The best nature and adventure films make you forget that you’re sitting on your sofa, wrapped up in a blanket with a nice cup of tea, and catapult you out to the mountains; to the peaks of Costa Rica, the rugged wilds of the Scottish Highlands or the white, snowy landscapes of the Arctic Circle. They have the power to inspire, inform - and get you rearing to get back outdoors.
Each month, we choose one of our favourite short adventure films for our Lunchtime Cinema collection, and have a chat with someone involved in the making of the film; whether it be someone in front of the lens or behind. The idea is that you can sit down for your lunch, watch a nice little film, and read our chat with the team involved - and then go back about your day washed anew with inspiration. So... here are 12 of the best short adventure films of the past year.
MUSHER is a short film about Brage Jæger as he prepares for, then runs, the Finnmark Race, Europe's longest dog sled race. The film follows Brage in the days leading up to the race, as he trains his dogs in the snowbound landscape surrounding his hometown of Alta in Norway. MUSHER includes dramatic footage of the race, including the emotional moment when Brage crosses the finish line.
"Just being on your feet for twelve hours every day in the temperatures you're in takes a lot of energy," said Brage. "Socking the dogs - which is 17 booties times four - means you’re constantly bent over, like you're picking fruit or potatoes from the ground. You need to know the inside of the paw of every single dog that you train.”
Hvala Croatia, a Bikepacking Adventure
Hvala Croatia’ is the latest film from Yorkshire-based bikepacking experts Restrap. The film follows four friends on a long-distance cycling tour through northern Croatia. They climb exposed cliffside roads with stunning views of the Adriatic Sea, descend through winding forests and battle the infamous Bora winds, toasty temperatures and gravel paths with boulders big enough to make road tyres wince.
“You see stuff that you just wouldn’t see if you weren’t on the bike,” Jon says. “In Croatia, we headed inland and saw farms, mountains and so much more of the culture. You’re passing through places that aren’t on the tourist radar.
Resilience is a 16-minute short from Wondermore Films, which follows the story of the company’s co-founder Christine Raine on her healing journey from breast cancer - a journey which takes her up Mount Chirripó (3,821m), the highest mountain in her native Costa Rica. The film has found a global audience, becoming the first Costa Rican documentary to be shown in an IMAX theatre and winning a multitude of awards at film festivals.
"Travel is such an incredible stimulus and such an incredible way to gain perspective," said Christine. "It was so joyous and so profound [climbing Chirripó]. I feel a real relationship to that place. These three pivotal moments in my healing journey all had to do with this mountain. One prior, one during and one after cancer. It’s amazing how building a relationship with nature can change our relationship with ourselves.”
Explore Your Boundaries: Argyll and the Isles
Explore Your Boundaries was a pandemic-time project from round-the-world cyclists Markus Stitz and Mark Beaumont, who were inspired to set routes around the edge of Scottish council boundaries after the government implemented rules which meant we couldn't venture further.
Now that the world has opened up again, Stitz and Beaumont have been back on their bikes and out riding these routes. Most recently, the duo set out to ride 500 miles (800km) around the stunning islands and coastlines of Argyll & Bute, and invited Jenny Graham, the fastest woman to ever circumnavigate the globe, to join them.
Black Diamond Presents: Miles to Go
Miles to Go is a short film about a team of male trans runners in America. It follows them as they prepare to enter a trail-running race and explores the benefits and freedoms they feel from being outside.
“I wanted to make this film because we so often think of sport as recreational, but for me and so many people, it's actually vital to our existence because it's where we connect; it's where we feel embodied and empowered,” explains Perry Cohen, who founded the running group.
I Am Capable
I Am Capable is a short film about wild swimming, made by Roxy Furman. It’s an immersion - not just into the cold waters of the Lake District, but into the lives of the women it portrays. The film centres around Amira Patel, founder of The Wanderlust Women, a hiking group for Muslim women.
“The main aim is to represent Muslim women outdoors, to break down barriers and stereotypes, and to represent that Muslim women are not oppressed. We can do as much as anyone else,” she says.
