I’ve just finished watching Far North for the third time.
I’ve also started writing this review for the third time, because I’m not even sure if this can be reviewed as just a bodyboarding film.
Something was gnawing at me after the first time I sat down to watch Ben Player’s adventure to Scotland that was 5 years in the making. By now you have probably read a few reviews, including this awesome one by the guys at Monster Children, and there is nothing that I can really add that will encapsulate just how incredible the cinematography and sound design is or how amazing Ben’s surfing is. Just do yourself a favour and watch the thing or you’re missing out. It’s that simple.
Instead, I want to attempt to explain the uneasiness I felt while watching it, and why trying to write about it after became so difficult.
My first shots at reviewing it were simply shithouse. I was trying to review it like any other bodyboarding film, and, I dunno, it just didn’t make any sense. I had spoken to Ben numerous times about the project and his injury and the body armour experiment and I honestly thought I knew enough to write something decent. But I kept having this feeling that this film was something different. It just wasn’t making sense to me as a bodyboarding film.
Honestly, It felt more like I was watching Ben’s entire relationship with bodyboarding and the path of life that it had led him down to that point unfolding right in front of me.
So I called Ben.
“Hey Mate, I’m sorry I haven’t got anything out about your film yet. but there’s something thats bothering me.
“I can’t help but think there is more to this film than just another bodyboarding project. This may sound strange, but is this, in any way, a reflection of where you feel the sport is at and you are personally at on a deeper level?”
“Yeah, I totally agree with that statement.” Said Ben.
“I was at a pretty weird stage in my career 5 years ago when we starting planning and capturing this movie. It was on the back of the downfall of the IBA, you guys had just finished publishing magazines, and I felt like I was on a swift journey to the last stop, and I guess you could say that I felt the sport was in the same predicament too. So I kind of felt compelled to do something crazy, something that had the potential to excite me and ignite the fire, and maybe even do the same for the sport if it was done right. So for a while after that, I pondered what the craziest thing is that I could do and the answer was to go to Norther Europe in Winter and challenge myself and go as far as I could for 6 weeks and either be successful in capturing some amazing content, or get injured and fail.
“And that is what we did, with the only difference being that we ended up being successful and failing at the same time. I know that sounds weird, but we were so lucky that the adventure unfolded the way it did. It was actually perfect. As I said, I went away to push myself as hard as I could, and I got beat down for 5 weeks straight with the full force of Mother Nature, and then in the in the last days of the adventure, Mother Nature hit me with just enough force to end my ambitious adventure, but like a good parent, she hit me with just enough force to show me where my limitations were, but not in excess to the point where I died. And as a result, I was lucky enough to succeed and go as far as I could go, but I also felt failure and almost died in my pursuit. Like I said, it was perfect.”
Over the next 20 or so minutes, as Ben checked in for a flight, he explained how the film is the exact embodiment of that journey.
“When I returned home from hospital and had recovered, I spoke with Ed Saltau and Todd Barnes who were the Co-Directors of the film, and we all agreed that we had to give this film, and the story the attention and time it needed. And we all agreed that we wanted to create a film that blurred the lines between documentary and action sports film, So we went about creating a rough storyline of how we wanted to build the movie, and started filling in each section to tell that story…which isn’t easy when you’re trying to tell a story with sound, music and imagery alone. Hence the reason why it took two full years to edit.”
At this point in our conversation, the film started to make sense to me. The lack of narrative or story wasn’t an oversight as I first feared. It was a deliberate way to make you feel the constant fight that Ben had with nature over a wild 6 week journey. On reflection it seems by narrating it, it would have almost subtracted from experiencing the film in the raw way nature communicates through purely visuals and sounds.
“Yeah, Each shot, each sound and each piece of music was placed in the position in the film for the purpose of telling a story, or to evoke an emotion.” Ben said.
“As a result I feel that we have crafted something that is completely original and something that Todd, Ed and myself are super proud of.”
It was time for Ben to jump on his flight, and while I sat there pondering our conversation, the movie, and the current position of our sport, I wondered if this film has the potential to help a wider audience understand why bodyboarding is such an amazing way to experience life in ways you didn’t think were possible. By the looks of how it is being received by the main stream (At the time of writing it’s #1 on iTunes Documentaries & top 5 Movies on iTunes), it just might.
Ultimately, I think that’s why I has so much trouble reviewing it. This film wasn’t aimed at us as bodyboarders. We as bodyboarders already understand that intimate connection with nature and the range of emotions that brings with it, but I think Ben wants everyone to be able to experience that. And for that, he is willing to do whatever it takes.
Far North is available to watch on iTunes now.