2013′s Best Ski Films: Read Freeskier’s review of Sweetgrass Productions’ “Valhalla”
Do you remember what it was like to see winter’s first snowfall as a child? Valhalla, from Sweetgrass Productions, aims to retrieve that subliminal feeling through the fictional journey of its protagonist, Conrad.
Valhalla isn’t a ski film. Well, it is, but moreover it’s a fictional tale that utilizes the joys and effects of skiing, specifically snorkel-worthy, interior B.C. pow shredding, to paint a bigger picture of rediscovering the freedom of youth. The film follows Conrad, played by Cody Barnhill, as he packs up his Volkswagon Beetle and heads north, away from the desert heat and to the remote mountain commune of like-minded powder hounds, Valhalla. Valhalla is inhabited by, as the film put it, “the untamed, estranged, wild few tending the flame,” including The Shiek, the leader of the clan, and Ayla, played by Sierra Quitiquit.
After the buildup for the movie, with two equally mind-bending trailers, the promise of a thought provoking story arch and visual effects that Sweetgrass is known for, and a laundry list of top level pros, I was curious to see the reaction of the crowd, especially one made up of a melting pot of Quebecois and East Coast park skiers, pro skiers and industry folk at iF3 Montreal.
The film was well received, as moviegoers appreciated the fine editing work that created a dream-like quality to the film, as well as the outstanding direction and production executed by the Sweetgrass team. The crew immersed the crowd in the unfolding of a story as Conrad travels north, ultimately landing in Alaska, in search of simplicity and freedom. A soundtrack of psychedelic and folk rock songs, including a favorite of mine, Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” blends with standout performances from Barnhill, Pep Fujas, Eric Hjorleifson, Aidan Sheahan and Zack Giffin to draw the crowd in, as Conrad takes a six chapter journey that finally lands him in Alaska.
The film would go on to win the Best Storytelling Award at the iF3 Movie Awards that followed, and could’ve taken home the award for Best Editing, which it was also nominated for. It will be interesting to see if movies like Valhalla change the way production companies make ski films. Will we see a further shift from the ski porn medium? Will more and more films depict fictional stories with deeper meanings beyond just skiing? That remains to be seen, but for now, embrace the message of Valhalla, and find the simple joys of skiing that we all knew when we were young.
Trailer Page: http://ow.ly/p2hkO
Runtime: 55 minutes
Get It Now: http://ow.ly/p2htQ