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Reviews



THE LAST GREAT CLIMB - Reviews;

Myoutdoors Review

Outdoorsmagic Review

AUTANA - First ascent in the lost world Reviews;

Myoutdoors Review

Outdoorsmagic Review

Scottish Moutaineer Review

AUTANA customer feedback;

Just sending my praise for the production of Autana that was truly
film of the year for me - David Quigley

Just back from screening, SUPERB!!!- Mark Dunn

Congratulatios dear Guys, it´s an amazing Movie !!! - Ysabel Collonel

Just downloaded the Autana... What a film man!!! Awesome! - Ant Orino

WOWOWOWOW Awesome film!! Cheers Alastair! Can't wait for the next one!
Kayleigh Thompson

Saw the premiere last night. . . . .MAGIC - Lyn

Just seen Autana in Newcastle - totally amazing! when will the
soundtrack be available? - Caroline :)

Just saw Autana at Helsinki Adventure Night and loved it. I need to
know the soundtrack so I can purchase some of the songs. It was
amazing!

I have watched Autana yesterday... It is the best climbing movie ever,
not just a documentary but a real movie with lots of efforts and good
equipment. Well done! It is really great that somebody invests so much
time and energy for this! Thank you!!!! Claudia

Downloaded and watched it yesterday ..totally Awesome - Drusilla Peres
Labourdette

I just got sick on what could be the last weekend of dry Squamish rock
for a long while... but thanks to a killer HD Autana download from
Posing Productions, my day stuck in bed just got a whole lot better.
Cheers fellas... great cinematography and one hell of an expedition!
Kudos to Leo and the boys! - Chris Rich

I downloaded this the other week, and it's superb. Visually stunning,
and it looked like an amazing adventure. - Calder

Hi Alastair, Just thought I'd let you know that Autana was epic!
Fantastically shot, gripping from start to finish, brilliant! Cheers,
Gordon

Just got back from Tyneside cinema after the Autana prem, f&&kin
awesome, that makes 60 on the f counter lol - Lee Payne

The team at Berghaus must be jumping up and down with delight, massive
congratulations - Noel Dawson

Mind blowing stuff. Also made me want to buy The Asgard Project (which
I'd missed). So I did. - Dave Allen

Great movie! congratulations! looking forward for your next one! -
Yannis Kagiaftakis

I think it really is one of the most creative, entertaining and
interesting climbing films I have ever seen. - Dennis England

Just watched it, its fudging awesome , spectacular, a seriously
impressive adventure captured wonderfully well . Another exceptional
film from the Posing Productions team . Amazing work people, well done
an immense acheivement too, inspirational trip in many ways . The
analysis of the Ayuasca trip [ Yopo talk ] in the extras is excellent
too . Thoroughly recommend it . - Boogie Man

I saw Autana on the big screen in the Eric Harvey at Banff. I loved
it, very nice work, totally fresh style. - Paul Diffley

wanted to let you know that I got to see it in Banff and thought it was
absolutely amazing. Incredible accomplishment with great cinematography,
editing, music, pacing, storytelling and cool grfx. Totally awesome. - Pete Mortimer

'AUTANA' DVD and HD download

Festival quotes about The Asgard Project

"A fine example in its own genre, this film introduces us to an eclectic group of climbers and adventures and lets us feel and understand their excitement and fear until the very end. The director’s skillful use of many different cinematic techniques creates a fast-moving and beautiful film. But it was the characters, and their humor and camaraderie in the face of the ever-changing weather, that most captured our attention and admiration." David Breashears, head judge at teh Trento Film Festival.

"A witty, gritty assault on one of the harshest places on earth. Everything about this film could be described as extreme. The audacity of arriving by parachute--hanging from a frozen wall for many days--braving subzero temperatures in a remote arctic wilderness. But perhaps even more impressive than just surviving--was Alistair's ability to craft a striking, funny and intimate film in these harrowing conditions. Epic in scale and thrilling from start to finish. James Bond eat your heart out." Susan Kelly, Banff Film Festival Judge.


Banff Book festival quotes on Lake District - Mountain Landscape

“As a photographer and film maker, Alastair Lee has done much more than keep pace with the innovations in multi-media since the beginning of the 21st century. He has proven that the mastery of technology is only a part of the artistry. Al Lee has an eye for images which capture the essence of landscape, and the desire for adventure.” John Porter, Banff festival judge.

