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!
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.
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.
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.