2013’s Best Ski Films: Read Freeskier’s review of “McConkey”
McConkey isn’t so much a film about Shane McConkey, as it is a film about a guy named Shane McConkey who’s trying to find himself. The documentary provides a linear look at McConkey’s life. We learn of his childhood, his family dynamics and his ski racing days at Burke Mountain Academy; we see him flunk out of the University of Colorado at Boulder; we watch as he builds a following for himself—with defying acts including massive backflips into the Palisades at Squaw Valley—and we relive the many moments that turned Shane McConkey into a household name.
The film is primarily a mix of Matchstick Productions’ footage—accumulated over a span of 17 years—and Shane’s own personal recordings. We quickly discover Shane’s passion for the camera, and for documenting everything from his stunts, to late night confessionals in the privacy of his own bedroom. Shane’s clips, most of which are never-before-seen, combined with commentary from friends and family gives us insight into his somewhat troubled years—a time where Shane struggled to find his path. The tough times don’t come without laughs, however. Over and again, when things go wrong for Shane a common outlet is naked skiing.
We meet Shane’s parents, Jim and Glenn. The two divorced when Shane was only three, and Jim, a well-known professional skier in the 70s, is thus mostly absent from Shane’s life as he comes of age; how deeply this affects Shane we’ll never know for sure. We watch as Shane falls in love with Sherry, and later as they exchange vows in Thailand. We see Shane become a father to Ayla, and through a wealth of home video we witness many intimate moments between father, mother and daughter. Beautiful commentary by Sherry provides an open, honest account of her relationship with Shane.
And of course, we’re provided a heavy dose of action. We stare in amazement at countless highlights from MSP films of yore, incredible BASE jumps and even more spectacular ski BASE jumps. The footage and locales showcased are spectacular. Shane displays a zest for pushing the limits and his infectious spirit inspires us to leave our comfort zones—to try something new.
At 109 minutes, it’s a lengthy piece. MSP and Red Bull called upon the expertise of one David Zieff to bring the project to fruition. A seasoned editor, Zieff had a hand in the making of numerous films including Crazy Love and The Cove. While the MSP crew may have struggled to cut certain footage (there was enough film to produce a movie six to eight hours in length) Zieff brought a much-needed outsider’s perspective, proving instrumental in the success of the film. Skiing icon Mike Douglas put it well when he told me, “It was the longest ski film I’ve ever seen by quite a bit, but it felt like the shortest. That was an amazing thing. You just wanted to keep seeing more.”
From start to finish, you’ll have laughed—a lot. You’ll say, “Holy shit,” more than twice, and you’ll be moved to the point of tears. The film evokes an incredible array of emotions. McConkey is a film for skiers. It’s a film for thrill seekers. It’s film for anyone who’s looking to get up, get out, and to do something a little more fun than they might have done otherwise—to stand at the edge of the proverbial cliff and dive into a new adventure.
“Ready, set, see ya’.”
McConkey will have a full theatrical run in New York City and Los Angeles starting Friday, October 11, and is currently touring in over 20 locations in North America. McConkey is available for digital download through iTunes and other digital retailers including Google Play, XBOX, Playstation and Vudu. A 3-in-1 collector’s edition on DVD/Blu Ray can be purchased through mcconkeymovie.com and at retail, and the film can now be found On Demand across US cable and satellite providers including DirecTV, Dish, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FiOs and more. More information can be found at mcconkeymovie.com.