By John Stifter
Ski movies are not supposed to do this—leave a sold-out, standing-room-only crowd searching for meaning outside of skiing. No, post premiere, skiers and ski-film fans are conditioned to sing the praises of pro shredhorts and their uncanny abilities to descend giant peaks, toss big tricks or slide sketchy handrails. And then, fans’ thoughts go to the upcoming winter, motivated to make their own winter memories. Instead, the Sherpas Cinema second feature film, All.I.Can., lived up to the subliminal meaning of its title and provoked such deep, different thoughts that many were left hunting for an apt description afterward.
"It's gonna take a few days for me to digest what I just watched," said longtime Whistler local and Powder Senior Correspondent Les Anthony.
"That," said All.I.Can. skier Mark Abma, pausing, "was a powerful film."
The much-anticipated two-year project premiered two weekends ago in Montreal, at IF3, where it was shown outdoors on a projector screen. Although it scored positive reviews, the outdoor setting was not the proper venue. Mike Douglas, who saw the film in Montreal, even admitted prior to the Whistler showing how he eager he was to watch it again in a better setting, like the Whistler Conference Center. Likewise, the Sherpas billed the Whistler screening as the “world premiere,” and the buzz for it in the local community was at an all-time high, according to longtime locals. To boot, an environmental and art fair preceded Friday night’s big show, adding to the communal eco-art subtext.
To start, the Sherpas conceived the idea of the title—All.I.Can.—to promote a global awareness that skiers and riders can achieve. Although the film possesses an environmental angle, it's more than that. Broken up into chapters, the "All" seeks to depict how we're all contributors to some form of mode; the "I" shows the extraordinary talents of the individual (Read: Kye Petersen's segment, set to a dramatic tribal-like song, still has me fired up three days later); and the "Can" unites us all, young and old, to acknowledge hypocrisies and negativity and to engender positive change. Usually, a title rarely holds its meaning throughout a film, but All.I.Can. shifts the paradigm, leaving viewers encouraged and united on a communal front. During a time in a world of talked-about change, the film's originality is change.
"To see this many people come together and bind, it's really inspiring that you can float a picture where all these people can be on the forefront of a revolution," said Sherpas co-owner and All.I.Can. producer Malcolm Sangster. "It's pretty tough to intertwine that kind of message into a ski film and still make it entertaining."
Yet the Sherpas were able to do that via co-directors Dave Mossop and Eric Crosland’s uncommon cinematography skills, and the B.C.-dominant cast of skiers: Petersen, Abma, Douglas, James Heim, Chris Rubens, Eric Hjorleifson, Ian McIntosh, Rory Bushfield, Sean Pettit, Callum Pettit, Dana Flahr, Chad Sayers, and Matty Richard. Oh yeah, add JP Auclair to that star-studded cast. Known for his admitted unhealthy time-lapse obsession, Mossop and Co. produced countless time-lapse sequences from fall to winter and winter to spring that not only capture the change of seasons, but also the transformation of our winter environments. The pacing and progression of the intro, featuring slow-mo shots of molten lava, clouds, and other scenics, was analogous to listening to a Zeppelin song, the excitement and suspense building with each frame. It's been well documented that the Sherpas, like most film companies today, used several different camera kits, including the RED cam, Super 16, Cineflex HD giro stabilized heli cam, Canon 7D and 5D, Phantom HD Gold slow-mo cam, and GoPro helmet cams.
Trips to Morocco, Chile, Greenland, Alaska, and, of course, British Columbia worked seamlessly with the Sherpas creative cinematic style, allowing for a cultural and environmental story to be documented. Ultimately, the benefits of a two-year project are obvious, as the storyline exists throughout the film, while the filming and editing are that much stronger.
Although several segments stand out, the closing chapter with J.P. Auclair jibbing the hilly town of Trail, B.C., elicited the most energy out of an energetic crowd. Much like the rest of the film, Auclair's segment is layered with meaning. A retrospective of Auclair boosting on Blackcomb's Horstman Glacier in the late '90s and then fast-forwarding to today exhibit that change can happen. Despite melting snow and warm temperatures during the jib shoot, Auclair shows that skiers cannot be stopped from having fun. Not necessarily known for filming jibbing, the Sherpas may have changed the formula, making jib shots and the accompanying terrain that much more interesting and accessible to the viewer. In fact, the Auclair segment encapsulated the film as a whole—we can affect change by moving; doing nothing is slowing down regardless of conditions.
As viewers attempted to grasp the gravity of the film, Sangster ruminated on the effect of their collective goal. "Generation to generation, it seems everyone is getting more aware. And if we can keep going with that movement as a ski and outdoor culture and keep that direction, then we're all happy," he said. Certainly, All.I.Can. is like no other ski movie past or present. A communal movement requires such an initiative to make an impact.