“Lake District: Mountain Landscape is a gorgeous look at the less-travelled route, where peaks meet sky, the summits of the landscape whose lower reaches were made famous by Wordsworth. Lee's photographs are compelling, and stunningly rendered in a large format book that carries its panoramic power to the eye. The author's accompanying commentary too is appealing, informed and informative. Words are used sparely and selectively, amplifying the images, not blanketing them. The book appeals to aesthetically-minded viewers, nature lovers, and those drawn to both beauty and thrill in the rocks' challenging climbs.” Steven Ross Smith, Director, Literary Arts, The Banff Centre.


The Asgard Project
*****
Rock and Ice mag, June 2010

The Asgard Project is the story
of Leo Houlding and his team's attempt at the first free ascent of the North Face of Mount Asgard, an immense granite pillar deep in the wilds of Baffin Island.

Alastair Lee cuts colourful, razor-sharp footage with a haunting original score to make the alpine experience seem absolutely enthralling. From the pithy, deadpan attitude that comes with weeks on a big wall to the abject misery of hauling frost-covered ropes through a subzero night, every facet of apline exploration comes through with brilliant clarity.

There is a tendency in alpine films and writing to portray climers as valiant sufferers, bravely enduring circumstances beyond their control, without acknowledging the obvious: these people are here because they want to be. Asgard highlights the fun of exploration, the camaraderie of the crew, and the sheer relief of a successful summit push in a way that elicits admiration instead of pity, and respect instead of reverence. - Angus Bohanon, Rock and Ice mag June 2010


From the sublime to the meticulous
Lake District Mountain Landscape

Alastair Lee, Francis Lincoln, £25.00

Alastair Lee switches cameras to produce stunning collection of Lakeland photographs

*****

Following his cinematographical triumphs now comes a blockbuster of a photographic book from the all-conquering Alastair Lee. This large-format hard-back comprises a collection of sublime panoramic images of Lakeland captured over five years using an innovative (and very heavy) medium format panoramic camera.

By concentrating on the ‘Golden Hour’ around dawn and dusk and getting into high locations Lee has depicted a Lakeland landscape that is out of the ordinary. It frequently looks like another country altogether. A dusk panorama of Scafell from Pillar looming in pink alpenglow above a cloud inversion looks more like Greenland or Alaska than Cumbria while an eerily beautiful moonlit scene of Helvellyn’s coves is startlingly and surreally fringed by the neon strip of Morecambe and Blackpool in the far distance. But it’s not just a landscape book; in addition to simply admiring the fabulous scenery, climbers will find loads to interest them here as well. There’s a section devoted to the King of Lakeland climbing, Dave Birkett, as well as rock climbing, scrambling and winter mountaineering pictures.

Lee took the view that in order to get quality results you couldn’t afford to pussyfoot around with expensive equipment – even when you couldn’t even afford to insure your cameras. “It’s a bit like climbing itself,” he has said. “You just have to take risks if you want to get the most out of it”. Lee took this to extremes during the making of his book by dragging a £7,500 Swiss ‘Round Shot’ medium format panoramic camera up fellsides it was never designed to be taken up, using it in snow showers it was never designed to withstand, and taking it to extreme locations it was singularly unsuited to operating in (such as when the intrepid lensman anchored himself above a dizzy drop on the upper part of a frozen Raven Crag Gully in order to capture a unique panoramic ice-climbing image). Often, the only protection the hideously expensive camera got from the elements was an old jumper wrapped round it so it’s perhaps unsurprising he eventually wrecked the thing. But it was worth it. Although Lee’s methods might appear to be recklessly eccentric and haphazard, they certainly paid off. His latest Lakeland panoramas are stunning.
Colin Wells


The Asgard Project reviewed by Ed Douglas of Calmandfearless.com It's an old conundrum. To make a great expedition film takes the same kind of preparation and planning and even more money than the climb itself. The trouble is, what if the expedition doesn't come off? You're left with hours of beautiful footage, won in the teeth of freezing temperatures and hardship, that no one wants to watch. It's why producers prefer to make historial reenactments rather risk it all on the unknown.

