African Fusion Film Review

This is a review that has been written by someone who wishes to remain anonymous:

When I first heard the mighty Alex Honnold would be gracing our South African soil, I was excited to say the least.  I then heard he would be part of a locally produced film to promote the amazing world class lead climbing our beautiful country has to offer.  I slowly started to see and hear more about the film as it began to take shape, and got my first glimpse of Mr Honnold and the crew at the Boven Roc Rally 2013.
How exciting it was to see some pretty talented people combining skills to create something truly epic!

Africa Fusion Cityrock Johannesburg

After watching the preview clip on Vimeo I was hooked!  I looked forward to the film and waited in eager anticipation for my turn to see Alex Honnold (USA) and Hazel Findlay (UK) crush some of SA’s best lines.  After it had its debut screening in Cape Town I heard absolutely nothing.  In fact, all I could find was this review on samountain.co.za which was a little boring and “sales pitchy” for me.

I then waited it out and eventually purchased the film myself for $12 (R180) on Vimeo.
They took my hard earned moola so here’s my honest opinion and review of African Fusion – A rock odyssey.

As I mentioned before, the main attractions in this film are Alex Honnold and Hazel Findley,who are both sponsored athletes who crush harder than you do in your dreams.  They were joined briefly by local heroes such as Alard Hufner, Andrew Pedley and Clinton Martinengo as they traveled to some of our most beautiful places to climb.  These places include the enchanting granite faces of Spitzkoppe, the massive multi-pitch trad walls of Blouberg, the mecca of sport climbing; Waterval Boven as well as some beautiful destinations in the Western Cape, including Table mountain, The Mine and the Yellowwood Amphitheatre.

It seems like the broad idea was meant to be, that the local heroes would take Alex around showing him some of the classic climbs and their personal projects in order to let him experience SA’s finest.  However I feel something went wrong somewhere along the production line and there was a serious feeling of dis disjointedness throughout the film and no solid story or structure.  This isn’t a massive problem as a road trip style climbing film an makes a great plan B, if executed correctly.  We are all here for the climbing anyway, right?
The film contains some of Alex Honnolds free soloing and some interesting insights into his thoughts about trad, sport climbing and free soloing.  You also see him crush some routes that have never been “free climbed” before.  I personally enjoyed the clips with Hazel far more than Alex as there is arguably nothing better than seeing ladies on bad-ass routes like Godzilla, especially Hazel, who has an intense amount of skill and strength and looks amazing when she gets the flow going.  She also gives a much better insight into her personal view of climbing and just seems a little more in touch with the viewer than Alex.  The local boys also get some cool airtime but not enough if you ask me.  Tisk tisk.  This was, after all a great opportunity to ‘show off’ what SA has to offer.

Alex Honnold South Africa

Alex hanging out with the baboons

 

Once you get past some of the incredibly B grade drone footage the cinematography in this film is truly spectacular and it proves that our local talent is most definitely on a par with the international level, some of the footage that was created is honestly amazing.  The climbing shots are flawless and creativity oozes out of them and it’s as if you were hanging right there watching the insanity unfold in reality.  There is also a mix of insane cutaways and aerial shots that will get your heart pumping and make you wish you could be on the face sweating bullets just like the hot shots.  The soundtrack is also a bit of a strange thing, I commend Fresh Rock Films for sticking to local artists, seriously – big thumbs up guys!  While most of the soundtrack brings the psych I did on the odd occasion feel like the African drums where perhaps a little too much.

