker, and am fully aware of my zero qualifications in that area, so take this as you will).
- Focus. I learned a long time ago as a writer that focus was top priority. ‘Sanctifed’ lacks focus. Too many sub-themes clutter up the presentation. Even trying to mix an anti development message with a global warming action call mixed things up.
- Title. Quite a few people believe in the sanctity of God, but many draw a distinct difference between God and creation. Sure, perhaps creation is sanctified and perhaps recreating in the wilderness is thus sanctified (at least unless you’re a white supremacist doing military maneuvers in Idaho), but bringing in such a loaded word just didn’t work. I would have been more comfortable with the title if the film was about the "why we do it" of backcountry skiing. But using it for an environmental documentary was too much for this kid.
- Logic. If you’re presenting a polemic, all arguments must be heavily edited for logic (and yes, Virginia, I could do a better job with that on my blog, but two wrongs don’t make a right…). In Sanctified, we’re warned about developments that are actually little to no threat to the backcountry, global warming that’s certain, but, gets more certain every day, ski areas that are supposedly helping with the problem rather than exacerbating it (ha), etc.
- Preaching. As a church going guy, I felt that watching Sanctified was like being dragged into a born-again church and expected to convert after good music and a bombastic sermon.
In most cases, aint gonna happen. More, do we do that to our friends? No, and a movie shouldn’t do it to us. Sanctified needed a focus group instructed to comment about perceptions of "preaching." After that, the film needed to be edited so it was less preachy. Perhaps the Aspen Ski Co pastor could have been left out entirely. (After all, they’re selling lift-served backcountry skiing here in Aspen — while awesome, hardly a solution to global warming.)
- Elitism. Along with preaching, the overall elitist tone that many of the Sanctified narrators take (even the ski company CEO disses other ski resorts) is just a turn-off. To outsiders, one person’s self proclaimed privileged backcountry lifestyle just looks like petty self-gratification (yippee, I’m spending my children’s college fund). This is where a sub-text of " why we do this" might have worked in the film, but such would need to be tied in to overall social values. For example, what do backcountry sports teach us, and how can we return those positive lessons back to our society? And thus, backcountry sports have value for everyone, not just the people getting face shots…
- Story. In my case, I find a film much more compelling if it tells a story. Sanctified was a documentary of sorts, but any tale telling was pretty thin. A group of friends could have been followed, or the history of the sport could have been tracked and tied to population growth, or something
- Solution. Just like an alter call after an evangelical sermon, a movie such as Sanctified needs a firm set of actionable solutions. If global warming is indeed happening, after the sermon the preacher needs to offer some hope, and something we can actually do. Problem is, if stopping global warming will take a reduction of carbon economy by 1/2 to 2/3, then stopping it requires radical lifestyle changes and a whole new energy economy for the world. Presenting specifics about such would be a buzz killer at the end of a stoke film (e.g., give up travel, and what about China?), but not including them (at least in brief) left me hanging.
There you go Sam. If any of the above was actually present in the film, it still didn’t work for this viewer… That’s it for one man’s comments.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.