There must have been some anxious moments on this project for director Alastair Lee and executive producer Leo Houlding. With a lot of their own cash sunk in a complex and expensive enterprise, the weather deteriorating as the Arctic summer turned to winter, and their plans in some disarray, tempers might have frayed.

But Houlding, on the evidence of The Asgard Project, lives his life in a determined mood of optimism. He may be cold, he may wake up grumpy, but give him a cup of java and point a camera at him, and he's a real trooper. Moments before a skyhook blows and he takes a nasty fall high on Asgard, he's seen mid pitch chattering optimistically to a handheld camera. In that regard, this is the ultimate fly-on-the-wall documentary.

To give the film some momentum, Lee shot Houlding preparing for Asgard with climbing partner Carlos Suarez, speed climbing and Base-jumping at Riglos, and Sean 'Stanley' Leary, free climbing in Yosemite. There's also a thrilling scene at Brento where Leo practises wingsuit flying with the world's greatest wingsuit designer Robbie Pecnik.

These preambles feel a little artificial, especially compared to what comes next, and Houlding seems in television professional mode. But by the time they get to Baffin, the whole adventure feels a lot more convincing. The team hires a DC3 from which they toss their supplies and themselves, all attached to parachutes for one of the more outlandish arrivals at base camp.

Inevitably, the only parachute that doesn't open is the one supporting their hardware and portaledges. It almost hurts looking at racks of camming devices bent beyond repair. This necessitates some rather frantic improvisation. Worse, stonefall threatens the approaches to Asgard's ramparts, although there is no mention of the Belgian team who have snaffled their original objective.

This section of the film is the weakest, mostly because the action became confusing. I was never sure quite what was going on. Lee keeps things pacy, and has some clever visual tricks to advance the story, but it doesn't always come off.

Once the climbers have decided to free an aid route on Asgard's north face, however, the story settles down, and although it's sometimes confusing telling who is where and why, the hardship, grind and courage involoved in climbing a wall that only gets sunshine for an hour out of twenty-four shines out.

As the weather curdles, and hopes fade, the emotional engagement with the climbers deepens. Leary wigs out, swearing loudly at the rock, but you understand why. Houlding looks exhausted but keeps things moving forward. It would have been nice to see more of Jason Pickles, on the wall but not profiled in the film\'s earlier section, not being one of the stars. Except his good humour and resilience seemed a real boon and that\'s what we want to watch – character under pressure.

Footage of the northern lights flickering behind Asgard the night before their summit climb was mesmerising, and showed another aspect of Lee's film-making that I found myself admiring. Mountains are grand places to be, whether or not you're watching a climber inch up them. The sheer, physical beauty of them emerges from this film more than most I've seen.

At almost an hour and a half, the film might seem long for a climbing documentary, but the scale and quality of its climax justifies the patient build-up. The odds of Houlding and Lee pulling off a great climbing expedition film were stacked against them from the start, and circumstances worked against them. Even so, they pulled it out of the fire, and a big, ambitious film is appropriate. It's possible this film may re-emerge as a television documentary. I hope they don't cut it too much. This kind of thing doesn't come along very often.

The Asgard Project reviewed by Jon Doran at Outdoorsmagic Alastair Lee's latest award-winning mountaineering film mixes the human and the spectacular to gripping effect.

We're back from seeing Alastair Lee's film of Leo Houlding's Asgard Project expedition in Sheffield last night and we weren't disappointed.


From the moment the film opens with a dramatic sequence of the three lead climbers parachuting in to base camp, the Asgard Project has an huge, sweeping, epic feel to it that's really quite breathtaking. But what makes it work, is that it combines sumptuous photography and jaw-dropping mountainscapes - there's an amazing sequence of the aurora borealis towards the end of the film - with the engagingly human.

It takes more than just beautiful pictures to hold an audience rapt for 80 minutes. What's great about Asgard is that you get to know and like the climbers, warts and all and, in particular, Leo Houlding, an enigmatic mix of the human and the frankly quite bonkers. Houlding, fairly clearly, has a different concept of acceptable risk to the rest of us, which makes him immensely watchable.

