The Sherpas have been winding up ski movie heads since November 2010 when they dropped a trailer for their next big project that had some jaw-dropping time-lapse cinematography. “This new film was two years in the making and spanned globe”, it’s gonna be insane!”, the internet chatter said. So the buzz built for All.I.Can through the spring and summer and expectations grew high going into the premiere at the 2011 International Freeski Film Festival in Montreal – and you know what? By the end, as I headed out from the screening, trying to walk straight after being pummeled by what I had seen, the only thought going through my head was that the trailer did not do its movie justice.
The Sherpas, a/k/a directors Dave Mossop and Eric Crossland, have set a new benchmark in ski movie cinematography in All.I.Can. The words “time-lapse” alone do not really describe what happens on screen when you get extremely long shots sped up 1000 times. Plants sprout from the earth, flowing lava hardens, ski hills fill up with snow and clear-cutters harvest logs from mountain vistas in the blink of an eye. The world takes on a noticeably different pulse when seen that way. Think LifeCycles, last season’s mountain bike visual feast mashed up with art-house movie favorites Powaqqatsi and Koyaanisqatsi.
Mossop and Crossland’s nature shot opening sets the tone for a film that aims to make apparent the connection between the sport of skiing and the environment of which it takes advantage. The film doesn’t open up with a heavy-handed “green” message, it just shows the world for what it is in all its natural glory. Nature, urban landscapes and industrial shots worthy of Edward Burtynsky all whip by, startling in their intense clarity. And after that stunning prelude, the Sherpas let loose with some of the tightest, sickest ski footage seen to date in a ski movie. James Heim and Mark Abma’s assault on the back-country soundtracked to The Boom Boom Satellites’ “On The Painted Desert” captures all the sublime glory of a deep powder run. Kye Petersen’s sequence is proof positive that he’s in the big leagues now: the kid has grown up as he shows skiing inclines so steep that even watching on a big screen alone will send the faint of heart and the weak stomached running for the exits in cold fear. Callum Pettit mystifies like a magician pulling cards from thin air by pulling off drops, runs and tricks that leave you momentarily stunned – “Did he really just do that”? Of course, being good British Columbia boys, the Sherpas drop some sledding into All.I.Can using the same sensibilities they take with their ski shots. If you’re familiar with other snowmobile action films, the result here is a revelation as Dave Treadway rides the back-country like a surfer working the waves off Oahu. His grace and skill are such that he and his sled become one. If you’re not familiar with what can be done on a mountain with a sled, be sure to be wearing Depends when you watch Treadway’s work.
The Sherpa’s ability to choose their shots, to get the flow going in their editing, and to synch their shots with music highlights has you floating alongside and above skiers. You get swept along down gladed tree runs, couloirs and back-country cliffs and you can practically feel the powder hit your face. All.I.Can lets you be a spectator to some spectacular descents but its tone and approach make it more personal somehow. It draws you in and makes you feel you are actually there, something that only the best ski movies can do.
As the movie passes the half way mark the environmental angle begins to rear its head more as the Sherpas ask us to question the way we operate within the blessings we’ve been given on this planet. While the film’s commentary here stays on a good, intelligent level, it doesn’t really say anything pointing to a firm, realistic direction until one commentator says (and I’m paraphrasing here) “It is about doing more instead of doing less it is just being creative in how you do more”. Now, there’s some wisdom. I have always thought that conservation and abstaining from any carbon use is a possible path but it’s not going to keep us progressing. Let’s progress in a way that actually helps the planet and all on it.
Producers sometimes claim to have made a “different type of ski movie”. The Sherpas have actually done it.
By Mark “The Attorney General” Quail