The art of free-falling as an extreme sport can be dangerous. When done right, the euphoria experienced might be like that of experiencing heaven shine upon one’s face like a bright sparkling diamond. Sunshine Superman is an aptly titled documentary about Carl Boenish, the father of BASE jumping. His work in the 70’s and 80’s helped further interest amongst the masses, and the challenges he faced typically meant disobeying the law. Not everyone in enforcement liked the idea of miscreants breaking into buildings or climbing high mountaintops only to leap off it.
There was no legal precedents for a sport that was still in its infancy. But for a person like Carl, he was more interested in challenging what nature had set against him. This film brilliantly begins with him saying, “I feel that we were constantly led by the idea that we are glorifying mankind’s beautiful spirit of seeking adventure and that we were within our rights of freedom and dominion over all the Earth.”
And what this film does is to nicely represent everything that Boenish wished to aspire to. Part biopic and part dramatic, this inspirational movie shows everything that he loved. From his humble beginnings as a child who could have died from polio to making a miraculous recovery, something in him must have snapped. When he was given an opportunity to learn how to become a filmmaker in the movie Gypsy Moth, he left his electrical engineering job and went full-time to pursue his dreams. In small ways, he influenced the invention of the Go-Pro. In what he strapped on was a Super8 film camera making him look like The Rocketeer.
By going through all the reels of footage recording his better known jumps, this film is perfectly compact to detail the highlights of his life. From his early days of jumping to meeting his wife, Jeanie, and ultimately leading up to his tragic death, there’s an emotional crux that can be felt in this narrative. Through plenty of old and new interviews with family and friends (including fellow jumpers), the story told takes on different tones. Through voice overs from his own shot footage, viewers get to learn about what this man is about and see what he saw when falling. big screen IMAXenthusiasts can only imagine how the footage can look like if the technology was available back then.
The only mystery is in why he had to challenge Troll Wall — it was deemed dangerous. Although his wife and another jumper successfully challenged it, perhaps that was done to honour everything Carl wanted. In his own words, “Nothing happens by chance … every single thing that happens, happens for a reason. It happens due to the laws of the universe.”
Playing Feb 10th, 9:45pm at the Odeon Theatre
Victoria Film Festival 2015