The RiverRun International Film Festival always includes a diverse slate of movies, from big-budget classics to art-house short films.
Typically, a handful of outdoors-themed documentaries are folded into the lineup. This year, those films include “Live the Stream: The Story of Joe Humphreys,” a renowned fly fishermen; “A Texas Myth” about an indigenous activist group protesting industrialization of West Texas; and “Kifaru” about rangers in Kenya caring for the endangered white rhino.
I got an early look at two movies, “Fine Lines” and “The River and the Wall,” both of which are being presented by Great Outdoor Provision Co. Though the films are vastly different, nature plays a dominant role. Each is a visual feast, with long shots of breathtaking scenery that will leave you itching to run out of the theater and head to the nearest mountain or river.
“Fine Lines” is a 97-minute long documentary that probes the minds of the top climbers in the world, including Alex Honnold, the subject of “Free Solo,” which recently won the Oscar for Best Documentary. One of the directors of that film, Jimmy Chin, is also a world-class climber, and he is among the climbers interviewed in “Fine Lines.”
Director Dina Khreino talked to climbers for nearly three years, essentially asking them to explain a type of behavior that sounds insane to most of us: Why risk your life to scale a mountain?
The answers vary, from the satisfaction of doing something well to problem-solving to the joy of getting into a flow.
I liked what Chin said best: “What scares me most is not having meaning in my life, not having something to be passionate about.”
Khreino talked to a range of climbers, including Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind hiker to reach the top of Mount Everest; Lynn Hill, a pioneering woman climber; and Tommy Caldwell, a rock climber who lost a finger in a table-saw accident.
Interspersed among the interviews is stunning footage of the Himalayans and Yosemite National Park, among other locations.
Fans of “Free Solo” and “Meru” will enjoy this movie. Khreino will be on hand at each of the screenings.
“The River and The Wall,” by director Ben Masters, takes a long look at the 1,200-mile stretch of Texas that borders Mexico, from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico. A group of five people with varying expertise travel the stretch on horses, mountain bikes and canoes, through the rugged isolation of Big Bend National Park and into the more urban lower Rio Grande Valley.
The team looks at how this area would be affected by the proposed border wall. Masters talks to Democrat congressman Beto O’Rourke and Republican congressman Will Hurd to get their takes on the wall, as well as border agents and farmers. In some areas, the border wall would be built so far inland from the Rio Grande River that it would separate farmers from the river while putting sections of their land out of reach, essentially stranding nearly a million acres of Texas farmland.
“It makes me sad that a political symbol and a campaign promise can destroy this beautiful landscape that I’ve come to love,” Masters says in the film. The movie has a sweeping feel and was powerful in its argument that there are better and more practical ways to protect the border than erecting a wall through nature.