Lee's last film, On Sight, was themed rather than telling a narrative story, but this is the opposite. We follow the expedition through some gob-smacking training trips with Houlding and Carlos Suarez simul-climbing at Monte Brento in Italy and learning to fly wingsuits.

That sets the scene and gives you some idea of Houlding's motivation, but the film really comes alive when the action switches to Baffin Island. Spectacular aerial footage - this is not a low budget production - sets the scene. Sharply observed scenes of the climbers chatting and joking adds a layer of empathy and the wall and the conditions do the rest.

The arrival of unexpectedly arctic conditions may have made filming and climbing desperately hard, but it's also the making of the film. Mountaineering classics are almost never about hassle-free, straightforward ascents where everything goes like clockwork. No, they're Doug Scott crawling down the Ogre with two broken legs, Joe Simpson in the crevasse or Toni Kurtz hanging from a rope on the Eiger.

The Asgard Project doesn't quite plumb those depths, but there's a real sense of adversity as the weather closes in with the climbers and filming team living in portaledges high on the wall. Even the ebullient Houlding isn't immune to the negative talking darkly about wanting to go home and missing his wife before the coffee kicks in.

And again, the human side is balanced by extraordinary footage of the climbers in action close-up. Apparently at one point Lee had footage of just one pitch of climbing in seven days and the pressure was getting to him. His multiple Kendal awards have built up expectations and for once he seems to have been limited by conditions rather than budgetary considerations.

Sequences of the climbers battling with frozen hands and feet on marginal holds graphically show just how hard things were high on the wall and when things do seem to be going well, a massive ice storm sweeps in a coats ropes and gear with crusted snow. Suddenly topping out looks impossible, but out of the adversity rises an improbable revival.

The genius of the film is that by this point you do care about whether they succeed and you somehow share that dark, sinking feeling with them and, as a corollary to that, when they do rally, the sun peeps out and they fight their way through to the summit and success - though the summit shots themselves are somewhat anti-climactic - you share the smiles and satisfaction too.

And yes, even the mixed emotions as the two main climbers jump off the top in wing-suits leaving the others to descend alone for 30 hours, cleaning the route of ropes and gear as they go.

A cracking mix of the spectacular and the human and well worth watching on a big screen if you can.

Read a review of On Sight in German.

Read a review of On Sight in Polish.

Read a review of On Sight in French.

Read a review of On Sight in American.

On Sight a film by Alastair Lee. Reviewed by Gus Alexandropoulos for GRIPPED mag, Canada
With an almost endless number of new climbing films released every year, the UK has become the Bollywood of the climbing movie world. Like Bollywood, most of the films adhere to an overused formula, in this case, showing a heroic climber agonizing over a difficult-to-protect death route, followed by scenes of endless top rope rehearsal, a few “death” falls that rarely seem to result in injury and finally the route is climbed once it’s mercilessly wired. As engaging as such movies were when they were introduced, the formula is wearing thin. Perhaps this is why On Sight is so entertaining. It shows climbers embracing the true ethos of traditional climbing - the onsight ascent. No rehearsal, no pre-inspection, no weeks of toproping and getting the gear just-right. Instead, we have climbers starting from the ground and climbing without knowing the outcome. The result is truly exceptional climbing footage and the retrospective scenes with John Redhead, Ron Fawcett and Jerry Moffat add insight to the climbing scenes. This is one of the most honest and important climbing films to come out of the UK in recent years and highly recommended. -GA

On Sight a film by Alastair Lee. Reviewed by Ian Smith for CLIMB mag

This is not just a very good climbing film; it’s a very good film full stop. And why, well, because it seems to me that Lee has gone back to first principles and has mastered the ‘documentary’ elements as espoused by John Grierson, who is credited with the definition of the documentary film as ‘creative treatment of actuality’. In my opinion this confirms that Lee is maturing into a very accomplished filmmaker indeed.

What has he done so well? Apart from a mastery of the technical elements of filmmaking he has taken a core idea, that of the importance of the ‘on sight’ ascent in climbing, and created a film that sustains and explores this tenet in a unified and entertaining way. However, if you are expecting a continuous string of hard ‘on sights’ then you’ll be wrong for, as Leo Houlding says early on, what’s important is the ‘on sight attempt’ and in this film many of the sequences fall into this definition. Those that show successful ‘on sights’, and I’ll not give the game away by telling you which, are completely gripping; many of the others although not showing successful ‘on sights’, still thrill.

