By David Kenney
Five years ago, photojournalist Sean White was looking up in awe at the beauty and Zen-like peace of the mountains. These days, his view focuses on the silver screen, like a deer-in-the-headlights. That’s because the Victoria native is busy trekking cross-country promoting his first feature film, Beyond Gravity.
Conceived in the summer of 1999 and filmed amongst lush mountain landscapes ranging from Alberta to Greenland, the Canadian documentary grapples the outdoor obsession of climbing.
For White, the film was a chance to dispell the surrealism attached to climbing.
"It worked out well because Vertical Limit came out by the time our movie was finished," says the co-producer and director. "You’ve got this Hollywood dramatization that’s basically a joke. The Everest tragedy in 1996, the IMAX film and all the media hoopla basically built up the popular mass media image of climbing as being this reckless, dangerous, life-threatening, chaotic activity to endeavour in.
"The reality is that, climbing is one the fastest growing sports in North America."
And like any sport, climbing has its share of gurus. Beyond Gravity includes many climbing legends, including X-Games champion Katie Brown and world-renowned free-soloist Peter Croft. An education in climbing, the film features rock, ice, mixed, aid and alpine climbing as well as big-wall expeditions and free-soloing. White is impressed with the cast they managed to assemble.
"Things just sort-of landed in our lap," he says. "Half of it is just us saying ‘Hey, I want this guy in the movie and let’s make it happen,’ the other half is sort-of ‘this person’s doing this, and they’re world class and if things work out great.’"
Besides capturing breathtaking views, Beyond Gravity espouses a love of climbing.
"The climbers we worked with had some common passion," he says. "Although it’s a type of divided sport, there’s something that brings everyone together. The spirit of adventure and discovery is very much at the heart and soul of these people."
The next adventure for White and co-producers Aaron Jackson and Aaron Black is to tour the Vancouver Mountain Film Festival award-winning film down East. White hopes to eventually show the film in New York.
"It’s really taken on a life of its own and [it will be] sort of cool to see what happens."
Beyond Gravity is playing Thurs., March 1 at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Calgary Science Centre.