Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
New Voices in Black Cinema ’15: An American Ascent
you call it Mount McKinley or Denali, it still lacks the sort of mystique that
surrounds Everest or K2, despite its status as the highest point in North America.
However, real mountaineers respect anyone who makes a credible attempt at it.
Unlike other storied peaks, Denali campaigns cannot rely on Sherpas to do all
the heavy lifting. Those attacking it have to earn every step they take. It is
therefore a fitting site for the expedition documented in Andrew Adkins &
George Potter’s An American Ascent (trailer here), which screens
during the 2015 New Voices in Black Cinema at the BAM Rose Cinemas.
the 100th anniversary of Mount McKinley’s first summiting (we will
use both names interchangeably out of respect for our friends in Ohio and
Alaska), a party of nine African American climbers set out to repeat the feat.
Aside from the obvious lure of adventure and Denali’s general being there, they
also wanted to make a statement. There were frustrated many outdoors sporting
and recreational activities were considered “white” things to do. In the long
run, many fear support for environmental advocacy will waiver in the African
American community, but in the short run, they hope to provide an example for
younger, urban school children to consider national parks like Denali part of
their heritage as well.
is a bit of soap-boxing on these issues, but the daily drama of their campaign
properly dominates the film. Adkins & Potter nicely establish the
personalities of the individual climbers and capture some intense moments.
Anyone who has seen any of the recent mountaineering docs (and there have been
some good ones) knows you should not consider summiting the determination of
success or failure. Nonetheless, there is a fair degree of suspense surrounding
this question in Ascent.
Ascent combines a
compelling story with good intentions, but it is bizarrely shy when it comes to
capitalizing on the stunning vistas visible from Denali. Obviously, such shots
look great on-screen, but they also heighten our sense of place. In this
respect, Meru, K2, Beyond the Edge, and
The Summit are all superior films.
has its considerable merits, including taking the time to acknowledge
trail-blazing African American alpinist Charles Crenchaw. It is solid
mountaineering doc, but a bit on the short side at just under seventy minutes,
so it is proceeded by the notable short film, King of Guangzhou about a Nigerian migrant worker trying to extend
his stay in China. Recommended for outdoors sporting enthusiasts, An American Ascent screens this Friday
(3/27) at BAM, as part of this year’s New Voices in Black Cinema.
Labels: Documentary, New Voices in Black Cinema '15