My only problem with this, and it is addressed at times in the film, is the inference by some of the climbers that the ‘on sight’ is the most valid form of meaningful climbing at the upper levels. This is particularly aimed at the idea that ‘on sighting’ involves a greater degree of mental control and is more emotionally intense. Taking this to its conclusion is the inference that sport climbing and headpointing are inferior forms of climbing. While this may be true the evidence would suggest otherwise, just watch the films of Steve McClure on Overshadow at Malham for how emotionally intense a long-term sport project can be. Or Dave Macleod on Rhapsody or Neil Bentley on Equilibrium to witness the torture that a top end headpoint project can create for a climber. ‘On sighting’ may well be the ‘purest’ form of climbing and is something we perhaps should all aspire to, but it shouldn’t be regarded as the ‘best’, rather just another one of the wonderful ‘Games Climbers Play’.

Lee is well-served by his collaborators on this film, as the list of people who have shot various parts of the climbing footage, along with himself and Ian Burton, shows. There is undoubtedly some superb camerawork on display but what raises the bar for this film are two other elements. The first is the editing, which is purely down to Lee. It does what all highly skilled technical work does, it doesn’t show. It’s just right, it flows, it moves, it carries you along without you noticing it. The section towards the end where the footage of Neil Dickson on Margins of the Mind on Cloggy is intercut with Ricky Bell on his first ascent of an E7 at Fair Head is quite superb. The second element is the music, in my opinion the best I’ve ever heard on a climbing video; how refreshing to get away from electro percussion, heavy rock guitars or pan pipes. In particular some of the orchestral style underscoring is perfectly judged and balanced, subtle and emotive.

Lee says that he is now planning a bit of a break from filmmaking, he deserves it, the effort that he has lavished onto ‘On Sight’ is considerable and it shows. However, I really look forward to what he does next because his skills and talent suggest that there are more great films to come. In the meantime buy this and enjoy it, it’s definitely worth repeated watching.

From Stone Monkey to Crimp Chimp

Set in Stone _review by Colin Wells for Climb Mag
Alastair Lee & David Halstead
Posing Productions/Shrewd Ape Media
Posingproductions.com
£18.99
*****
Burnley mirth-makers produce stunningly original film profile of Cumbria's Master of Stone

