November 27, 2015


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Arctic surfers ride the wild in centrepiece of film festival

THREE winters ago, a pair of Norwegian surfer dudes decided to spend nine months on an isolated beach, doing little but riding the waves and collecting the flotsam and jetsam that washed up on the sand.

It sounds like a lazy holiday before you consider where Inge Wegge and Jrn Ranum spent the winter of 2010-2011. The 20-somethings chose a beach above the Arctic Circle, hemmed in between snow-covered mountains and the frigid Atlantic Ocean, dwelling in near-constant darkness in a driftwood shack of their own construction.

And yeah, they actually went surfing in the middle of that Arctic winter -- an act of cryophilia that surpasses even the usual Nordic tendency to embrace the cold.

Wegge and Ranum documented their remarkable winter getaway in North Of The Sun, or Nordfar sola in Norwegian, a documentary that won the grand prize at the most recent Banff Mountain Film Festival.

The 46-minute film is the centrepiece and main attraction of the touring version of the festival, which makes a Winnipeg stop Saturday at the Burton Cummings Theatre, among eight other documentaries that range in length from three minutes to nearly a half-hour.

Like most films in the outdoor genre, North Of The Sun possesses a strong inspirational component and no shortage of enviro-preachiness. Wegge and Ranum essentially went out and took the philosophy of freeganism -- that is, extreme anti-consumerism -- to a potentially life-threatening extreme.

Piling into a van that runs on recycled vegetable oil, they stocked up on questionable dry goods -- they're apparently free in Norway, when they're past the expiry date -- and headed to a remote beach with only surfboards, sleeping bags and a few tools.

The enterprising surfers then proceeded to build a hobbit-home out of whatever they found on the beach, constructing a frame out of driftwood, using an oil drum for a chimney and insulating the walls and roof with plastic bottles, moss and eventually snow.

By the spring, they had amassed enough detritus to require extraction via helicopter. The message is depressing: If a single beach in northern Norway is covered with that much garbage, how much trash is actually floating around the ocean?

But the most profound footage captures the duo's attempts at mid-winter surfing in the Arctic dark. Frightening and primal, this aspect of the film implodes the customary extreme-sports clichés.

The other two longish films on the festival lineup are edited-down versions of feature documentaries. The Last Great Climb is a riveting account of a first ascent of an isolated Antarctic peak, while Spice Girl profiles Hazel Findlay, a traditional climber from Britain who excels on insanely crumbly rock.

The best of the shorter films on the 132-minute program is Flow: The Elements Of Freeride, a three-minute downhill-cycling film that uses graphics to point out some of the physics involved in geophysicist Rex Flake's ride in Washington's Cascade Mountains -- and some of the organisms he passes.

Doors open Saturday at 6 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 17, 2014 D2


Updated on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 8:35 AM CST: adds video

10:41 AM: Switches video.

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