Jon Long’s The Search For Freedom is a beautifully shot and intriguing film that focuses on a host of extreme sports stars and what urges them to continuously push themselves to such tremendous measures. The documentary explores the philosophies and sometimes-spiritualistic views of its stars, such as: Tony Hawk, Robby Naish, Danny Way, Ron Kauk and Kelly Slater.
Long explores a wide range of sports and its stars which allows the viewer to witness a vast amount of amazing stunts and sporting feats which all in turn are accompanied by jaw dropping landscapes and imposing terrain, something he has experience with from previously directing ‘Extreme’. This is a lot more than just impressive stunts though and concentrates on why and how these sports came about and what compels its participants to partake.
The interviews at first are very compelling and there are some very insightful views which does break away from the preconception of what an extreme sports star can be perceived, something the director likes to highlight frequently and none more so than with Glen Singleman who is a Freefall Artist and ER doctor. Singleman points out “There is a deeper and more multi dimensional person inside this doctor.” With which he explains that it may a “gentic disposition” and not “environmentally determined” that brings him to be a thrill seeker.
The ‘freedom’ Long is highlighting is not simply just getting away from the typical 9-5 grind and escaping into the countryside. It’s not simply just the freedom you can feel when participating in these sports. Long looks into the growth of these sports and becoming culturally acceptable, in turn the stars of the sports have seen the transformation from them being an outsider to being accepted. This is the over riding theme, an acceptance that that these men and women did not receive when they were younger (some cases didn’t seek) and thus it’s the search of yourself and the freedom to be yourself.
Although the interviews and topic are compelling Long spreads his net to far, in focusing on so many sports we are just scratching the surface. I wanted more. Gary Fisher (co inventor of the Mountain Bike) gives a brief description of the birth of the mountain bike and then we are quickly shunned to the next interview. At one and a half hours it also seemed very long, this would not have been the case if it explored deeply into half the amount of people interviewed. You couldn’t get away from the theme of the piece and it was very frustrating as after an hour very little new was being presented or said. Again, I wanted more, for example, Rob Kauk (rock climbing legend) and Glen Singleman both express that it’s more than just being a thrill seeker but its about a culture, a way of life, a way of connecting with nature. But instead of hearing more on this we are moved along to the next interview and sport.
This documentary is brilliantly shot, has incredible visuals and the stunts witnessed are truly amazing. The interviews although at first are intriguing they end up just frustrating. If you want some awesome stunts this is your film, if you want an in depth documentary on its subject matter, then it is not. Its just a shame Long could not search a little deeper.
Dir: Jon Long
Scr: Jon Long
Featuring: Tony Hawk, Kelly Slater, Danny Way, Robbie Maddison
Run time: 92 min
The Search for Freedom is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from 10 August 2015 and is available on Digital now.