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‘Descendance’ Takes Home Outstanding Camera Work at 2024 Sports Emmy Awards

Featured Image: Courtesy of Legs of Steel

It’s often true that ski films remain hidden from public recognition. While they are fawned over and adored by our niche community of mountain enthusiasts, many of these movies do not spread into the mainstream. There are numerous reasons why this occurs, ranging from the film’s actual reach to the content’s relatability. But at the end of the day, we can all agree that some stories are bigger than skiing. They tackle themes that spread across countries, cultures, and people. So when a film like this, which uses skiing as a medium, receives admiration from the masses, it is nothing short of beautiful. This is the case with the recent film, ‘Descendance,’ which took home first place in the category of Outstanding Camera Work – Long Form at the 2024 Sports Emmy Awards. The project’s Principal Cinematographers were Michael Haunschmidt and Mathias Kögel.

Brought together by The North Face and the production powerhouse known as Legs of Steel, the project dives into the life of Dennis Ranalter, AKA D-Ran. Ranalter is one of the most well-rounded freeskiers on the planet. His ability to blend freestyle into freeride skiing is mesmerizing, bringing the same poise and confidence he shows in the park into the backcountry. But his skiing, as fantastic as it is, can hardly be considered the full story. Hailing from Austria with family roots in Ghana, D-Ran’s story is one of identity, perseverance, and growth. While many jump to be in the spotlight, D-Ran has long let his skiing speak for itself. He is known to be rather soft-spoken, but what he has to say is always worth hearing. In hopes of inspiring others, he came forward to help tell his story and learn from his roots.

The award for Outstanding Camera Work – Long Form displayed in front of the ‘Descendance’ poster

Ranalter trusted the brilliant people at Legs of Steel to tell his tale. For a quiet man from a small town, this was an expression of immense trust. The team delivered on their promise and created a film that captivates the viewer without ever skipping a beat. It is interesting, engaging, respectful, and topical. A large part of this was accomplished thanks to the incredible cinematography, which helped tell the story in an immersive and compelling way.

Legs of Steel veteran Paddy Graham gave FREESKIER a few words that summarized his team’s excitement in regard to taking home the prestigious award –

When we first heard ‘Descendance’ was nominated in two categories at the 2024 Sports Emmys – Outstanding Camera Work & Outstanding Editing – we were over the moon. We couldn’t believe the news when we found out we won! It’s our second award at the Sports Emmys after ‘The Ultimate Run’ topped the same category in 2022.

The project as a whole has so much depth. We are thankful that Dennis brought this story to us and the trust he gave the team. His personal journey in the world as a young black skier and his struggles with identity run deep.

At the film’s heart, we find the question of race, and what it means to be black in a predominantly and conspicuously white sport. ‘Descendance’ is Dennis’ story, a personal journey of self-exploration that examines his relationship with his own skin color, with those closest to him, and all those who share his love of skiing.

It’s a journey that takes him from his home valley in Austria to Accra, the capital of Ghana, shining a light on the power of family along the way.

For the film to have been recognized and Mathias Kögel & Michael Haunschmidt awarded a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Camera Work (amongst other multiple awards from the wider film festival scene) is incredible. We hope the project can reach an even broader audience through this accomplishment.

Mathias Kögel (left) and Dennis Ranalter are all smiles while filming for ‘Descendance’
D-Ran pauses while in Accra, the capital of Ghana

Unfortunately, neither of the cinematographers could make it to the awards ceremony, but Michael Haunschmidt said he was, “pretty happy to enjoy this moment well rested at home and not having to be 10/10 nervous up on that stage,” and Mathias Kögel added, “It’s an amazing achievement for the film to be recognized at such a high level. I’m very proud of the whole team behind the project. Thank you.”

To see a film that touches on so many topics of our time receive an award like this on the big stage is incredible. Ranalter’s story impacts all of us. Whether you find yourself in a position like his, pushing through narrow-minded onlookers during a journey of self-discovery, or as someone who seeks to make their community more accessible and open, there are lessons to be found for everyone.

A massive congratulations to the team at Legs of Steel, to Dennis Ranalter, and to all who are fighting to make skiing a home for all. We hope to see another project from this crew, and more of D-Ran on the big screen this fall.

If you have yet to see the full film, be sure to do so right here, for free!

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