There are, no doubt, saner ways to film the Cordillera Blanca of Peru than paragliding a few feet above jagged glaciers, vertiginous cliffs and freezing lakes, camera and breathing and life itself neatly suspended -- but that wouldn't be the path chosen by Sweetgrass Productions, a backcountry film crew bred from an unholy mating of Warren Miller and Hunter S. Thompson, with a dash of Kierkegaard for good measure.
Sweetgrass features the work of four Colorado College graduates, plus a photographer from Montana, who have cranked out a series of highly entertaining ski-and-snowboard documentaries. That's a crowded field, but the Sweetgrass varietals tend to be both visually stunning and have a strong narrative line; or, as their website declares, "We give our time to filming remote freeride lines, from snowsurf and noboard to alpine and tele. We focus on the riding, we focus on the art, we focus on blending the two into what we call film, both form and content... Our films are based in this knowledge that there is more to a mountain than fresh snow and a big line; there are stories to be told."
(Personal disclosure: Sweetgrass director Nick Waggoner was, in a former life, a student in a journalism class I taught. What he may have gotten out of that, I have absolutely no idea.)
With films about winter fun in Japan, British Columbia, Alaska and Colorado already available on DVD, Waggoner and the others -- producers Zac Ramras and Ben Sturgulewski, director Yuki Miyazaki, photographer Michael Brown -- have embarked on their most ambitious project yet: Solitaire, an exploration of backcountry magnificence from Patagonia to the Andes. This time around, the company is posting webisodes of the documentary in the making, and the bit about paragliding the Cordillera Blanca can be found in the just-released video below. The sound is not great -- the narration seems to be coming from the bottom of a very deep crevasse -- but you do get an appreciation for the kind of effort involved in the filmmakers' quest for the perfect shot.
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"At 18,000 feet, it's never simple," Waggoner notes.
Indeed. For other webisodes dealing with the South American project, go here.
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