Yesterday I reviewed the release of Steve Fishers’ “Halo Effect”, a documentary about kayaking some of Norway and Icelands most inaccessible rivers. The production was well shot and edited, if a little lacking in some areas, but for the Fisher team it showed good promise for the future.
“Halo Effect” comes as part of a 3-in-1 Blu-Ray and DVD release from Fish Munga, the Fishers’ film production company. While “Halo Effect” was a very good watch and very well worth seeing – it is certainly a cut or two above most other kayaking documentaries – the main attraction now falls to “Congo: The Grand Inga Project”.
Of all the kayaking documentaries to be produced this one is one of the most eagerly awaited by paddlers the world over. On Steve Fishers blog entries and Facebook wall images were abound of huge boat eating whirlpools and exploding holes the size of multi-storey buildings. This promised to be a tale not to be missed.
“Congo” is about a team of four kayakers, Steve Fisher, Tyler Bradt, Rush Sturges, and Ben Marr, as they attempt to navigate the previously un-navigated, and indeed seemingly un-navigable Inga Rapids on the Congo river. A feat that has never been completed before, although it has been attempted, often ending in tragedy.
As a documentary and film production “Congo” is several cuts above “Halo Effect” in all aspects. Although “Congo” was shot under some extremely difficult conditions the cinematography by Jared Meehan and Dan Cambell, both excellent kayakers in their own right, is superb. Some of the best documentary images I have seen in quite some time and is tellingly shot by guys who really know what they are doing. While the achievements that Steve Fisher & co made in terms of their paddling during the expedition were astounding, the amount of time and effort that it must have taken to obtain the variety and amounts of footage that they did was an achievement in itself.
One of the failings I found with “Halo Effect” was that the narrative could have done with some tightening up. There are no such issues here. “Congo” not only weaves a compelling story, it does so with energy and dynamic tension constantly drawing the viewer in. The narrative is very strong as Fisher not only shows off some of the most amazing white water kayaking put to video, but while giving a detailed background to their mission, the teams who have attempted the rapids before, as well as the country of the Democratic Republic of Congo itself. Respectfully there is also a passing nod to Hendri Coetzee who tragically died on another kayaking expedition in 2010, and who was originally supposed to be on the team who attempted the Inga rapids.
There are some incredibly tense moments, such as when Fisher gets caught in a gigantic whirlpool and nearly doesn’t make it out. At times my jaw almost hit the ground as it became apparent just how massive some of the rapids they were going to tackle were. With the difficulties of planning in a country such as the DRC and the danger of the mission itself, we get to see the full blood, sweat and tears that went into this achievement.
With “Congo: The Grand Inga Project” Steve Fisher has hit the proverbial nail on the head and has filled the void that kayaking film making so desperately needed filling. This is a kayaking documentary that will not be bettered for a very long time. In fact I would say that it is an adventure documentary that will not be bettered for a very long time. If you have a love of kayaking and adventure documentaries in general you owe it to yourself to get “Congo: The Grand Inga Project” as soon as you possibly can!
Purchase on or from the 3-in-1 offer on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital download from Fish Munga themselves.