So is African Fusion a good climbing film?  Well…in my opinion it has all the makings of a great film, massive budget, helicopters, drones, great international climbers, the finest routes SA has to offer and an awesome crew to film it all.  But did it hit the mark?  Well.. I was left highly underwhelmed and felt a little cheated of my money, so no it didn’t.  The film seems to focus so much on trying to punt SA as a place to visit which is fantastic and a truly amazing thing for tourism in our country but it misses an incredibly important aspect of a rock climbing film, the actual climbing.  The editing on all of the climbing is so disjointed and choppy that you get about 40% of what each climb is actually about and feel like it’s incredibly rushed.  Also the first actual semi cohesive climbing clip is 27 minutes in when Alex and Clinton take on Dog Of Thunder which is insane.  I liked the fact that you got to know the international climbers pretty well through some solid interview segments, although I have to say that I found Alex’s comments regarding Hazels weight a little off key and they left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.  Poor form Alex, manners maketh the man, even if she is your pal.  It also seemed like they were both directed towards what they should climb and showed a bit of disinterest towards certain routes which I think is a little awkward and could have been avoided.

The film is only 52 minutes long, surely there was more climbing that could have been put in instead of cutting every single climb short?  I also have to wonder why there is a whole space filler segment of beautiful time-lapse shots right at the end, I’m sure they could have been used way more creatively during the film.

Africa Fusion Film

I can think of a couple of things I would rather have spent R180 on than purchasing this film but I still highly recommend that you seek out African Fusion and give it 52 minutes of your time.  It’s not the greatest climbing film in history and certainly not the BIGGEST film of 2015 but its a pretty good first attempt at a local large budget climbing film.  I’m quite sure it will do a great job of promoting our country and does make me feel proud to call SA home.  I think Fresh Rock Films will have to sell quite a few copies of this film to remove the dent it left in somebodies pocket, but I hope to see more from them in the future and hopefully they can learn from this film and create something truly amazing next time.

That all said, I will still be sitting at the Jo’burg screening (29th April) amongst you all, even if it is just to check out the fancy new playground that is being built for us Jo’burg climbing folk.

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5 Responses to African Fusion Film Review

  1. Ash Cramb Apr 21, 2015 at 8:24 am #

    Sure, we aren’t ranking it up there with Wolverine or Shrek, but how many films have actually been solely focused on climbing and have had as much involvement as Alex and Hazel have? Very little… that isn’t even taking into account that it is a South African produced film.

    All in all, I’d recommend any climbing lovers and outdoor enthusiasts to do themselves a favour and go watch the film. Regardless of experience or talent in the climbing world, the film takes you to some incredible climbing hidden gems and if anything will set some sparks off for motivation to get out there.

    That’s what makes it so big.

    Proudly South African and crimping onto the love of climbing.

  2. Robert Breyer Apr 21, 2015 at 9:15 am #

    Thank you for the review, “AF Review”.
    Well written.
    Only thing I want to add is the the target market for the film is not you, the Jozi rock climber, but rather a prospective tourist now thinking about Thailand or Kalymos as a next climbing holiday destination. And 52 Minutes is the TV doccie “slot length”.
    And yes I have to sell a shit load of copies to make a dent in my budget, hence I have to charge for the screening in Randburg next week Wednesday.
    Robert (Fresh Rock Films Producer and also one of the CityROCK owners).

  3. Goo Apr 21, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    The footage in African Fusion is amazing, I imagine you must have more than 40 hours of video, would it be possible to add some of this to the bought product in an extras section. Even I would pay to have 15min raw clips of areal views of Spitzkoppe and climbing, Boven climbing, Yellowwood, swimming with seals and TM.

  4. Robert Breyer Apr 21, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    we actually have a 90 minute edit.
    email me and if you buy the DVD i will include a memory stick with the 90 minute version.
    INXS, lots more TM, Boven, etc.
    robertbreyer@gmail.com

  5. Christina Apr 25, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

    Saw the Banff mountain film fest edited version of Africa Fusion at a Chicago screening surrounded by foreign climbers who all oohed and aahed through the film. It certainly gave me the warm and fuzzies seeing our old climbing haunts back home in SA and I am very pleased to see our local climbers getting some airtime too. This film easily held its own next to the other climbing/skiing/mountaineering ‘porn’ at Banff. It’s a great advert for climbing in SA but a small (selfish) part of me wonders how much we want to advertise our gorgeous climbing areas… World class climbing with no crowds, minimal litter, etc. Not many places left in this world where you can find that.

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