The superb 46-minute Norwegian film North of the Sun begins with its protagonists Inge Wegge and Jorn Ranum stating, “It all started as a crazy idea.” That idea: to spend the winter on a beach in the Arctic Circle where the two would survive on society’s leftovers, including expired food items (to eat) and found materials that washed up onto the isolated shoreline (to build shelter). The idea was sweetened with the knowledge that the two young men would have their own private surf break.
The Banff Mountain Film Festival’s grand prize winner and people’s choice winner, North of the Sun is one of eight films that will be shown at the festival’s stop at Monterey’s Golden State Theatre this Friday night. Proceeds raised at this year’s fest will benefit local restoration education project Return of the Natives.
In North of the Sun, Wegge and Ranum’s beach is a stunning strand of sand and rock crammed between towering coastal cliffs. The cabin the duo build is the sort of cool little structure that might be splayed across the pages of a magazine devoted to hipster dwellings. And the surf break out front seems to consistently churn out empty, head-high waves. Add in the Northern Lights, which light up the sky like a lime green lava lamp, and North of the Sun will make you want to log out of modern society and head to your own secret beach, ridgetop or forest.
From his current location at a mountain cabin in the middle of Norway, Ranum attemps to further explain his nine months on the beach and the film to the Weekly via answers typed on a cell phone. The movie makes it apparent that for Ranum and Wegge to survive they’ll need to keep warm during the deteriorating conditions of a Norwegian winter.
“One of the biggest challenges was to get enough dry wood,” Ranum writes.
Even after the sun disappears for weeks on end, Wegge and Ranum keep surfing despite chilling air temperatures and water temperatures hovering around 38 degrees. “We are used to surfing in the north, so it’s just fun,” Ranum writes. “The short days and dark surf was special. It’s weird when you don’t see the waves.”
In addition to surfing, the young men are constantly collecting impressive amounts of trash that wash up on the beach. In the end, they piled up three tons of trash they removed by helicopter. “It’s sad to see all the trash, but I hope people get inspired to think about the environment,” Ranum says. “We know we collected a small amount. Everything helps.”
Stand, another film being screened, had a more direct environmental message: to raise awareness about the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, which would effectively transform the waters off the British Columbia island of Haida Gwaii into a marine superhighway for oil tankers.
In the movie, Norm Hann, who has the enviable title of “expedition paddleboarder,” is filmed while undertaking a 220-mile paddle along the eastern flank of Haida Gwaii, which is also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. He paddles past killer whales threading the surface of placid waters, forests as green as pool-table felt and weathered totem poles.
The paddleboarder and the film put forth the argument that not only would any sort of oil leak or tanker wreck be a catastrophe to the region but that even if there are no accidents, the pipeline would not be that beneficial to the people of British Columbia.
“People are going to say ‘I want it or I don’t want it,’ but when you actually start to look at some of the hard facts and some of the numbers it doesn’t really make sense,” Hann says.
The paddleboarding expedition featured in Stand is Hann’s second attempt to alert people about the pipeline by undertaking an extreme paddle. In 2010, he had just gotten into stand-up paddleboarding and the potential effects of the proposed pipeline. He stroked all the way from Kitimat, where the proposed tankers are supposed to leave, south along the route down to Bella Bella. That first paddle was about 250 miles long and took 10 days.
“We ran into a lot of wildlife,” Hann says. “We had a pod of killer whales that were paddling with us that had just made a kill.”
The second paddle had its own sights and challenges. “I think we budgeted for three weather days, and we used two of our weather days before the trip even started,” Hann says.
With the proposed pipeline still a possibility, Hann will embark on one last paddle to raise awareness about the issue. “This June, I’m actually doing the last part,” he says. “I’ve always had the goal of wanting to cross Hecate Strait, so I’m going from Haida Gwaii and paddling east back toward the mainland across Hecate Strait. It’s probably going to be a 12 – to 14-hour crossing.”
Hecate Strait is a shallow, dangerous waterway that is known for violent weather, which will make this Hann’s toughest expedition yet. “Just thinking about it gets my heart going a bit,” he says, “but it will be a good challenge.”
THE BANFF MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL screens 7pm Friday, Feb. 28, at the Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $20. Tickets athttp://montereybanff.bpt.me