The last decades of the twentieth century saw two films that raised the bar; they simply influenced every single specialist climbing flick that followed. In the 1980s Stone Monkey, a surreally inventive film by Johnny Dawes and Alun Hughes, celebrated the grit-dancing antics of Britain's most dynamic climber with a riot of new ideas, cool tunes and wacky humour. As a result Mountainfilm was never the same again. In the '90s Hard Grit re-invigorated both the cinematic depiction of rock climbing film and the gritstone scene with an immediacy that captured a high point of the Headpoint movement. It retains a special quality as if it has preserved a folk memory of a cultural phenomenon as resonant to climbers as say, the Summer of Love or Britpop's hey-day of 1996 is to music. Since then, just about every climbing film has attempted to recapture the magic with varying degrees of success but usually by aping the Stone Monkey to some extent or doing a brass-rubbing of the Hard Grit; the genre itself has mostly failed to move on and develop. A fresh approach and new ideas were urgently required in order to break the stasis. Now, after watching Set in Stone this reviewer strongly suspects the wait is over; the new benchmark for the Noughties has arrived.
Alastair Lee and David Halsted have built a reputation for quirky, mountain-related documentaries notable for their comic content and oft-times boggling technical proficiency. Last year's Storms-The Movie, for example - a kind of climbing comedy sketch-show - was a runaway critical success for both these reasons, but something of a commercial failure. What was required was a felicitous alignment of the planets whereby the creative energy of pair became focused on a worthy and interesting climbing subject. This summer, it happened. By dint of a happy serendipity their subject, the long under-rated Cumbrian climber Dave Birkett, just happened to be reaching his latest peak of activity and performance. A man not particularly interested in fame or publicity, Birkett has long remained an enigmatic character to many, appearing as a kind of extreme climbing backwoodsman ploughing an esoteric hard trad furrow on the currently unfashionable high mountain crags of the Lake District. A competent film showcasing this talented Mr Rippling would, therefore, in itself have been sufficient to make this production noteworthy. But Set in Stone is elevated beyond mere narrative climbing documentary by a veritable explosion of inventiveness which touches all aspects of its construction, whether they be cinematography, direction, editing, or animation. The sheer vim and vitality exhibited by this production means it zips along with tremendous pace.
The underlying superstructure of the movie comprises footage gained by following the Cumbrian stonemason over a summer of E8 and E9 climbs, including some of his most mysterious greatest hits, such as Nowt But a Fleein' Thing and If Six was Nine. So far, so conventional. But there the similarity with bog-standard climbing film ends. Layered into this narrative are revealing interview-bites with Birkett and authoritative Birkett-watchers, awesomely beautiful landscape photography, gripping action and sometimes joyfully bonkers animation. On top of it all is a perfect soundtrack. (I don't know how the hell Lee pulled it off, but even a track by the King's Singers sounds gorgeous and haunting after it's blended with a killer visual context - a winter climbing segue of evocative still and grainy video).
But arguably the most impressive thing of all is the way that Lee and Halsted's proficiency with Maya 3-D animation software and other gee-whizzery lends their film a punch way above its weight in terms of visual impact. From the unique 'climber cam' (a 'camera carrot on a stick' suspended from an attachment on Birkett's back allowing a Barnet's eye-view of the climber ascending an E8) to ground-breaking computer-aided picture manipulation, the innovation is breathtaking. The manner in which stills photography, moving image and digital models are deployed and often integrated is incredibly skilful, projecting the illusion of helicopter shots, swooping crane angles and even, on one occasion, an unfeasible piece of futuristic engineering occupying Bill Birkett's back yard.
The animations are fabulous, and the jokes, and this is really important, are actually funny. The cartoon tom-foolery (largely the work of Halsted, who seems to play Terry Gilliam to Alastair Lee's entire Monty Python team) is great fun. ('A Brief History of Birkett', featuring animated newspapers with archive photographs leaping into life and climbing up rock faces and into wedding receptions and farmyards is potentially set to become a classic in its own right.)
The result is that there's nobody else making climbing films that look remotely like Lee and Halsted's at the moment they are so far ahead of the curve they are arguably approaching another league entirely. Even better, Set in Stone also works brilliantly on the human level. In spite of an innate and profound modesty, the film succeeds in coaxing Birkett out of his shell of shyness, allowing his gentle and almost romantically enthusiastic character to shine through. One of his typical comments, referring to a bad weather in the hills is typical: "I don't feel I ever have a bad day, yesterday it was pissing down and water was coming over the top of the crag and it was awesome! It was awesome to see, and it was good day". The amazing footage of Birkett rescuing cragfast sheep with effortless physical authority also emphasises here is no ordinary climber: more a Force of Nature.
More prosaically, Set in Stone will undoubtedly revolutionise the way people view Dave Birkett and his amazing climbing achievements; he might just start to get the widespread recognition he deserves. (And who knows, he might even get a decent sponsorship deal at last.) The other open question is whether the film might act as a catalyst to 're-activate' the dormant challenges of climbs such as If 6 was 9 and other remote mountain E8s and 9s which have yet to see repeats from the ambitious new generation of top climbers. As Set in Stone hints, it's beginning to seem possible that the first E10 or even E11 might have been done nearly a decade and a half ago by the unassuming Birkett, but no-one noticed, not even him.

Colin Wells

Set in Stone
Here's the verdict from the Kendal Film Fesitval director after watching the rough cut -

'Over the past ten years Dave Birkett has created an unequalled list of top end extremes on the high mountain crags of the Lake District most unrepeated. He is the latest Birkett star in a tradition that extends over 70 years. This in-depth, humorous and at times gripping profile of one of the greatest but modest rock climbers in the UK is, for the production team, a stunning transformation from their usual less serious approach, but despite the fact that it is primarily a climbing film, humour and innovation abound.'

Check the Kendal Film Festival website.

