The Search For Freedom
by Sherif Awad
The Search for Freedom is not the title for a film about a third world country in struggle or some people revolting against a dictator... In fact, it is a documentary written and directed by Jon Long as a follow-up to his previous IMAX release called Extreme (1999), which became one of the most successful and critically acclaimed IMAX films ever. Jon Long has since created, produced and directed films for Disney, National Geographic, PBS, Universal and Entertainment One. He recently founded The Earth Network, which makes movies designed to have a where he continues to capture the worldwide champions of surfing, snowboarding, skiing, skateboarding and mountain biking. His film is about the freedom that comes when someone is completely immersed in the moment, when all of your focus and energy is fully directed to that place and time
Viewing The Search for Freedom that works best when viewed on IMAX or 3D TV sets, the director focuses on human stories behind this the basic instinct of chasing thrills and the feeling of being part of the nature. In addition to athletes of extreme sports, we see directors of older generations who set the tone for such films to exist like director Bruce Brown, whose 1966 film Endless Summer showed the world how it feels to be a surfer, breaking box office records when it was first released. Endless Summer transcended its intended audience of board riders and became one of the most successful films of its era, capturing the imaginations of audiences everywhere. The lifestyle it depicted proved extremely contagious.
The Search for Freedom also explores the human stories behind this action sports phenomenon. We come to understand how action sports have taken such a strong hold in the larger culture and mainstream. The director succeeded in getting inside the minds of these special athletes who have great willingness to pioneer on snow, skateboarding on concrete, or mountain biking through a rainforest. Many of the men and women are like astronauts of action sports, superheroes doing the unthinkable on bike or board. We get inside the heads of these individuals and see that the passion that drives them is the same that the fuels artists, inventors, entrepreneurs and even scientists run on.
Some of the people we saw talking for first time on a documentary feature is rock-climbing icon Ron Kauk, 56, who joked that without climbing, he and his friends would have all "ended up in prison." He now takes teens from the prison system up into the mountains of Yosemite that inspired him as a young man, providing shortcuts to lessons that took him a lifetime to unravel.
From technical point of view, many people are infected with this action affliction through videos inspiring them to try a new sport, to try to tap into "that feeling" they see onscreen. The new POV cameras have given spectators access to the actual adventures.
As a long time participant in action sports filmmaking, the director was able to bring together an amazing cast to share their personal journeys. Probably the biggest challenge was wrangling so many sports and characters into one 90-minute movie with the participants to tell the story without a narrator. The characters talk about activities really close to their hearts, so we ended up with something that has a lot of heart.
Next for Long is a documentary called The Next Step, about a new shifts in education, and a new action sport related documentary called Flow.