[EASTERN RISES screens Saturday April 16 at approximately 8:30 p.m as part of the Best of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour which takes place at The Masonic Temple and Auditorium located at 3615 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, OH]
Review by Charles Cassady Jr.
Felt Soul Media is a couple of filmmakers who decided to quit their day jobs to make movies around the planet about fly fishing, or in their own mission statement "Trying to Make Fishing Appear Sexy Since 2004." Dubious as that sounds, filmmakers Travis Rummel and Ben Knight put every iota of their joy and bemusement in their calling onscreen in EASTERN RISES, an award-winning entry from the Banff Mountain Film Festival.
It concerns a long-planned expedition to fly-fish in remote Russia, undertaken by obsessed American anglers and guides who, in some ways, recall the ensemble cast of the slob-comedy THE HANGOVER (fly-casting in Red Square at Lenin's tomb, as a stunt). These guys have waited years for an entree into what is considered the unspoiled Eden of their pastime, the Kamchakta region deep in Russia. This is true virgin-wilderness territory, barely settled and networked with rivers, many of which have never been fished, at least not by humans. Bear - and in a great sidebar, even a rumored Siberian variant of Bigfoot - roam these parts. But when fly-fishing Homo sapiens come here they have no roads at all and must commute using way-cool giant Cold War helicopters left by the Soviet military, now put into this peacetime service for lucky clients.
Amidst fog-shrouded fishing waters, catch-and-release of super-sized trout, bear intrusions and a fateful encounter with vodka there is no trace of old superpower animosity towards the Yankee-capitalist imperialist dogs, just friendship and fellowship of the sport. As one Russian guide says haltingly, "I like fish. I like fisherman. I like big fish" (Yes, just like in all those Hollywood Cold-War spectacles that made them bad guys, only the Russians seem to have had the courtesy to learn the other side's language).
You really don't have to be into fly fishing or fly tying to really enjoy the Felt Soul gang, and the long-short subject length of 38 minutes is just right. Sponsorship by Patagonia and other outdoorsy vendors give Knight and Rummel a high-gloss polish and a great soundtrack of licensed music. Whether fishing ever seems "sexy" is up to debate, or the outtakes (how come that slender blonde Slavic translator never shows her face to the camera?), but it's a sure thing that for the duration you'll be hooked. (3 1/2 out of 4 stars)