MORE ABOUT THIS DVD

Alastair Lee's Mountain Prints have recently been featured on Outdoorsmagic.com and Planet Fear

Storms the Movie - Reviewed in Climb magazine by Colin Wells
Storms the Movie - a DVD based very loosely on a stage production Storms of Laughter which Lee and Halsted toured, the duo have dispensed entirely with factual footage and gone for a straight half-hour satirical sketch show based on climbing. This was a huge gamble - a project like this had the potential to be monumentally terrible. Instead, thank god, they've pulled it off to produce a show that, consciously or not, nods in the direction of influences as diverse as The Fast Show, The Goodies, That Peter Kay Thing and even the venerable Michael Bentine's Potty Time. Although some might accuse them of cruelty to pensioners, one of the many highlights is undoubtedly Lee's over-the-top lampoon of Chris Bonington. No one else has quite captured that slightly camp intonation that Bonington employs to deliver his worthy pronouncements quite so deliriously before. Lee's depiction of Bonners as a crazed old egomaniac obsessed with potting sheds and boring mountains is augmented by subtle Simpsons - style background visual gags - like the book titled 'Quest for Adjectives' stacked on the shelf behind him - blink and you'll miss them. Other splendid sketches include Dave Halsted attempting all 14 Woolworth's checkouts in Burnley dressed as Alan Hinkes. There's also a truly awesome pastiche of the film Touching the Void ("I couldn't believe it, I'd broken my baguette, we'd never be able to get down on pies alone"), several sick animations at Leo Dickinson's expense and sundry other sketches satirising bouldering and the peculiar Yorkshire cult of John Dunne worship. However, arguably the most technically impressive part of the movie is a lovingly crafted and very silly homage to the CRoW Act and Stephen Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Coming as it does out of a couple of punters' computers, the technical proficiency of this piece is quite staggering - many mainstream TV series exhibit inferior special effects. And many television comedies have inferior scripts to this DVD as well. You get the distinct impression Halsted and Lee have really come of age in terms of film-making - surely the next leap is to leave the ghetto of Mountain Film and head for the real world? Maybe Storms might just give them that launchpad.

>MORE ABOUT THIS DVD

Storms the Movie
Here's what the editor of Outdoorsmagic said when he saw the unfinished footage back in August -
"The unfinished footage is already dripping with computerised special effects, explosions and frankly ludicrous moments of death! It's hard to really judge what it all means, but it's unlike anything the climbing film world has ever seen, and that's got to be a good thing. "
- www.outdoorsmagic.com

Twice Upon a Time in Bolivia
"Twice Upon a Time in Bolivia" one of the best and most original climbing videos we've seen... The thing about 'Twice' is that it's a wet snowball in the face of all those interminable traditional mountaineering films. " - www.outdoorsmagic.com

"Twice Upon A Time in Bolivia waltzed off with the People's Prize on Sunday. [This] account of an ascent of the very lovely Pequeno Alpamayo {..} by a motley crew of bums from Burnley was highly praised by all." - www.outdoorsmagic.com

'What a film! Great job guys' - Yvon Chouinard

'I want to climb El Cap with these lunatics'- Andy Kirkpatrick

'Is it available on VHS?' - Alan Hinks

'If that doesn't win, I'll deck the judges!' - Adrian Berry

'Was the comedy scripted?' - Leo Dickenson

"Utterly ridiculous English account of the approach and attempt on a 6,000 meter peak in South America. Absurdly childish animation complements the daft humor to produce one of the funniest expedition films in recent years. Monty Python meets National Geographic on the snow slopes." Taos Mountain Film Festival 2005

"Alastair Lee and David Halsted's hilarious and inspiratioal film, "Twice Upon a Time in Bolivia". In the film, a bunch of Lancashire lads climb Pequeno Alpamayo and Huayna Potosi (6,094m). The footage of the mountains and people is outstanding - we highly recommend this film to anyone who is considering going to Bolivia." - www.jagged-globe.co.uk

"hilarious" - www.thebmc.co.uk

"Storms - The Movie" The unfinished footage is already dripping with computerised special effect explosions and frankly ludicrous moments of death and it's hard to really judge what it all means, but it's unlike anything the climbing film world has ever seen, and that's got to be a good thing. " - www.outdoorsmagic.com


Reviewed by Adrian Berry of Planet Fear on 23/12/2004
To listen to the judges at the 2004 Kendal Mountain Film Festival you'd think that this was going to be the worst film ever made. Filled with special effects, shaky, hand-held zoom-laiden camera work, and no serious narrative. Could it even be, as was said of last year's people's choice winner, that it was a little 'self-indulgent'?

