Yes, summer is the time for raging, but you have to rest some, too. If it’s ungodly hot outside or your local trails are closed due to fire risk, settle in with these films about running, riding, and the redemptive power of long hikes and good food.
A new six-part docuseries from ESPN, Enhanced looks at all the ways athletes have, legally or otherwise, pushed their performance to new levels. Executive produced by Alex Gibney, a 30 for 30 alum and producer of a 2014 Lance Armstrong documentary, and with two episodes directed by favorite adventure filmmaker Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, this should be a high-level treatment of the science of human limits. All six episodes will be available on the subscription streaming service ESPN+ on July 16.
‘Operation Thai Cave Rescue’
Yes, there’s already a documentary about the Thai soccer team and their coach who were stuck in a cave for 18 days. All 13 people were rescued by the morning of July 10. Operation Thai Cave Rescue will air on the Discovery Channel on July 13 at 10 p.m. ET. Even if you think this is bonkers, the film should be a mostly uplifting watch that goes into how the team survived for that long and the heroic rescue operation.
‘The Snowman Trek’
If you want to tackle Bhutan’s 189-mile Snowman Trek, which traverses 11 high mountain passes and is considered one of the hardest hikes in the world, you’ll usually do it in a month and plan for the best possible weather in the snowy range. Mountaineer Ben Clark, who had long been obsessed with the Himalayas, decided he wanted to knock it out in two weeks. Clark recruited some other ultrarunners, including Anna Frost, who had previously guided in Bhutan, and attempted to set the speed record in the face of brutal weather, bad dynamics, and challenging conditions. Drama ensues. Watch The Snowman Trek online here.
‘Coming to My Senses’
After Aaron Baker broke his neck in a motocross accident, doctors told the professional rider he wouldn’t even be able to feed himself ever again, much less move. Fifteen years later, he attempted to cross Death Valley, unsupported, on foot. In addition to tracing the sweep of recovery and perseverance, Coming to My Senses digs into the psychological underpinnings of why athletes push themselves to physical extremes. The film is available now on iTunes.
Campaign finance is a gateway to any other issue you might care about. That’s the premise of one of our favorite films from Telluride Mountainfilm, Dark Money, which traces financial corruption in a Montana election to show how interest groups steer politics and make candidates beholden to the groups that pay them. The story focuses on a small-town reporter struggling to uncover the dark inner workings of politics, which is one of our favorite kinds of adventure stories. It’ll screen at select theaters throughout the summer.
New on Netflix and iTunes
A few films we loved on the festival circuit have made it to the small screen. Watch at your leisure.
‘Karl Meltzer: Made to Be Broken’
In 2016, Karl Meltzer set the fastest known time for a supported runner on the Appalachian Trail. That shakes out to about 46 miles a day over his 45-day, 22-hour, 38-minute run. In addition to tailing him on the trail, Karl Meltzer: Made to Be Broken gets into AT culture and the masochistic drive that pushes speed hikers. The film was produced by Red Bull Media House, which achieves the semi-unbelievable feat of making distance running look exciting.
Darcy Hennessey Turenne’s The Moment is a look at the origins of freeride mountain biking on British Columbia’s North Shore. The film is wild and raucous and bloody and fun, just like the riding was then. Turenne, a former pro herself, says she wanted to capture the characters and quirks of the sport she was obsessed with in her teens.
One to Keep Your Eye On
‘Ye Olde Destruction’
Skate-art polymath Thomas Campbell (he directed A Love Supreme and helped Tony Hawk relaunch Skateboarder magazine) has been working on a self-funded, 16-millimeter film project called Ye Olde Destruction since 2011, obsessively shooting film and bringing in skate and surf photographers to help him curate shots. Campbell is notoriously reclusive and anti-industry, but he’s been guerilla fundraising by selling skate decks painted by artists friends like Ed Templeton and Geoff McFetridge. The highly anticipated film is supposed to drop sometime this summer.