Show & Prove
Consisting of “Show & Prove” (2006), “Believe” (2007) and “The Massive” (2008) Constantine Papanicolaou’s (“CP”) “Tanner Hall Trilogy” is fundamental to understanding not only the virtuoso level of skiing that Tanner Hall and his crew have achieved but to what has been accomplished in skiing in the first decade of the 21st Century. Without a doubt, these skiers have had a large role in developing what is now called “freeskiing”. It’s well-worth viewing all three in succession and since they total just over two hours it’s not an impossible task.
Executed in documentary format “Show & Prove” sets the stage for the 2005-2006 season for Tanner Hall and CR Johnson. The main thing you have to be aware of in the opening moments here is that Hall was recovering from a serious break of both feet from a jump at Chad’s Gap, Utah. Needless to say, foot injuries and skiing do not mix so there’s a jagged element of suspense going on here. Copping a guerrilla filmmaking vibe using handheld camera shots, director CP captures the rising steam and sweat as Hall and Johnson work hard on an urban rail warm up. There are no glamour shots here – CP shoots it like what it was – a warm up for the onset of the season where the pay-off from all the hard work could be big.
Hall then takes off for Finland to hit some more rails with PK Hunder while Johnson stays stateside to ride the powder expected from an early season storm in the Wasatch Mountains. That’s when calamity strikes once more, this time for Johnson. Getting hit just below his helmet by a fellow rider, Johnson ends up in a coma for 10 days. Hall gets back from Finland to find his best friend wired up to life support and is devastated. At this point CP’s skills as a director and editor come into play well because Hall needs to keep skiing to make the season pay off. In lesser hands, the story would have turned to interviews with the principals about their feelings on this event and tone would have gone really heavy – that would have been stereotypical. Remember, this is supposed to be a sports action ski movie about 2 guys about to have a great year. CP wisely turns to music to keep the film afloat and drops Massive Attack’s track “Dark Storm Days” which elegantly conveys the sense of sorrow that’s now dripping off the screen and that perfectly underscores a beautiful back-country powder session. Hall, Tanner Rainville, Skogen Sprang and Evan Raps ski it out and the movie keeps moving.
Heading back to the hospital in Salt Lake, Hall is there when Johnson comes out of the coma. Harnessing the Ken Burns effect and a host of black and white photos, CP injects some hope back into the story. While Johnson continues his recovery, Hall, Dan Treadway, Seth Morrison and JP Auclair head to Retallack and Baldface Lodge to ski trees and pillows. Then it’s back to rehab where Johnson’s pace of recovery is astonishing. He’s now walking under his own steam and exits the hospital after 34 days when his recovery was originally predicted at six months to a year.
At the end of January 2006, Hall closes on gold in the pipe at the Winter X Games, and so starting one of skiing’s great legends: coming back on top in a professional sports scene full of amazing talent after what would have been a career ending injury for anybody else. His 2006 victory has often been portrayed as a win for both Hall and Johnson. With Johnson setting the example and making a heroic recovery, you can argue that he made it plain to Hall that he can prevail despite the double break just the season before. The two feed off each other and triumph as a result. CP’s unraveling of the story gets that feeling across subtly and makes it that much more real and believable.
By February 2006, with Johnson on the mend and a gold medal in his ski bag, the blue skies come out and the needle drops on a track by Turbulence for a couple of sequences of back country spins and other tricks with Anthony Boronowski, Rainville, Callum Pettit and Sean Pettit (showing early traces of the style that will catapult him to the top of the heap in 4 years). Seth Morrison and Hall then head up to Pemberton BC. They were still getting hammered with a late winter storm so the boys head for the trees to wait for some bluebird. Two weeks later they were still waiting but when the weather does break on their last day, Morrison wastes no time in throwing back flips off unfathomable cliffs. Huge “Holy $41T” moments.
The movie closes out with Johnson gearing up for a late season run. How will he fare? You find out in “Believe”, the next installment in the Tanner Hall Trilogy. “Show & Prove” is a solid sports action film melded with a compelling documentary. It’s one of those documentaries that could never be scripted and it relies on the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time. CP harnesses this and delivers a film that serves as a great building block in the creation of the Tanner Hall legend. By Mark “The Attorney General” Quail