X-Dance Offers Big Screen Action Thrills
By: Rebecca Babicz // Salt Lake Tribune
Watching herself on the big screen with her family and friends, Salt Lake City pro skier Grete Eliassen had, well, let’s call it a moment.
“It’s mind blowing,” Eliassen said. “Because when I was a little girl thinking about this moment — this was my dream.”
Eliassen’s movie “Say My Name,” screened for the first time in Utah at X-Dance, a festival that highlights the best action-sports movies of the year. Now in its 11th-year, X-Dance’s opening day on Saturday attracted more than 2,000 moviegoers. That’s due to the attraction of the movies, and also the festival’s new venue, downtown’s The Depot, which holds 230 people and boasts an incredible sound system. The three-day festival continues film screenings through Monday.
“Say My Name,” featuring Eliassen and her fellow female freeskiing phenoms, was filmed predominantly in Utah — in the Uintah mountain backcountry, as well as The Canyons, Snowbird, Brighton and Alta ski resorts.
After the screening, Eliassen gave away two pairs of Volkl skis. One pair went to the first woman who could spell her first name correctly, pronounced “Greh-tah,” leaving some members of the crowd wishing they paid more attention to how to spell Grete’s name instead of just saying it.
Just as “Say My Name” captured the adrenaline, fun and essence behind freeskiing, the festival’s lineup featured more action films with a difference. A difference, that is, in the way of story lines.
It’s a new trend in the action film genre that filmmakers are turning away from “action porn,” said festival film director Brian Wimmer. That’s a term used to describe footage with impressive action scenes, but little narrative.
One prime example is “Life Cycles,” by Brigham Young University film school graduate Ryan Gibb, which paints a beautiful story of a bike, from its creation to demise, through the people that ride it. The movie documents incredible mountain biking, time lapses and “Planet Earth”-like cinematography. Each shot in the movie is strategically selected to develop the overall cycle-of-life theme.
“We wanted people to be drawn in by the beauty of the world around us and how mountain bikers use the bicycle to access this beauty,” Gibb said. “The cinematography combined with a story is what I feel really draws people in. The story is about life, and it is something every single one of us can relate to on some level.”
Several movies in this year’s festival develop themes of environmental responsibility, such as “180 Degrees South,” about surfing and climbing in Patagonia, and “Deeper,” a snowboard documentary featuring Jeremy Jones, the X-Dance athlete of the year.
There’s still plenty of action in this year’s films, while many of the documentaries also serve as personal portraits of the athletic life. “Like a Lion” offers a peek into the life of legendary skier Tanner Hall and his roller-coaster of life, while “First Love,” follows three teenaged aspiring professional surfers.
“Stoked and Broke,” the surfing movie with a title that many of the moviegoers can relate to, focuses on how two surfers penny pinch to live their sports dream, while “Halo Effect” explores kayaking through a four-man crew’s adventure in attempting to knock off descents with the help of a power glider.
“I think X-Dance is awesome,” said moviegoer Terri Hall, of Kaysville, who attended the film with her two young children. “I wish more people knew about it because it’s a great opportunity for sports that aren’t so mainstream. It definitely gives a venue for sports like that and I think it’s important.”