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Submitted: 12-09-2007 by cooldoctor1
This is a review of Pacific Horizons: Exploring the Northwest by Kayak, a 60 minute DVD (year 2007) filmed and directed by Bryan Smith. I received the DVD this past week from Paddling.net and this review is after three viewings, once being the Director’s Cut. This video, a finalist in the Banff Mtn Film Festival, is entertaining viewing for the paddling enthusiast. It is a very well done film, with some fantastic footage of the Pacific Northwest.
Striking is the cinematography, which is always from camera angles that keep the viewer "involved". The action shot are close-up, on deck, and from another boat, and bring the armchair paddler into the mix effectively. Glorious sunny days seen to predominate, a feature left as much to Mother Nature as to the filmmakers, but it does add a happy air to the films. Sometime, by contrast, This Is The Sea’s crisp filming cannot compensate for the cloudy, dreary paddling locales; comparisons are inevitable between these two similar films. I for one look forward to an eventual location film about paddling the Florida Keys. Winter time is DVD viewing time for most paddlers, and each director should keep this in mind. Pac Horizons is sunshine on a disc.
I have never been to the PNW, but can appreciate its nature and beauty through films such as Pacific Horizons. Bryan’s crew has captured the essence of the area: the strong tidal races, the blue-green water, the fluorescent starfish, and the curious mink.
The soundtrack is very reminiscent of the "This Is The Sea" series, with tunes that are fitting for the footage, but fairly forgettable in sum. It is a challenge to make music that could overcome the glowing scenery and action of the film.
Pac Horizons is a definite video for all paddlers, particularly those that appreciate the This Is The Sea series. It is comparable in many ways. There are always a few images that are etched on one’s mind after watching such a video (particularly as I am watching Bryan’s DVD on my second computer screen as I write this review). I particularly appreciate Dubside frolicking in the tree-line brown-water basin (always making the most out of his surrounding), Djuna perched on the rocks in her ‘glass boat while rock gardening, and Keirron and Jeff meeting and stashing gear before the pink tandem circumnavigation.
I credit the film for not playing solely to the sponsors, Yakima, Kokatat, Werner, et cetera. An infomercial would have been reviled, and the director plays it neutral. Interestingly, although P and H Kayaks is a sponsor, very few are seen in this Nigel Dennis kayak dominated film.
Consideration for the next film would be two: one is to involve more "on the fly" learning as it comes up. Not a dry educational video, but for instance, how do they pack those kayaks? There is a quick snippet of two paddlers discussing the paddle control, a stern rudder it seems, yet we cannot hear their dialogue. This would have been of interest. How do the kayakers choose their paddlecraft for the conditions? The more built-in education, the better.
A second thought is the mantra of every author/writer and filmmaker: conflict makes good theater. Rather than a travelogue, the best parts of every kayaking action DVD is the conflict. Will they beat the conditions? Will they survive the storm (such as Justine and Alun in the windswept tent in TITS)? Will he make it back with the broken paddle before the monsoon? Will he win the Greenland competition? You know the score. The more of that, the merrier. By adding on-the-fly education and a “story” with some conflict, surely the time of the DVD could also be expanded to 90-120 minutes.
Wonderful effort, and I am sure I will watch it many times on my second computer screen while I message board on Paddling.net. The Director’s Cut, one of the extras on this DVD, is the entire one hour film with Bryan’s commentary, and frankly, it is as entertaining if not more so than the film itself. Do not forget to watch the extras.
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