Starring Shaun White, Hannah Teter, Terje Haakonsen, Shawn Farmer and Nick Perata
Directed By: Kevin Harrison and Kemp Curley
Buy on Amazon.com link
First Descent is an in-depth documentary that follows five of the world’s top snowboarders as the venture into the rough and oft-times deadly mountains of Alaska in search of the sickest and most twisted snowboard lines and the rush of their lives. Intertwined with their story is the tale of snowboarding from its earliest inception and known roots to the global phenomenon that it has become today.
First of all, I would like to say that anyone that goes to the top of a 7,600 ft. mountain and wants to ride down it on a small board is freaking insane. I would never do it, but it sure was fun to watch other people do it. From the perspective of someone who likes to watch snowboarding, whether it’s the X Games, the Olympics, or just video clips of stunts and crashes, First Descent to me seemed like a very in-depth look into the history of snowboarding and the unique individuals that take up the sport. What was really cool about this movie or documentary if you will was that it was like watching two movies at once. First Descent starts out with five of the most famous snowboarders past and present as they prepare to get together, some for the first time, and trek to Alaska for a few weeks with plans to seek out the most challenging and dangerous mountains to ride. Through the course of their journey, there are segments that tell the history of snowboarding with a timetable showing its most important moments and periods in time, which I must add is narrated by Henry Rollins. First Descent is pieced together superbly and the editing is top notch. In reality, First Descent is actually two documentaries in one but you never feel lost when flipping from the snowboarder’s trek to the history of snowboarding segments.
One of most amazing things about this film is the footage. There are some spectacular shots of all the snowboarders doing their thing. These shots are even cooler when they are put up against some kick ass tunes. The list of songs that were used was hit or miss from a personal standpoint. Some of the songs didn’t seem to fit with what was happening at times. If I’m watching someone stunt down the slope of a mountain at high speeds, I don’t think that Jets To Brazil or Jack Johnson fit the bill. I suppose that they were looking for variety, but if it were up to me there would have been more Black Flag and less Beck. There were some choice cuts though including Minor Threat, Soundgarden, Face To Face, Foo Fighters and the Supersuckers.
There wasn’t much to dislike about First Decent though. I thought that the history of snowboarding parts were informative and provided a good look at a sport that was a black sheep for a long time. The viewer caught a glimpse into the personal lives as well as some back-story of each of the five snowboarders that participated in the journey to Alaska. First Descent provides an inside look into the sport and the tight knit community that took it from its early surf and skate influences and its perception as a fad that would quickly pass and sculpted it into a global phenomenon that seems almost unstoppable. As the movie shows…when you’re big in Japan, you know you’ve made it.
AK and Beyond: Extra footage and bloopers
Big Mountain Riding: The do’s and don’t of Alaskan big-mountain riding with Nick Perata
Top of the World: A Wescam Featurette
A Thousand Words picture gallery
Extended Snowboarding Action and Deleted Scenes
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
Favorite Scenes: Terje Haakonsen conquering the huge mountain at the end, the clips from the early snowboarding videos, the first time Shaun and Hannah freestyle down a mountain
Running Time: 111 minutes