Surfer Lucy Small, on Equality in Sport
Lucy Small is one of Australia’s best longboarders. But when she hit the headlines in her homeland last year, it wasn’t for the Sydney surf competition she had just won - it was for the speech she gave from the winner’s podium. “I called out the organisers for having unequal prize money,” Lucy told us. “There was a two and a half thousand dollar difference between the women’s prize and the men’s. I was just pretty done with being treated like that, and the video of it blew up on social and mainstream media.”
In the year since giving that speech at the Curly Maljam, Small has appeared everywhere from chat shows to magazine front covers, and has used her platform to launch a serious campaign for equality in sport - at every level. Small’s story is told in this beautifully-shot short film from Surfdome
Riding Light, with Steve Bate
Steve Bate MBE is a Paralympic cyclist, with the medals to show for it. He picked up two golds and a bronze at the 2016 Games in Rio, and completed the set with a silver in Tokyo. Bate was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) in 2011, a condition which, he says, is “slowly robbing me of my eyesight.” It will eventually cause him to go blind.
Bate is officially registered as visually-impaired, but rather than impeding his thirst for adventure, his diagnosis inspired him push his limits. In 2013, Bate became the first partially-sighted person to solo climb the legendary El Capitan in Yosemite. This beautiful films tell Steve's story.
Explore Your Boundaries: Clackmannanshire
During lockdown, we all found ourselves looking closer to home for adventure, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t possible to discover exciting new routes. In their new film ‘Explore Your Boundaries’, round-the-world cyclists Mark Beaumont and Markus Stitz demonstrate exactly that, mapping out new trails along Scottish council boundary lines, inspired into innovation by their lockdown restrictions.
“When your options are limited, it brings out a level of creativity,” Beaumont told us. “You’re forced to find routes in places you normally would never go.”
What Would Mary Do?
In 1936, a 17-year-old woman called Mary Harvie, from Shotts in Lanarkshire, set off with her older sisters Ella and Jean to cycle 500 miles around Scotland. Their trip began in Glasgow, and passed through Stirlingshire, Highland Perthshire and Skye before reaching the North West Highlands. En route, the sisters stayed in youth hostels around Scotland, and Mary documented the journey meticulously in a diary.
When Mary’s son handed that diary into a local youth hostel, a seed was planted. Soon, the Adventure Syndicate, a group of female adventurers and storytellers who advocate for mental and physical wellbeing, had teamed up with Hostelling Scotland to embark on an enormous off-road adventure inspired by Mary. The syndicate, which consists of Lee Craigie, Alice Lemkes and Phillipa Battye, captured their adventure in the beautiful short film ‘What Would Mary Do?’
Sk(i)ate Trip en BAUGES
The plan? To cross the beautiful Bauges massif, a mountain range in eastern France. The method? Well, that's where things get interesting. Using an electric skateboard and a set of skis, Alex Chambet, Gaetan Gaudissard and Bastien Vidonne set out to cross the mountains, going from Annecy to Chambéry.
This is the 16-minute short film which came out of the trip. A three-day ski and skate adventure (with the odd bit of hiking), filmed just 50km from their home, while international borders were closed and during… a heatwave?
All Points North: 1000km Around the North of England
ll Points North is a self-supported, ultra-distance, endurance cycling event which takes place around the North of England. It’s organised by Angela Walker from A Different Gear, an independent bike shop based in Sheffield.
The event sees 100 riders setting off from that bike shop, and taking on the challenge of visiting 10 control points - from Hornsea Mere on the east coast to Ulpha on the west and Bewcastle on the Scottish Border - before returning to Sheffield. Competitors choose their own routes between control points, but in order to complete the race, you’re going to have to rack up around 1000km.
This film follows ultra-cyclist and Kinesis brand ambassador Rupert Robinson, as he competes in the 2021 edition of All Points North. The film is one of two from round-the-world cyclist Markus Stitz that we’re showcasing on our magazine this month (along with ‘Maiden Race’, a film which follows Mark Beaumont taking on GBDURO21, a 2000km British bikepacking race).
Inspired? Check out our full range of adventure holidays now!