In case you didn't know, Twice Upon a Time in Bolivia won the People's Choice award at the 2004 Kendal Mountain Film Festival. In fact, it didn't just win it, it ran away with it. More than that, of all the films that got the seal of approval by the cognoscenti, none of them created the buzz left by Alastair Lee and David Halsted.

The film follows Gaz Howell, Alastair Lee, David Halsted, and Valerie Le Clerc on a mountaineering trip to Bolivia where they climb the utterly stunning Huayna Potosi and Pequeno Alpamayo.

The film includes a wealth of camera-work and animated effects that make you wonder how on-earth they managed to create such stunning moving images without a helicopter. The animation by David Halsted accompanies the film brilliantly, you will have never seen animation like this used in a climbing film. There is also great use of point of view shots from just about any perspective you can imagine. The innovation in this film certainly pushes the boundaries of low-budget mountain films, it was a risk, but it works spectacularly.

To sum up the style of the film, it is part travel/mountaineering documentary, part Monty Python. One moment you'll be laughing out loud at the intelligent humour, the next filled with inspiration by an honest, un-romanticised view of mountaineering.

There is almost no fault in this film, but if I had to find some, I'd question the English subtitling, which visually detracts sometimes, and thought that the 'American' scene didn't seem quite up to the level of humour of the rest.

The title comes from the fact that Alastair and Valerie had previously attempted Alpamayo on their honeymoon the previous year. This time, with a bigger team, they try for the summit again, and the film concludes at the summit. Exactly where it should.

There is plenty of bonus material on the DVD, with a short film 'I am Climbing' being the most prominent. If you first watched this film at a Film Festival, then scroll through the menus to find the 'Festival Intro' to get the extended (hilarious) intro.

Fully recommended, even if you have absolutely no interest in mountaineering, it's a damn good laugh!


Climbing in Morocco reviewed by Adrian Berry on 11/01/2004
This is a very imaginatively constructed travelogue film on climbing in Morocco, it takes in the well documented sport climbing venue of Todra Gorge, the bouldering area at Tafraoute, and North Africa's highest peak, Jebel Toubkal, so there's something to appeal to everyone. What is apparent from watching this film is the thought that has gone into it, not just at the editing/authoring stage, but during the visit, which indicates a well organised, professional approach, and is time well spent. The music is well above average for a climbing film, the filming is of a similarly high quality, and the use of effects all serve to make this a slick offering.

Todra Gorge looks like an impressive venue, big walls, lots of bolts, and a very international feel to it, this film is certainly enough to make you want to visit. I would have liked to have seen more of Todra Gorge, perhaps some of the longer routes, and definitely more climbing filmed from above. The 'Eurotrash' style creative subtitle and mistranslation gags inject some humour into the film, later appearances by duelling Jedi Knights all add up to stamp Alastair Lee's unique brand onto this film. I would have liked route names, and some big grades ascents as a focal point to this section, but that's my only complaint with this film.

Covering the bouldering at Tafraoute so honestly is to be applauded, so easily could the stunning landscape and visuals of inspiring boulders been left without commentary, only to disappoint all who visit, as the rock is clearly rubbish, and full points to Alastair for saving us the trouble of taking our pads out there. Definitely looks worth taking a mountain-bike though, so all is not in vain.

The final chapter takes us to the summit of Jebel Toubkal, at 4,176m this is North Africa's highest summit, and evidently a bit of an easy one at that. It serves to reminds us that our preconceptions are often changed by travel, and, as the film notes in closing, we've all learnt something!

If you are considering visiting Morocco, it is worth getting hold of a copy of this travelogue, conversely, if you're looking for a new destination, watching this film will certainly inspire a trip. What would have made this truly a 'must-buy' would have been the inclusion of further info, such as PDF topos to the crags and areas. This would make this the first DVD guidebook, perhaps next time!

Lastly, this DVD includes a DVD feature Land in Your Earscape, a 10 minute AV feature which certainly adds to the product, and has a few surprises which I'll let you judge for yourselves!